R. Rose
May 28, 2004
What really is African liberation?

I was not heartened on Tuesday of this week to meet a few young sisters under the SINGER gallery with a stall emblazoned with the words ‘African Liberation Day’. Yes, it was May 25 and in case we are inclined to forget, it is still the day when Black People the world over are supposed to focus on the cause of liberation (in its wildest sense). {{more}}
“Supposed,” because for too many of us, causes relate to popularity and hence come and go on our scale of priorities.
There was a time when African Liberation Day (ALD) had become quite popular here in SVG; perhaps reaching its zenith around the time that South Africa threw off the shackles of apartheid. Everyone was a Mandela fan then, for who wanted to be left off that bandwagon. The roots of the worldwide commemoration of ALD were deep in the system of apartheid, racial discrimination and colonial rule in Southern Africa. It struck a responsive chord and helped to propel the black consciousness movement of the sixties and seventies.
As a result, many have benefited. The institutions in our society, which had long denied opportunities for advancement to the black and poor, were forced to adjust their policies. It opened the doors for the educated and facilitated the growth of a middle class. Upward mobility in society became a reality for them as discrimination on the grounds of colour was forced to beat a retreat, or at least to hide behind curtains. Not only in the Caribbean, but in Africa as well.
The hitherto “black and coarse”, became President, Bishop, Bureaucrat and capitalist. Personal advancement was in evidence a-plenty. But what of the millions at the bottom of the ladder, the unfortunate people who are “darker than blue” to use the phrase of the famous American lyricist Curtis Mayfield? Where is their mobility? Certainly not upward!
In fact, if one looks at Africa today, the only mobility for tens of millions is in search of refuge camps. Victims of senseless internecine wars led by power-crazy soldiers and corrupt administrators, using Africa’s tremendous wealth -diamonds in Sierra Leone, oil in Angola, precious metals in Congo etc.- to purchase arms of uncaring and cynical gunrunners from the West. Not just the Mercenary type, mind you, but big “respectable” companies making millions of dollars from selling arms for black people to murder one another.
Yes, if they didn’t say it openly, that is the racist thinking behind the Pontius Pilate actions in not just allowing, but facilitating the murderous madness that is taking the lives of millions of Africans either directly, by war of massacre, or worse by perishing to a horrible death by famine and disease. And if that is the thinking, what does African Liberation mean to us today? For, no mistake, each fly-infested black community conjures up an image which smears us all.
In the 21st century, black liberation is an even more urgent, yet far more difficult task. It was easy to identify the apartheid racists and mobilize against them.
In a “free” and “democratic” South Africa, at whose feet do we lay the blame for the squalor which persists in the townships, in Cape Town or rural communities? In an independent Nigeria, how do we account for the latest round of killing of blacks by blacks, Christian and Muslim against each other? What can we say of the blatant “racial cleansing” in Sudan?
It is not enough today to proclaim our blackness, to rail at the heartlessness of western society. We have to take on board our own responsibilities.
What can we do about Haiti, and safeguard against others of our Caribbean countries falling in similar predicaments? How can we raise our voices (as loudly, but preferably more loudly) calling for international action to stop the genocide in Sudan and Nigeria, as we did when a couple thousand persons were cruelly killed in the infamous 9/11?
Remember how shocked and outraged we all were! Don’t the images of starving children and gruesome corpses in Africa evoke the same responses in us?
African Liberation is all about those crimes, about liberating our minds, bringing out our human side, and collectively shouldering our responsibilities.