Letter From a Symposium ParticipantPrint This Page
Greetings Dr. Daniels:
I want to express my sincere appreciation to you for holding the Institute of the Black World Symposium on The Future of Democracy and Development in Africa and the Caribbean last week. I hope to write a brief report for my blog on http://kuumbareport.com. It may take me a few days, but I hope it will adequately reflect the overall positive feeling I received from having participated in such an important event. I will be sure to send my writings to you as well for your review and comments if you want to read them. In the meantime, I wanted to share my appreciation and some of my more specific comments with you directly as opposed to simply throwing them out there on the Web. These thoughts are mine and mine alone, and are not meant to reflect on any particular Pan-Afrikan organization or activist, all of which do extremely important work in support of Afrikan people’s struggle for self-determination, prosperity and freedom from fear and repression.
I was not personally familiar with the Honorable Prime Ministers Pedro Pires and Ralph Gonsalves, but I was energized by the examples of their leadership. The Thursday evening session was inspiring (though there were those who felt PM Gonsalves’ speech was a bit long; I myself did become a bit fatigued as the hour drew late, but his story is an inspiring one, and it was an important lesson in cooperation between small countries that we could learn from as organizations here in the US). The Friday panels gave me more perspective on many of the issues that impact Afrika, the Caribbean and the Diaspora, and I will focus on them for the remainder of this letter.
In brief, I learned more and gained more inspiration from the sessions on Afrika, and especially the Caribbean, than I had expected. My main concerns centered around the advance of Afrika’s agriculture and infrastructure without the too-often accompanying infiltration of the Continent by global corporate power, which infuses Monsanto into the soil, the extractive mineral industries into the ground and Big Oil into the land, sea and air. Food security was mentioned but not, as I recall, food sovereignty, which is a critical prerequisite for Afrika’s food security. Energy was mentioned, but not the need to essentially kick Chevron and Shell out of the Niger River Delta. Development was mentioned, but it needs to be on Afrika’s terms so she can avoid the scourge that accompanies globalization and industrialization. The first panel did establish that there was an important difference between development and growth, which was excellent. The destruction of home-grown industries in the Caribbean, as was pointed out very well in the second panel on The Future of Democracy and Development in the Caribbean is testimony to what happens when the West and its globalizers get their talons in. I hope there will be opportunities for Afrikans in the US to more fully cooperate with our Brothers and Sisters in the Caribbean and the Mother Continent as a result of this Symposium.
I was actually a bit disappointed in the Diaspora panel, because there didn’t seem to be a proactive, positive direction to it. I was struck by the feeling among some that the Diaspora had no basis for organizing itself around the election of grassroots representatives because of a lack or official recognition from the African Union (AU), and the rather pessimistic opinions about the prospects of the Diaspora organizing itself that seemed to spring from that assessment (“You cannot vote; you cannot elect”). When the remarks weren’t pessimistic, they seemed rather theoretical and philosophical, if eloquent (“It is not about speaking truth to power; it is about becoming power”), and not based on concrete, practical plans and objectives for Pan-Afrikan Diaspora organization and actualization to become that power we need to be, which to me is what 21st Century Pan-Afrikanism must be about. Apparently, people are still unaware that the AU has tasked the Diaspora to organize around just such a grassroots-Diaspora-representative strategy that was rejected by some of the participants. The Statutes of the African Union’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) call, in no uncertain terms, for the election of representatives from and by the Diaspora.
The main sticking point is how this election of representatives is to be done. I’d like to tell you about an organization called the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus or SRDC (www.srdcinternational.org), which has proposed a method (a plan or “how”) and has been sharing that method with grassroots communities wherever a public meeting could be organized. The AU is still in the process of reviewing proposals from Afrikan Diaspora organizations and is supposed to make its assessment of these proposals known sometime in the near future. In the meantime, Afrikan people have the human right to organize ourselves, do we not? We have the right to meet in public sessions to decide who our local spokespeople will be, do we not? And, given the increasingly critical situation our people face on the Continent, in the US and elsewhere in the Diaspora, there really is no time to waste with regard to getting this done. On this basis, SRDC has embarked on its program to inform our grassroots communities and let them determine the issues that are important to them in their localities as well as the local activists who they feel will best give voice to their concerns on the national (and hopefully international) level. These Town Hall Meetings have been held in eight states in the US, and SRDC will soon hold them in more states as well as in Canada. Similar models are being implemented and refined in Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. While this is certainly not the only way for the Diaspora to organize itself and prepare to assist in the Afrikan Renaissance, I believe it is one method that must be pursued as well as the critical cultural, economic, political and diplomatic initiatives with which we are familiar.
A major impediment to the advancement of SRDC’s plan is the lack of communication between our various organizations about the plan and the resultant lack of cooperation between organizations and activists. More often than not, the dialog has tended toward expressions of cynicism and downright opposition toward the SRDC plan and, in general, any idea that differs from the established order of either leadership from the “Anointed Black Elite”, classical politics or economic (meaning business) development. As a result, it has been difficult to spark the interest and involvement in our communities that would come if our organizations were at least together in support of such a plan, even if they were not themselves directly contributing to it.
One thing that I feel needs to happen with greater frequency is the establishment of concrete plans and objectives to come out of our many and varied Conferences and Symposia. This Symposium was an excellent learning experience for me, but I didn’t notice the formulation of a plan going forward, and I still sense a need for us to be more proactive and to find ourselves in a position to actually give concrete assignments to many of our activists so that true Pan-Afrikan Unity can be achieved in some key areas. I have not attended as many Conferences as some others, but in almost every case, they have ended with the pronouncement that “this is not the end of our work; we will follow up”, and yet they seldom do that. I have seen from your previous events that IBW is indeed prepared to follow up on its prior work, and I hope that will continue to be the case. Still, I usually come home from these Conferences to the question (posed by my wife), “What did you accomplish?”, and I am almost always at a loss for an answer that doesn’t make me look like an idiot. I feel that a foundation has been laid for me concerning where IBW is going, but I also hope that I will be able to give a more definitive answer to that question upon my return from future Conferences. And I certainly do hope to participate in future Conferences!
Again, I thank you for holding this Symposium and for inviting me to participate. I hope that this represents the continuation and expansion of a cooperative, productive relationship between IBW, activists like me and the many leaders, scholars and workers who have helped to bring this Conference together and participated in it.
Connect With IBW
Martin Luther King/Malcolm X Community Revitalization Initiative
Pan African Unity Dialogue
Immigration Policy Reform
Call to Action
Click to Read Report
Collaborative of progressive, African-centered scholars, think tanks and research centers dedicated to utilizing theoretical and applied research to address issues of vital concern to people of African descent and enhance the development of Black communities.
Haiti Support Project
An Initiative committed to “Building a Constituency for Haiti in the United States,” focusing on mobilizing/organizing African Americans and other people of African descent to strengthen the process of democracy and development in the world’s first Black Republic.