These anniversaries are important reminders of the work that was done by many great men and women to realize African liberation and to build pan-Africanism. The dream of a fully unified Africa remains a challenge to the present generation
July 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This event was perhaps the most significant achievement and benchmark of the civil rights movement that had been so ably led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others from 1955-1966. July 2014 also marked the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s attendance at the 2nd annual summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It was at this summit in Cairo, Egypt, the Malcolm submitted his famous memorandum to the African heads-of-states that declared ‘African problem are our problems and our problems are African problems’. August 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the greatest pan-Africanist organization of the 20th century, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), by Marcus Garvey. These three historic anniversaries, and others not mentioned, have been and remain of great importance to Black people here in America and throughout the Global African Community.
The Civil Rights Act was signed into law, 50 years ago, on July 2, 1964 by President Lynden Baines Johnson as Dr. Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders looked on. This landmark legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended the unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, the workplace, and facilities that served the general public (‘public accommodations’). Emulating the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the new law enabled the U.S. Attorney General to join in lawsuits against state governments which operated segregated schools systems and other discriminatory institutions. It was during the Senate’s debate on the bill, 50 years ago, on March 26, 1964, that Dr. King and Malcom X met for the first and only time. Both men had come to the United States capital to hear the congressional debate on this historic bill.
It was also fifty years ago, on July 17, 1964 that Malcolm X submitted his eight-page memorandum to the 32 African heads of state and governments gathered in Cairo for the second summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In fact Malcolm made two trips to Africa in 1964, the first for five weeks (April 13 -May 21, 1964) and the second for five months (July 9 -November 24, 1964). In so doing, he visited 30 of the newly independent African nations and exchanged his ideas and pan-African perspective with many of the founding fathers of modern Africa including, but not limited to, Nkrumah (Ghana); Nyerere (Tanzania); Toure (Guinea); Azikwe (Nigeria); Kenyatta (Kenya); Obote (Uganda) and Nasser (Egypt). During his first trip he met with the acclaimed poet, and most recent ancestor, Maya Angelou, who was living in Ghana at the time. In Nigeria, Malcolm was given the name Omowale which means ‘son who has come home’. In a speech at Nigeria’s Ibadan University he said: ‘Physically we Afro-America might remain in America, fighting for our constitutional rights, but philosophically and culturally we Afro-Americans badly need to ‘return to Africa’ - and develop a working unity in the framework of Pan Africanism’. It was during his second trip that he attended the aforementioned second summit of the OAU and submitted a comprehensive memorandum on common interests of Black people in America and Africa in which he summed up by saying, ‘African problems are our problems and our problems are African problems.’
Finally, it was 100 years ago in August 1914, as the world was racing toward World War I, that Marcus Garvey and his first wife, Amy Ashwood, co-founded the Universal Negro (African) Improvement Association–African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in the Caribbean. Three years later, Garvey started the New York Division of the UNIA, in 1917, with 13 members. Within three months the dues paying membership had reached 3,500. By 1920, the UNIA-ACL had become a mass global organization with more than 4 million members, in 1,100 divisions, in 40 countries. For the entire month of August in 1920 the organization hosted the 1st International Convention of African Peoples of the World. Twenty-five thousand (25,000) Black delegates from Africa, the Caribbean and America gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City where they debated the conditions of Black people nationally and globally and passed resolutions establishing the rights of Black people to fair treatment, justice and self-determination wherever they lived regardless of their nationality. A resolution passed, on August 13, 1920, that established Red, Black and Green as the colors for the Universal Pan African flag. On August 20, 1920, the 25,000 Convention delegates voted in a democratic contest between Marcus Garvey and Dr. Lewis from Nigeria to elect the 1st provisional president of Africa. Garvey prevailed and the organization went on to petition the League of Nations for the African colonies that Germany had lost in the war and signed a treaty with the government of Liberia to lease one-million acres to the UNIA-ACL for the limited settlement of pioneers starting in Harper in the county of Cape Palmas. None of this would have happened if Marcus and Amy Ashwood Garvey had not founded the UNIA-ACL 100 years ago in 1914. In celebration of this epic event, on August 14-17 the UNIA-ACL hosted a Centennial Celebration in Harlem. The organization honored me by asking me to speak at the opening ceremony at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.
As I write this, forty-seven governors-in-waiting, from as many states in Africa, are gathered in Washington DC for the US/African Summit. Hopefully, and I expect, some good will come from the deals that these governors-in-waiting strike, for their individual countries in Africa, with the government and business community of the United States. Indeed, seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world today are in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). But anything accomplished at the Summit will be dwarfed by the real geometric and transformative progress that will come when the Continental/Global government of the United Pan African Nation (UPAN) comes into being and its first permanent President has been democratically elected by the 1 billion+ people in Africa (80 percent in SSA). This event will signal the re-emergence of Africa as a world power. At that time Garvey, Nkrumah, Malcolm, Dr. King, and all of our illustrious ancestors, will joyfully turn over in their graves and they will smile down upon us from heaven. But as long as Africa is politically divided, each of its individual states will be working from a position of relative weakness in any dealings they have with the global political economy. The sectional nationalisms, balkanization and European linguistic differentials of the 54 states of Africa must give way and surrender their mini-state sovereignties to a greater government of the United Pan African Nation (UPAN) that will protect and promote the interests of all African people on the African continent and throughout the world. As the late elder African statesman Mwalimu Julius Nyerere warned, shortly before his passing in 1999, ‘Without unity there is no future for Africa’.
So let us use the occasion of these great and historic 50th and 100th anniversaries to speed up and redoubled our efforts, from this day forward, to bring the UPAN into being by August 2020. Garvey did his part from 1914 to 1920. Let his honor him, and all of our pan African ancestors, by doing our part in making comparable strides from 2014 to 2020. There are currently 54 political entities in Africa, 18 of which celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2010 alone, and another 16 that will be doing the same before this decade is finished (2011-2019) The aforementioned eighteen countries will be celebrating 60th Anniversaries in 2020, eight of them in the month of August 2020. The 27-year-old Marcus Garvey rose up from nothing in 1914, to an organization of four million members, in 40 countries, and being elected the 1st provisional president of Africa in August 1920. This global generation of Africans can do no less. As Garvey himself said: ‘What other men have done, we can do’. In this spirit, let us rise up from the significant something we now have in 2014, to the United Pan African Nation (UPAN) in August 2020.
‘For our ancestors and our progeny.’
Let’s do this!
Edward H. Brown, Jr. (MK-QA) is author of ‘The New Pan Africanism 2020’.
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