AFRICAN LIBERATION AND RENAISSANCE: BEYOND BORROWED AND DEBILITATING SPACE

As we celebrate African  Liberation  Day 2017,  let us be ever and  intensely  mindful that we meet in  the midst of an  unfinished  fight,  an ongoing  struggle with  social and ethical imperatives concerning how we approach our past, engage our present, and  imagine and  forge  our  future.  Indeed,  this is the overarching understanding with which we assert ourselves in the world. For as we say in  Kawaida,  the sum and  essential substance of  our duty is: to know our past and honor it, to  engage our  present and  improve it,  and  to  imagine our  future  and  forge it in the most ethical, effective and expansive ways.  This year’s African  Liberation Day,  called African Day in  some places,  brings increased  conversations and  conferences,  projects and  promises of an African  Renaissance. It is a remembrance of an historical call and challenge posed by our ancestors who  in the midst of the Holocaust of enslavement,  colonialism and  oppression's of various imperial kinds dared to  dream,  work  and  struggle for freedom.  Indeed,  they struggled  for  freedom in its dual form: freedom from domination,  deprivation and  degradation and  freedom to live good,  meaningful and  expansive lives, and leave a legacy worthy of  the ancient, rich and ever relevant culture and history of the people African.  Thus,  in furtherance of their  historic struggle and  in  the urgent interest of our  people, African Renaissance must be seen and  engaged as a multidimensional project rooted  in the idea of African excellence.

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We must bring  into  being and  cause to flower  a model of  excellence measurable in real and relevant terms and,  as we say in Kawaida,  rooted  in  and reflective of an ongoing synthesis of the best of African thought and  practice in  constant exchange of the world.  Given this, the concept and construction  of an African Renaissance must begin with the understanding  of Africa as the fundamental source and  resource for  its own renewal,  its most important ideas and  aspirations,  its paradigms and undiscovered  possibilities.  It means using  African culture—ancient and  modern,  continental and  diasporan,  as the foundation and  framework for  our  self  understanding  and  self ­reassertion in the world.  Here it is important to understand Africa as a world community whose ancestral center  and  current major  focus is the continent.  For  even though the renaissance of the continent is the major  focus  in our  current conversation,  this continental project must, in the Garveyian  sense,  be related  to and  inclusive of the Africans in diaspora  also.  And  this cannot simply  include what is called  the newly  arrived  diasporan Africans,  but rather  diasporan Africans as a whole from Haiti to  Harlem,  New Orleans,  South America and  everywhere we are outside of Africa.

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Also, as Molefi Asante has rightly argued,  a true  renaissance requires that we   abandon the borrowed and debilitating cultural spaces of Europe and  center  and  sustain  ourselves in our  own culture.  This reaffirms Frantz Fanon’s advice to reject being  an  “obscene caricature” and  pathetic imitator of Europe and dare think independently,  audaciously and with profound commitment to  the liberation  and good  life  of  our  people.  Asante rightly calls for a radical reordering of  thought,  “a transformative turnabout (which)  is about taking the globe and turning it over so  that we see all the possibilities of a world  where  Africa .  .  is subject not object”.  Here  are  intellectual echoes and  reinforcement of Malcolm’s and Kawaida’s call for a new logic and language of liberation.  African  renaissance requires  real independence of thought and  practice, an  independence in the political,  economic and  especially cultural realm.  For  it is independence that will provide the basis and  motivation  for  the unfolding  of our  own  internal strength, the use of our own resources and riches, and the securing of the well ­being and  flourishing  of our  people.  It is this kind  of  independence as opposed to the false flag only  independence that requires  and  reaffirms,  as Amilcar Cabral says, “the total sovereignty of  our  people on the national and  international level, for them to construct for themselves in  peace and dignity, by the expenditure of their  own efforts and sacrifices, marching  on their  own feet and  guided  by their  own heads,  the progress to which they have a right like all the peoples of the world”.

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Moreover,  Min.  Malcolm X reminds us that true African  Renaissance must engage freedom as a priority,  even and  especially in  the midst of the demands of development. In  the past,  many African governments had  argued  that freedom of the people could  be sacrificed in the interest of their development,  but the record  offers no proof of that. On the contrary,  domination  insures  both  undevelopment and  underdevelopment.  Indeed,  real and  righteous development requires the freedom of the people to  contribute to their  own liberation and  to  the improved  and  expanded  lives that liberation  and development bring. Thus,  Malcolm taught, “freedom is essential to life itself (and)  . . . to the development of the human being”.

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As we have said so many times, there is no hope or possibility for the development of  Africa as a continent and  world community  without the self conscious and  active engagement of its people to  harness its resources and to free and develop  itself. This requires a project of renaissance that not only  is designed  for  the development and  satisfaction of basic human needs,  but also  builds in as a component part ways and means for the people to transform themselves in the process and become self conscious agents of  their  own life  and liberation.  The people’s need for food cannot be weighed against their  need for freedom to plan and build their lives in their own image and interests, to assemble and  organize,  and participate in the decisions that affect their destiny and the daily way they  live their lives.  Thus,  as ever,  we must not let our  oppressor  be our  teacher  in building  a true  African  Renaissance,  but must reach inside ourselves and  bring  forth constantly our  best and  most beautiful.  It is in this context that Sekou  Toure in  his call for  full reAfricanization taught that given the experience of oppression,  we must free ourselves from the values and  views of the oppressor  and  take upon  ourselves,  both  personally and  collectively,  “the task of  effecting  our  own complete rehabilitation”.  This means, he says, “each one must go back  to the African  cultural and  moral sources,  recover his own conscience, reconvert himself  in his thoughts and his actions to the values, to  the conditions and interests of Africa” and its people, on the continent as well as throughout the world African community. 

DR. MAULANA KARENGA

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Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State University­Long Beach, Chair of The Organization Us, Creator of Kwanzaa, and author of Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle: African  American, Pan­African  and  Global  Issues, [www.MaulanaKarenga.org;  www.Us­  Organization.org and www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org].

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