Travel Notes: Pan Africanism (Re)Visited: From Sankofa to Afrofuturism--Summary of the "2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual & Cultural Festival".

Author:Tarik, Latif A.
Position::Conference notes - Travel narrative
 
FREE EXCERPT

Dr. St. Clair Drake, an acclaimed Pan-Africanist, defined Pan-Africanism as a "worldwide Black consciousness that has a psychological reserve that can be mobilized to achieve local ends as well as to aid others as the liberation process continues on. This consciousness has not been awakened primarily by deliberate propaganda campaigns of Pan-African organizations." (1) Drake believed that traditional Pan-Africanism was not a by-product of mass media, but a collectively shared symbol of the Black world that included Steve Biko, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as, collective cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, Negritude, and global Black popular culture. Pan-Africanism has always had a political and cultural formation that the global Black community could embrace as the quintessential elements of Black life, to including singers of jazz, gospel, blues, reggae, calypso, and high life music, to bridge the gap between the Old World and the New World. (2)

A global group of African-centered scholars, activists, and artists convened in Accra, Ghana for the "2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual and Cultural Festival" on June 25th to July 1st 2017 at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. On March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast gained independence from England and became Ghana under its first president, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, a Pan-Africanist, African revolutionary, and African head of state. The conference theme was "Global Africa 2063: Education for Reconstruction and Transformation," an "Afrofuturistic" approach to Africa's and the African Diaspora's future direction to defeating capitalism, global white supremacy, and neocolonialism.

The African Union and the African Commission in 2015 published a statement of solidarity for African people called "Agenda 2063--The Africa We Want." (3) The introduction of the agenda, "The Voices of African People," provides a platform of action for Pan-African activity. The call to action states:

We, the people of Africa and her Diaspora, united in diversity, young and old, men and women, girls and boys from all walks of life, deeply conscious of history, express our deep appreciation to all generations of Pan-Africanists. In particular, to the founders of the Organization of African Unity for having bequeathed us an Africa with exemplary successes in the fight against slavery, colonialism, and apartheid. Agenda 2063, rooted in Pan Africanism and African Renaissance, provides a robust framework for addressing past injustices and the realization of the 21st Century as the African Century. (4) Within the first ten pages of "Agenda 2063" there are seven "ASPIRATIONS" with points of actions to be achieved by the year 2063. "ASPIRATION 2" calls for "An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa's Renaissance." "ASPIRATION 5" desires to create "An African with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics" with a Pan-African agenda that reflects a common history, destiny, identity, heritage, respect for religious diversity and consciousness of African peoples and her Diasporas entrenched in all echelons of global Black life. (5)

The historical significance of global Black freedom can be found in the life narrative of Kwame Nkrumah, other notable Pan-Africanists, and those unrecognized by their political deeds. Nkrumah occupies a special place in Africa's revolutionary accomplishments, and he also directly bridged the gap between Africa and its Diaspora. Dr. John Henrik Clarke's tome, Notes for An African World Revolution, states "There is NO WAY to understand the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, or any other man, without also understanding the country in which he was born and to what extent that country and the circumstance of his birth did influence the total of his life." (6) Nkrumah served as the inspiration for other Pan-Africanists and African liberation movements. In the post-World War II years, Ghana served as the first liberated Black nation for continental African people south of the Sahara in the twentieth-century.

The "2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual & Cultural Festival" was a call to action to revisit the successes and failures of Kwame Nkrumah by conference organizers Professor Horace Campbell (Kwame Nkrumah Chair) and Irene Appeaning Addo (Planning Committee Chair), but it was also to revive past revolutionary political and cultural activities of the African Diaspora. This essay is a recapitulation and a summary of travel notes compiled from conference study sessions, cultural events, scholarly panels, and traveling throughout Ghana during the summer of 2017.

This essay cannot capture the full magnitude of the festival. However, central themes in Pan-Africanism, growing Black consciousness among Black youth globally, embracing self-study as a tool of empowerment, class struggle, Pan-Africanist theorists such as Walter Rodney, and repatriation as a means for connecting global African communities will be discussed. Essential to these travel notes are the exploration and the historical value of Kwame Nkrumah as a central figure to be studied for political, social, cultural, and revolutionary advancement. Many of the participants who attended the conference and visiting Ghana were born after the revolutionary years of Africa, the Caribbean, and American Jim Crow eras. Many of the scholars and activists who attended the festival were also students to the process of how a Pan-African Congress could work and the importance of learning from other delegations located in the Pan-African world.

(Neo) Pan-Africanism: Sankofa and African Futuristic Theory

Pan-Africanism exists within the global Black world as an imaginative return to Africa, a practical political platform, and as a futuristic theory for global Black freedom. On the dawn of the premier of the movie Black Panther, where the Marvel comic character T'Challa returns home to the fictional African nation Wakanda to occupy his throne as king, twenty-first century engage a plot wherein T'Challa must perform his duty as King of Wakanda and as the Black Panther while defending the nation against evil foes that threaten the livelihood of his people and the existence of Wakanda.

Throughout the global Black world Wakanda and the leadership of T'Challa represent the powerful leadership that Black people are looking for in current times. Their imaginations are seeking a world where Black nations and the Diaspora of those nations can solve internal conflicts and challenge invaders with power and force. (7)

African people must recognize Africa as a place of origins with a shared common ancestry and cultural mythology. Afrofuturistic approaches allow this to occur in Africa and its Diasporas. Afrofuturism is commonly known or read as a literary body of historical fiction, artistic production, scientific advancements, science fiction, history, and fantasy culture that embraces an Afrocentric relationship to the reader or spectator. Afrofuturism inspires Black people to use non-Western cosmologies, develop theories, critique global white supremacy, and reevaluate political and cultural events of the past.

It is important to the continuity of African nations to communicate with the African Diaspora and connect non-continental African born communities to its spiritual, cultural, and scientific heritage. Afrofuturism attempts to connect the African Diaspora by addressing common themes in a techno-culture and science fiction perspective, while embracing a multimedia range of artistic communities with shared interest in envisioning a Black past, current disposition, and a future connected by common experiences. Nnedi Okorafor's book, Binti, is a Hugo and Nebula award winner in Afrofuturistic books. She wrote about a fictional African character named Binti who was the first of the Himba people to leave earth and go to Oomza University in space. Binti is a novella that Wanuri Kahiu, award-winning Kenyan film director of Pumzi and from a Whisper (2009), believes that Binti is an "edgy Afropolitan in space! With a wondrous combination of extra-terrestrial adventure and age-old African diplomacy." (8)

Binti brings together ancient cultures of Africa colliding with the future, while exposing what makes Africans human, and directing a course to the future. Nnedi Okorafor is an example of an Afrodiasporic citizen who embraces Afrofuturism to inspire a Pan-African discourse. She is an international award-wining novelist born in the United States to Nigerian parents. Her African-based science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism weaves African cultures into creative evocative settings in her books. Okorafor's writings inspire a new discourse in Pan-African cultural agency that will spark an African Renaissance using African-centered and Pan-African modalities.

It is important to note that the "2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual & Cultural Festival" greatly emphasized the relationship between culture and Pan-Africanism. The proceedings of the conference helped to define a futuristic discourse for global African communities in the fields of: philosophy of history, music and arts, activism, metaphysics, theoretical and applied science, social sciences, and providing programmatic spaces.

This intellectual relationship to culture is one that is also inherent to old and new definitions of Afrofuturism. During the Summer of 2017, Ghana served as the holistic geopolitical space where delegations, scholars, activists, and artists from African countries and the African Diaspora convened to map a futuristic Pan-Africanism and discuss "Agenda 2063."

Pan-Africanism occupies a metaphysical and physical space for Black people. Kofi Kissi Dompere, professor from Howard University, presented a conference paper, "The Theory of Categorical Conversion: Rational Foundations of Nkrumaism," based on his book, The Theory of...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP