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Forward to Emancipation-from-below in the Caribbean

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Standing in solidarity with the people of Sudan
Standing in solidarity with the people of Sudan
Panelists at Emancipation Day 2012 event in Toronto
Panelists at Emancipation Day 2012 event in Toronto
Member of the audience posing a question at Emancipation Day 2012 event
Member of the audience posing a question at Emancipation Day 2012 event

Forward to Emancipation-from-below in the Caribbean: Statement of the Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity on the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s and Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence*

Toronto, Canada, August 17, 2012                                                                                                                                        

Today we gather to commemorate the 50th anniversaries of Jamaica's and Trinidad and Tobago's independence. In our commemorations of the work of countless revolutionary ancestors whose active resistance to the British colonial regime lead to national independence for Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in August 1962, we insist that we must have absolutely no illusions that the struggle of Afrikan people for liberation from all forms of oppression ends with national independence.

National independence is not liberation, nor are we willing to cultivate narrow nationalistic perspectives on what liberation means for Afrikan people. Thus, while we have called this gathering in the name of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, our promotion of a Pan-Afrikan outlook necessarily entails that our discussions about national independence involve consideration of the connections among Afrikan people's liberation struggles in the Caribbean, the whole of the Afrikan Diaspora, and on the Afrikan continent.

As Kwame Ture wrote in his 1992 reflections on Black Power, "Africans have known slavery and colonialism for centuries. These struggles are one and the same for the African Revolution and cannot be separated although they are geographically dispersed. The task of imperialism is to divide and rule, isolate and dominate. The aim of capitalism is not only to isolate the African Revolution to its divided "countries" on our motherland and to the "countries" of our dispersion, but also to destroy the continuity of struggle in these areas."

Indeed, at no time during enslavement, colonialism and post-independence has any empire nor state facilitated sustained self-determination of the masses of Afrikans and other oppressed peoples. Their objective condition in the areas of economics, social development, politics and cultural assertion and expression has been defined by oppression. It should be noted that as dominated peoples, we have also resisted exploitation. Therefore, in our struggle to give concrete form to Pan-Afrikanism, it is clear that we must advance our anti-oppressive struggles with an understanding that the union of Afrikan people worldwide is an emancipation-from-below project.

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (NPAS) would like to share a number of points regarding this emancipatory project:

1. Recognizing that we seek emancipation of the masses by the masses, we also recognize that the progressive Caribbean Diaspora is a source of resources and allyship for emancipation-from-below with respect to civil society and progressive social movement organizations. We ought to prioritize work among the people that deals with immediate concerns while ideologically preparing them for the long-term task of social emancipation. As Amilcar Cabral famously said, "Keep always in mind that the people are not [merely] fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children...."

2. While basing our visions, goals, plans, and strategies on our material needs and realities, we ought to be uncompromising in our struggles against all forms of oppression - narrow nationalisms and chauvinisms are not compatible with an inclusive understanding and practice of anti-oppression. We need to understand and fight patriarchy and to ensure that women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender/transsexual, Queer (LGBTQ) members of society, people with disabilities, and young people access all roles in the Caribbean movement for emancipation.

3. The current and conventional models and conceptualizations of development imposed on and employed in the Caribbean are unworkable. They perpetuate dependency on Europe, North America (former enslavers and colonizers) and other imperialist states. We would do well to reject development discourses or ideas, based on Eurocentric, capitalist and sexist notions of progress, modernity, and technology. We encourage Frantz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth” to favour and continue to develop models of development based on criteria of truth, reciprocity, participation, beauty, justice and so on that advance the health and wellbeing of Afrikan people.

4. The question of reparations for Europe's exploitation of the land, resources, and labour of Afrikans in the Caribbean must be on the table. While reparations in the amount of £20 million was given to the enslavers of Afrikan labour by the British imperial state following emancipation, the debt owed to the descendents of enslaved Afrikans in the Caribbean has not been paid. This is a mockery of our ancestors, and as we and our parents and our children struggle with the ongoing legacy of 500 years of exploitation in the Afrikan Diaspora, we must fight for redress.

5. It is clear that Afrikans in the Caribbean excel when given the opportunity. If survey the recently-concluded London Olympic Games and the performance of our athletes as well as our contributions in the area of the culinary arts, culture and scholarship, it is clear that the only barrier facing us in the limited opportunities available for the full realization of our potentiality. We shall continue to fight for equality of outcome or condition and reject the liberal idea equality of opportunity, which is a recipe for maintaining status quo.

As always, today is a day to honour our revolutionary ancestors and their struggles, to celebrate our victories, and to strengthen our commitments and re-commitments to the struggle for liberation from all forms of oppression and toward a world based on peace and justice. We stand in solidarity with the late Toni Cade Bambara and her assertion, “The responsibility of an artist [progressive organizers] representing an oppressed people is to make revolution irresistible.” Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to our work, together in solidarity, for Afrikan liberation.

* Presented at an August 17th public education forum on Caribbean independence at the University of Toronto

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