Friday, September 17, 2004

Out of Barbados: The birth of the Global Afrikan Congress


N° 20 Novembre 2002

Out of Barbados: The birth of the Global Afrikan Congress

par S.E. Anderson

Over the past few weeks much has been discussed and debated about the African/African Descendents Caucus post-Durban gathering in Barbados from Oct. 1 to 6. This is, in part, an indication of the historic importance of the gathering.

Let’s be clear from the outset: despite a frustratingly negative start and a blow to PanAfrican-Cuban solidarity that needs to be immediately rectified, the African/African Descendents Caucus-sponsored conference achieved one of its primary goals.

We – more than 600 Sistas and Brothas from all regions of the Black World – established the Global Afrikan Congress (GAC). It is a necessary work-in-progress of a developing united front of African/African descendent organizations. About two years from now, GAC will hold another international conference to democratically ratify its constitution, sum up its work and plan for future struggles towards the liberation of African peoples everywhere. By the end of the conference, the vast majority of us recognized that this is a monumental task that requires us to be principled, open, united and in it for the long haul.

Now, about that frustratingly negative start

As many people have written and spoken of recently, there were mixed messages sent out by the key conference organizers about whether or not non-Africans should attend. To a veteran radical activist white American documentarian and his Asian activist wife - who have been, with their own monies, documenting the global rise of the Reparations Movement - were told by the conference organizers up to the Sunday before the conference that it was OK to attend. These two documentarians were only interested in filming the open plenaries and doing individual interviews of Sistas and Brothas active in Reparations struggles outside of the U.S. They were not interested in filming any of the 15 working groups because they understood the sensitive nature of the content of these sessions.

When the need for interpreters was raised during the planning months, the organizers opted for a Barbados-based professional translation service that had the technical apparatus - wireless headphones - and personnel to do simultaneous translation in at least four languages. Their staff included three or four white Barbadians.

In addition, there was a young Asian male student within the Canadian delegation and a young Lebanese activist woman who had planned to deliver a solidarity message from forces within the Palestinian Intifada. There might have been about four to six other whites and other non-Africans present during the hours of debates about whether or not non-Africans should attend.

These were the non-Africans that the British delegation initially objected to. After heated debates - unfortunately, I was still en route to Barbados - and a vote carrying 70 percent in favor of expulsion, subjectivity took over. This meant that you had “security” checking you out to see if you were “African” enough to enter the plenary meetings. If Bob Marley had showed with his pops along with Adam Clayton Powell during these moments, they would have been kicked out!

Fortunately, the working group leaders encouraged the delegates to stay the course and make real the reason they came to Barbados.

Political and economic fallout for Barbados

Another aspect one needs to take into consideration: the use of the conference center was underwritten by the Barbados government, which had openly invited the African/African Descendents caucus to hold its founding meeting in Barbados. The government has a nondiscriminatory policy that we as guests of the government should have respected. In addition, because the major corporate media focused only on this issue of expelling non-Africans, it can have a direct impact upon Barbados’ tourist-dependent economy as well as its relationship with a U.S. government hell bent on smashing all support for Reparations.

Anticipating some of this wrath, the delegates passed a unanimous resolution stating that there should be no reprimands placed upon Brotha David Commissiong and the semi-governmental Pan African Commission he heads up because of the terrible mis- and dis-information being spewed out by the international corporate press.

CIA presence

Speaking of the U.S. government’s rabid anti-Reparations policy, you can rest assured that they want to kill this growing movement before it matures into a powerful global force challenging white supremacy and imperialism’s crushing globalization. Of course, there were at least three CIA agents present in Blackface.

The Cuban delegation

The Cuban delegation – and, therefore, government – was not and is not in opposition to the formation of a global PanAfrican organization or of Reparations. They were and are opposed to the expelling of non-Africans when there was publicity saying this was an open meeting for those interested in being in solidarity with and helping to form the united front of Africans and African descendents.

We need not go into Cuba’s solid credentials of supporting with their own lives and medical and technical expertise African Liberation causes on the Continent and throughout the Diaspora. We don’t need to point out that Cuba has stood behind our Sistas Assata Shakur, Nihanda and other Black U.S. Freedomfighters for over 20 years - providing political asylum for them in spite of U.S. economic and military threats and bribes. We also need not point out that it was Fidel at the Durban UN World Conference Against Racism last year who laid out to the UN delegates the logic and moral necessity of Reparations. No other head of state took such a bold and clear positive stance for Reparations.

It is absurd for some of us to think 1) that Fidel and the Cuban government have been opportunistic in their steadfast support of African Liberation as it struggles to endure a 42-year U.S. induced economic blockade and psychological, chemical and germ warfare. Remember, tens of thousands of Cubans volunteered to go and Fight and Die alongside Angolan, Namibian and South African Freedomfighters during the 1970s because they understood their African roots and the evils of imperialism grinding Africa and Africans into horrendous poverty and illness.

2) that Cuba is a “white” or “Latino” nation like Argentina or Paraguay. Cuba’s 11 million people are overwhelmingly of African descent and a very mixed group of folk. The majority of the “white” Cubans now reside in Miami and northern New Jersey. The spiritual base of the Cuban people is Santeria, a Yoruba-based religion. Cuba’s overall culture has an explicit African base that they no longer deny, but openly embrace.

Brothas and Sistas, we, as the Global Afrikan Congress, will get absolutely no respect from many of those African/African Descendents we are going to try to join us in the monumental task of building the Congress if we do not immediately rectify our mishandlings with Cuba. It will haunt the Global Afrikan Congress and render us globally isolated as a bunch of narrow-minded super-Black nationalists seeking to unite only with the mythical “pure” African.

The birth of the Global Afrikan Congress

Through the various working groups deliberating over three days, the Global Afrikan Congress began to take shape. Keep in mind, the work was being done by hundreds of African people coming out of a very wide range of ideological and levels of activist experiences. The working groups were very open, lively and democratic in their deliberations, which rolled over to the final hours of plenary debates and discussions on structure and name.

Reparations for the crimes of slavery, slave trade, colonialism and the lingering vestiges of these through white supremacy has become our centerpiece, which all our work informs and is informed by. There was no debate on this.

The task now is to 1) immediately plan out the regional meetings so that they all occur within the next three to six months working towards a Global Afrikan Congress constitutional convention sometime in 2004 or 2005.

2) find ways to heal the wound between those Sistas and Brothas who chose to leave the conference after the vote supported the exclusion of non-Africans and bring them into the work ahead.

3) disseminate the working groups’ tasks and all the plenary resolutions to as many African/African Descent organizations as possible.

You and I, Sistas and Brothas, along with countless millions of our brethren and sistren imbued with a lot of hard work and principledness are the only ones who can make the Global Afrikan Congress the real thing: powerfully Black and victorious for us, our ancestors and our future.

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