African Liberation Day is a reminder that African descended people make progress when joined together in international unity. Internationalism is essential.
When U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2007, the only thing more offensive than its use of proxy African soldiers to carry out imperialist missions was the appointment of a Black man, William E. (“Kip”) Ward, to lead AFRICOM operations.
After Ward stepped down, white men assumed leadership of AFRICOM. But now, yet again, AFRICOM will be headed by a man of African descent. Lt. Gen. Michael Langley will assume the role of training and directing the armed forces of African countries to militarize Africa and plunder the continent’s resources for the benefit of foreign governments and corporations. The publication Stars and Stripes reported that for Langley “a top priority will be countering militants in the East African country of Somalia.”
The cynical use of Africans to control and exploit Africa is surpassed in its odiousness only by a willingness of Africans like Ward and Langley to engage in the enterprise. Those committed to Africa’s liberation have long been aware of the importance of ensuring that members of African communities decline such collaboration with oppressors. To that end, in 1963, the Organization of African Unity proclaimed May 25th as African Liberation Day - a day when the African World might orient itself to a serious commitment to achieving Africa’s genuine independence.
Although the commemoration of African Liberation Day throughout Africa and the African diaspora has become an ever-growing tradition, this year, in the wake of the racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, there are no doubt many Africans born and living in the U.S. who can’t bring themselves to think of Africa’s plight when their personal circumstances seem so precarious. If the only problems were violent white supremacists, prospects for survival might not seem so bleak. But the anti-Black hostility has manifested in so many ways that signal that help is not on the way from any of the quarters from whence Africans in America might expect it.
Specifically, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a police bullet was fired into the head of Patrick Lyoya at point-blank range making him one of the latest of a very long series of Africans killed by cops and affirming yet again that not only are Africans unable to look to the police for protection, but that the police themselves are an enemy force.
Less blatant, but no less concerning, is the U.S. government’s seeming indifference to the international dilemma of WNBA star Brittney Griner, a captive in Russia, purportedly for drug-related offenses, even as the U.S. State Department fought more efficiently and vigorously for the release of others. In fact, it took weeks for the U.S. to even acknowledge its belief that Griner had been wrongfully detained. Concern is not limited to the plight of Griner as an individual, but it is also for the unmistakable message that a U.S. government that should presumably protect its nationals can’t be counted on if the person in question is Black.
It is not surprising then that persons of African descent in the U.S. might perceive themselves to be adrift, alone, vulnerable and unprotected even by the government entities charged with keeping them safe. The perceived intensity of the danger means that calls to work for Africa’s liberation may not resonate. While this is understandable, historically, the challenges of Africa’s diaspora have not deterred engagement in internationalist service.
The list of revolutionaries who have emerged from communities under stress but who have nevertheless thrown themselves into Africa’s struggles is long. Frantz Fanon left colonized Martinique to struggle alongside those fighting for Algeria’s independence. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) physically relocated himself from the U.S. where Civil Rights and Black Power struggles raged to become a vital member of the Democratic Party of Guinea. Che Guevara was not content with his sterling service to the Cuban revolution, and he fought in Congo and ultimately Bolivia where he was captured and killed.
In fact, some of the most important internationalist service to Africa has been rendered by Cuba, even in the face of extreme pressure from not only western imperialism but also from the Soviet Union. Of Cuba’s assistance to the efforts to liberate Angola, Piero Gleijeses, a Johns Hopkins University professor explained:
“In early November 1975, as South Africans were advancing along the coast, Angola sent a desperate appeal request to Cubans for help. The military mission also told Fidel [Castro] that the Cubans had to do something, because Luanda was going to fall. On November 4, Fidel decided to send troops to Angola. The Soviet Union was miffed, because it didn’t want the Cubans to intervene. It showed its annoyance by not assisting in the dispatch of Cuban troops to Angola. Until 1975 or 1976, the Cubans arrived by ship and old transport planes.”
Cuba went on to play a vital role in the liberation of Angola and the fall of apartheid in Namibia and South Africa. Cuba’s sacrifices for Africa neither began nor ended in Southern Africa. Even after its military forces withdrew from the region, they were replaced by brigades of Cuban physicians and other medical personnel deployed throughout the continent.
For Black people in America, internationalist service can be not only as noble as that rendered by forebears, but it can also be pragmatic. This is because Africans are not only a numerical minority in the U.S., but also a powerless minority. Meanwhile, Africa’s population is exploding. Foreign Policy columnist Adam Tooze explained that by 2050, Africa’s population will account for nearly 25 percent of the population of the planet. He said:
“In the 2040s alone, it is likely that in the order of 566 million children will be born in Africa. Around midcentury, African births will outnumber those in Asia, and Africans will constitute the largest population of people of prime working age anywhere in the world.”
It just makes good sense for Africans in the U.S. to see themselves as part of that mass of humanity. This does not even consider the potential of Africa to seize control of the continent’s natural resources and to use them for the benefit of Africans worldwide. Such global sharing and collaboration will happen more organically if the African diaspora participates not only in reaping the benefits of the power that flows from control of Africa’s natural wealth, but also in the struggle on the front end to make such control a reality.
While a united and socialist Africa, with all its resources could be a powerful social, economic and political engine for communities throughout the African diaspora, as a practical matter it would need to do nothing to impact them. The mere existence of a powerful, unified Africa would be a deterrent to every police officer inclined to kill brothers like Patrick Lyoya. When the Brittney Griners of our communities might find themselves in international predicaments, the State Department would likely turn somersaults if necessary to assist them because of the need to curry favor with a powerful Africa. In the end, Africans in America need to make Africa a primary focus of their struggles despite the many hardships and challenges presented by the U.S. It just makes good sense.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney and writer. He is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace Africa Team and the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of organizations with which he is affiliated. He can be contacted at mfancher[at]comcast.net.