We Are Africans: The Imperative of Claiming Our National Identity for
African Liberation

Published by: C-101 Editors

1-marcus-garvey-robert-cunningham

To win Africa we will give up America, we will give up our claim in all other parts of the world;but we must have Africa. -Marcus Garvey1

Even in Africa itself, European slave trading and colonisation have destroyed many aspects of African culture. But culture is not a dead thing, nor does it always remain the same. It belongs to living people and is therefore always developing. If we, the blacks in the West, accept ourselves as African, we can make a contribution to the development of African culture, helping to free it from European imperialism. -Walter Rodney2

A foundational aspect of building a nation is proper identity. With proper identity you are able to discern your purpose, interests, and objectives as a group. Unfortunately, one of the most damaging aspects of European colonialism\slavery was the confusion that has been imposed on Africans in terms of our identity and national conscienouness. This confusion is necessary to maintain European dominance and to consolidate African people’s entire being in the service of Europe. How else can you subdue a people that has all the natural and cultural resources available to serve their interests, but to deracinate them from who and what they are?

Let’s examine how Europeans obscure and pervert our understandings of who we are in the world. The “official scholarship” is Western hegemonic scholarship masquerading behind that timeless Western term of “objectivity.” It goes something like this, “yeah you people came from Africa, but then you became a ‘negro’, then a ‘colored’, then a ‘Black’, then a ‘Black American’ and now you have evolved into an African-American. In a nutshell you are no longer African!” They justify this so-called “transformation” by virtue of a European linear conception of time. This linear conception makes the assumption that there is always progress simply because time has “moved forward”, not as a result of society’s continued efforts to consciously shape reality. Undoubtedly, this assumption also negates laws of the natural world in terms of how and when physical and biological changes actually manifest, scientifically it takes millennium for organisms to completely change form! As a result, with Africans having been captive in America for over 500 years, Europeans rationalize that we have evolved into a higher level of being by virtue of our proximity to the empire and the more advanced culture of Europe as it has been implemented in America.

This creates a schizophrenic personality for African people in the Western world, throughout the Americas, because regardless of how many times Europeans in the Americas slap us and take explicit action to let us know we are NOT part of the particular European settler colonial polity in question, we continue to operate and show our allegiance to polity. In an effort to stay acceptable and “civilized” we can never express a connection or responsibility to rebuilding a unified African nation!

For example, this “official scholarship”, can be seen throughout mainstream literature, memos, periodicals, etc in the United States. When the liberal wing of American imperialism attempts to “celebrate” African culture and contributions to America, they always put forth their divide-and-conquer agenda by putting forth their definition of an African. These definitions consistently define an African based on geographical borders, not origins!

This policy is very telling considering all of the geographical borders in the world were created by white folks, and the particular borders in Africa were determined at the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885. So by some form of alchemy, with the creation of the settler colonial nation state, white folks can define who we are for political hegemonic purposes. The irony is that even in their definition of who is an “African”, they acknowledge that people in the U.S. have origins, but they tell us Africans who have been kidnapped that we have no right to our origins. In effect we are what they say we are, and what they need us to be. We are a domestic African colony, hence the term “African-American” really means the Africans that belong to Europeans who named their settler colonial polity after their kinfolk Amerigo Vespucci. This “official scholarship” is a pedagogy to OPPRESS!!! It aids in keeping African people divided worldwide, thus the constant references to African & American-American throughout their institutions. This is how they make this obscene lie official!

We have to counter the European’s “official scholarship” with a conscientized scholarship we call ” da real deal.” “Da real deal” addresses what has happened to us as a people, not as some dispersed population that can only find liberation through imposed false national consciousness. This canon gives us a liberatory consciousness which can set us free. Some of our “da real deal” scholars who must be studied have been elders such as Amos Wilson, Marimba Ani, John Henrik Clarke, Ayi Kwei Armah, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Walter Rodney, Chinweizu, Chancellor Williams, and Cheikh Anta Drop to name a few.

“Da real deal” scholarship, debunks Western hegemonic-liberal-settler-colonial-assimilationist “official scholarship”, so when a white settler tells you to go back to “Africa”, your response as a conscientized African won’t be a knee-jerk reaction rooted in shame and self-hatred (something like, “I’m not an African!!!”).

Marimba Ani analyzes the African conception of time in her must read book Yurugu, An African-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. She explains African time as follows:

For the African ordinary time is punctuated by sacred time, and time is valued according to what the community experiences. Therefore, we can speak qualitatively of different “times”, because they are experienced differently.3

When we use our cultural conception of time, we can see that at this point in our history we are in a low period. We are not independent for we have a limited capacity to claim and project our identity! On the whole, our entire existence is defined by our oppressors. Furthermore, when we do not apply qualitative assessments to time we become entrapped in European’s linear cognition, where the “past is the past” and we must live in the present and never attempt to shape the future. When we are stuck in the present we continue to be used as objects because we are easily misled and overwhelmed by “current events.” We do not operate with a historical understanding and we cannot properly formulate what we need to create a more harmonious future. Our dreams and aspirations are dictated to us and we are made to conform with the plans of our oppressors. With this modus operandi, we will continue to be dominated until we take back our identity and build from our own culture.

Before we fall into the fallacy that we have made qualitative progress because we can buy a two-piece fried chicken meal from Popeyes or sit on a toilet after white folks, let’s put forth a basis for comparison.

Before we were overrun by Europeans, Arabs, and other nations who continue our subjugation, Africans had control of our own economic, cultural, and political affairs. Ask yourself this question in regard to our current condition….is there a place on this planet where African people have independent control of our economic, cultural, and political policy? When major groups hold conferences and political gatherings to discuss world economic, cultural, and political policy, do African people play an integral role or do we serve as a group to be acted upon, or lackeys of European will?! Upon critical and honest reflection, the answer is unequivocally NO! If you try to put forth otherwise, it’s a lie! We have no control or influence in matters of global economic policy. In those matters, Africa is always on the periphery and the people and nations with power determine where they will take us, with absolutely no need to consult US first.

So again, we ask you, where is the qualitative progress? Do we define liberation as the ability to consume or the ability to control what we produce for our well being? The primary human activity which secures a people’s sovereignty, and therefore their ability to dictate policy, is independent production! And the first step toward securing independent production, as noted in the beginning of this piece, is having proper identity to protect your interests which includes our productive base.

In conclusion, proper national consciousness is imperative for ALL Africans before we can start the groundwork for a unified Africa. We cannot even identify our responsibility to and for African people if we call ourselves African-American, Afro-Brazilian, Jamaican, Haitian, Black-Brits, etc, etc. We have to unify on the cultural and geographical basis of Africa first and with that, we leave you with a quote from one of our “da real deal” scholars Chinweizu:

It is naive in the extreme to think you can wish away your racial identity, and substitute for it some changeable class identity or an adopted religious identity. Furthermore, a rat doesn’t cease being preyed upon just because it dresses up like a cat, and thinks it is a cat. What is done to rates will be done to it, until rats get together and cut off the claws of cats.4

  1. Marcus Garvey, The Philosophy And Opinions Of Marcus Garvey: Or Africa for the Africans Volumes 1 and II, comp. Amy Jacques Garvey (Dover: The Majority Press, 1986), 107.
  2. Walter Rodney, The Groundings With My Brothers (London: Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, 1996), 37.
  3. Marimba Ani, Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural And Behavior (Trenton: African World Press, 1994), 186.
  4. Chinweizu, Decolonising the African Mind (London: SUNDOOR, 1987), 171.
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