This is a renewed season of Pan African agency and global solidarity. Recently, 54 African nations called the United Nations to an urgent meeting on racism and asked for an investigation into the killings of people of African descent at the hands of police. The meeting was not only a response to the killing of George Floyd, but to the many lives in the United States and throughout the world extinguished or harmed by racism. The global meeting at the UN was one of many signs of a renewed Pan African spirit — calling for global solidarity to stop racism and the killing of people of the African diaspora.
Other signs of this growing coalition of Pan African agency include on-the-street uprisings to change racist systems, policies and practices; rejection of symbols that serve as a reminder of a draconian past of racial violence and hatred; and focus of health disparities that negatively impact people of African descent — revealed again in this COVID-19 season.
The roots of Pan African agency go back to the days of the transatlantic slave trade, when the struggle for liberation of enslaved African peoples sparked cross-continental activism. Bread’s Pan African devotional “Lament and Hope” highlights this with a focus on their faith. Activists hope for a future devoid of the public policies and practices that have systematically contributed to the inhumane treatment and discrimination of people of African descent. These policies and practices have contributed to the colonization of the lands of African peoples and have left many African peoples landless and hungry.
In the last century, strategic movements channeled the work and agency of the African diaspora. For example, women leaders participated in Pan African conferences and congresses — including the Manchester Pan African conferences. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, African nations attained independence from colonial rule. And a collaborative Pan African spirit supported the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and elsewhere. These movements served as catalysts unifying the African world in collaborating against apartheid, neo-colonialism and exploitation of land and resources. This has pushed the international community and international institutions to maximize focus on the issues of peace, justice and dignity for the Pan African world. This legacy has helped usher in the renewed Black Lives Matter moment.
As the renewed rising of African peoples takes place throughout the world, we need renewed justice-centered relationships and policies to propel us to overcome racism in all its manifestations: poverty, hunger, disease, injustice and climate change. At Bread for the World, we are working toward a strong and prosperous Africa and its diaspora — to protect dignity and prosperity within and outside Africa.
In a spirit of oneness and ubuntu, we seek a shared understanding of the different contexts in which African peoples reside as we join together to create a public policy agenda for the good of all.
Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox church engagement at Bread for the World in Washington, D.C.