The Revival of Pan – Africanism Forum got a good turnout for saturday’s conference on ‘Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy: A Panafricanist Perspective.’ However, aside from a speech of Dr. King’s that was played while the audience was trickling in, the conference would have been better portrayed as an examination of Kwame Nkrumah’s (Ghana’s first head of state) Panafricanist legacy.
As one of the speakers, Krista Johnson, of Howard University acknowledged, the crowd was quite radical. Prior to Johnson and Dr. Zizwe Poe of Lincoln University delivering their prepared remarks, an array of community activists gave a brief overview of their organizations’ respective activities.
A gentleman from Philadelphia represented the All-Africa People’s Revolutionary Party. He spoke about the influence of Kwame Nkrumah’s Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, which was on sale at the event.
A gentleman from ANSWER, an anti-war organization railed against Alassane Ouattara, who he said, quite correctly in my view, came to power on the back of French imperialism. He was critical of the UN mission in the Ivory Coast and Ouattara’s recent request to replace departing peacekeepers with drones particularly provoked his ire. With his IMF background, Ouattara was always going to have a difficult time appealing to certain segments who appreciated Laurent Gbagbo’s radical intellectual background. It looks as if this drone issue may have galvanized further opposition.
A lady from Kenya, who is the Executive Director of what I believe is known as the Confederation Council Foundation for Africa, spoke about land grabs in Africa. She stated that she has personally lost land to Asian land grabbers.
A few representatives from other organizations representing non-Africa specific causes gave remarks, as did a documentary filmmaker who has produced a film on a now defunct music festival that had been held in northern Mali.
The bulk of Johnson’s remarks focused on providing an overview of the historical trajectory of the pan-African movement. Although her PhD is in political science, her primary academic interest is health policy and the 2nd portion of her remarks dwelled on that topic. She was critical of Kwame Nkrumah’s intellectual brand of pan-Africanism, but that remark seemed to provoke no reaction from the crowd.
She was followed by Zizwe Poe, who was an extremely charismatic speaker with a troubling ideology. He apparently became interested in Africa as a student after hearing a speech by Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael), a black civil rights activist who immigrated to Guinea after harassment by US authorities. He espoused an ‘Africa should be a country’ philosophy, celebrated Muammar Gaddafi, launched a scathing attack on Barack Obama, and said that Martin Luther King had no pan-African vision at all (I’m only inclined to agree with the last item). He also indicated that Richard Nixon, while in Ghana for the country’s independence, mistook Martin Luther King for a Ghanaian, which I’m pretty sure is patently untrue and I suspect Poe knows that as well.
I won’t analyze the conference in too much detail, but I will share one thought. I wholeheartedly agree that Africa needs more unity and regional integration. However, I think that efforts to this end should start at a national and sub-regional level. Internal ethnic conflict across Africa and separatism, embodied in South Sudan’s secession, show us that there are smaller fish to fry than developing a United States of Africa, a desire which seems to be predominantly espoused by romantics in the African diaspora. I hope that the Revival of Panafricanism Forum will not fall into Poe’s romantic injustice category.