Whenever I tell someone that I am a Pan Africanist, they look at me as if I have grown an extra head and/or I am speaking a whole load of rubbish. Or when someone describes something that resonates with the Pan-Africanist rationale and I tell them as much, they react as if I have insulted them and deny all affiliations with the ideology. In fact one of my friends went so far as to tell me that she believes in what Pan Africanism stands for, but doesn’t want to be labeled as such because of what people may think of her!
Pan Africanism has become this commercialized term in an effort to try to generalize and describe a diverse continent and thus watering down the term to become almost insignificant. I have come across people who call themselves Pan Africanist and I am disturbed at the picture they perpetuate by refusing to contextualize the essence of being a true Pan Africanist and twist it to try to make it marketable to the masses. I come into conversations with people who call themselves Pan Africanists and they are to busy idolizing and worshipping the past to be to concerned about what it means to be a Pan Africanist today. Don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows the amount of respect I have for the founding fathers and mothers of Pan Africanism and those who set to unite a continent so divided. But what does it mean for me as a Tanzanian living in Africa? Or for the South African? Liberian? What does it mean to be Pan Africanist and how can I practically apply it to my everyday life?
To define Pan Africanism we must start at the beginning. Though there is no definitive definition of Pan Africanism, it started out as movement during the transatlantic salve trade and was more or less a social concept. During the colonial times it became a more political movement and during the post colonial era it became a more sociopolitical ideology for the unification of native Africans and those of African descent. A lot of scholars say that OAU, now AU, arose from the ideologies and sentiments of the Pan African movement as a means of uniting the continent in the light of globalisation. Slavery is not over as we are still slaves in today’s neocolonialism- ” The last stage of imperialism” according to Kwame Nkurmuh.
Pan Africanism isn’t just about getting down with my roots and connecting with the African in me and all the other Afrocentrism crap that appeals to cultural marketing schemes for black people. It goes beyond me wearing my hair in an Afro and rocking African prints. It is not a religious cult or an anti white hate campaign created as a supposed answer to racism by promoting reverse racism. I think it is great when I see people embracing what is African and celebrating their heritage and their God-given traits, but that is a very small part of what being a Pan Africanist is about.
A true pan Africanist looks at Africa as a country in terms of development economically, socially, politically and culturally. We always hear how Africa is richly endowed with natural resources and raw materials and how we have the potential to be a superpower if we learn to cultivate, produce, and manufacture our own goods. A Pan Africanist ultimate goal is not to have a United States of Africa (though I personally think that would be awesome) but an Africa that has learned to share resources through trade and commerce for the economic empowerment of the country and essentially the continent as the whole. Through economic empowerment can we experience a rich cultural and social interaction as the trade and commerce is not limited to commodities but the exchange of ideas and intellectual property as well, just to name a few.
Some may say this is idealistic, but when one grasps the concept you will actually understand that this appeals to both the capitalist and the socialist, the idealist and realist because everyone gets something out of it. We will spend less money if we trade within our borders, communication won’t be a major hindrance, and transport will be less thus saving money just to name a few benefits. This is not to say that we should never trade with anyone outside of Africa. No! If I live in A street and they sold apples in both B and F street (the distance being measured by the proximity of the letters) and I went only to F street though the apples in B street are better and not to mention closer but I have grown use to buying my apples in F street and have formed a good network so it is really hard for me to go to B street despite how good the apples are! That in a nutshell is the dilemma we are facing here in Africa. Now exchange A with any African country and B with any African country and F as any country outside of Africa and you will have a better understanding of the dynamics of some of the interactions.
Such organisations such as Africa 2.0 which is a “Pan-African Civil Society organization that consists of young and emerging leaders from Africa and the Diaspora who share a collective vision for Africa and a commitment to finding and implementing sustainable solutions that will in turn leapfrog the development of the continent.” <<< That is what we need to be doing as Pan Africanists! We need to be moving and consolidating our efforts as we are stronger together than apart. That is why I get annoyed when I hear people going on about how they are not going to succumb to the white ways and never wear a relaxer. That is all good and it carries its own empowerment but don’t end there, because there is always more that can be done!
Before I go, I stumbled upon this blog written by a pan Africanist and he goes more into detail about what I touched on here. I will encourage you to read it paying particular interest to where he talks about the African economic potential: http://therisingcontinent.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/pan-african-today/.
I had started a project, “African Queens Project“, this year with the intention of impacting a marginalised group in Africa: women and I have now seen it grow beyond my expectations from wining an internationally renowned award to impacting and changing the lives of young girls and Women.
I realised however that the people who would really benefit from this project were not being reached and thus have launched a new campaign called “African Queens Project – Going Rural.”
Everybody has a story and a story has the power to change someone’s life. The award-winning project, African Queens Project, has become the source of all things related and affecting African women. We collect the stories of phenomenal women from around African who are shaping their communities and countries and put it on the website in the form of videos, interviews, and audio bites as well as sharing news stories and articles about African Women. For to long African women have been marginalised and we have taken the initiative of changing women’s mindset to believe that the impossible is possible.
We want to make African Queens Project more accessible to women and girls within the rural areas in Tanzania by creating applications, books and conducting workshops enforcing our message of leadership and working towards your dreams. We would also like to create documentaries about phenomenal women and girls doing amazing things from the grassroots level and instilling change in their communities. We also want to do this at absolutely NO cost to the women and girls who can benefit from our services. This is where we need YOUR help.
Your contribution in any amount will be instrumental in changing the lives of women and young girls living in villages who think that this is as good is as its going to get. Change begins in the mind and mindset transformation is key if we want to see a new generation of women who can be the leaders of tomorrow.
If you would like to support us you can do so by going to this link:
I would like to say a BIG thank you to all the friends and supporters who have believed in this project thus far and have seen it go from being a dream to a reality.
You are royalty!
So a post has been long overdue, but I have been busy working on building a project very close to my heart called “African Queens Project“. A lot of people have been asking me who is behind this project and how did it come about. So I have finally decided that with recent events that have taken place (which I will happily share) this will be the best time to let you guys in on the behind the scenes of “African Queens Project”.
First to address the questions of who and/or what is behind ‘African Queens Project’ I must take you to the beginning to where it all began. It was the summer of 2012, in the bustling city of Accra, Ghana. I had just landed and was busy taking in my surroundings and praying that the people who were to pick me up were not operating on African time. I saw a tall lady holding a sign with my name on it and made a beeline for her pushing my luggage on the trolly as I went. I did not know what to expect, all I knew was that I was going to be surrounded by 27 women from different parts of Africa for the next 3 weeks. My prevailing thoughts were: PMS and a whole lot of Estrogen! If someone had told me that I would form life long friends and inspirational connections with my fellow African women, I would have given them an, “In your dreams” look.
So I bet you are now wondering why was I in Ghana with 27 other women? I had been selected to attend a prestigious fellowship whereby they look for 25 young African women leaders each year in Africa, and bring them to Ghana for intensive training and workshops and upon graduation you become a part of a prestigious network of women known as MILEAD Fellows. Part of the fellowship requires each fellow to carry out a project that targets women and children in their home country for at least a year.
So I remember taking my time while I thought about what I could do that I could willingly and happily put all my heart and soul into that would make a sustainable impact. I went through a lot of ideas in my head trying to think of the best way I could go about doing this while still staying true to my passions which is media and journalism. I knew I didn’t want to do just another program or project that would eventually die or be forgotten. I continued to ponder this as I went through the fellowship, listening to the intensive lectures and taking part in some of the workshops. We got to the part where different fellows shared their stories and backgrounds and what they are doing to revolutionize their country and community. As I sat listening to these stories, I was moved to tears several times when I heard stories of hardships, defeats, triumphs, and accomplishments from women who were still relatively “young”. That’s when I knew what my project would be about: providing a uniform platform whereby inspirational women can share their stories thus inspiring other young girls and women to aspire for more. ‘African Queens Project’ was born and the rest is history.
So currently I have seen ‘African Queens Project‘ taking shape and growing and becoming even more than I had imagined. I can happily and officially say that ‘African Queens Project‘ is an award winning project, and we will be honored in Sri Lanka as part of the World Summit Youth Award winners event. So that is it in a nutshell, you can read the press release to fill you in more about the award: http://africanqueensproject.com/awards/. I like what the Professor Peter Bruck, Chairman of the World Summit Youth Awards Board said about ‘African Queens Project’:
“African Queens Project’ is helping many women in Africa to exchange vital experiences and share a new world of possibilities and opportunities. It is important to make visible the struggles, triumphs, and victories of anonymous African women who are making a difference in this continent.”
So I leave you with that and be sure to check out the website as well. Until next time, inspire to aspire!
This subject is a hot topic among my friends, but the more I interact with my fellow Africans both on the continent and in the diaspora, the more I realize that this is a widespread discussion that transcends age, gender, culture, etc. What does it mean to be an African? What does it mean to be progressive? What is a Progressive African? Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but these are just my observations and comments and my own philosophies I have attained over the years.
I was chatting with one of my girlfriends and she was telling me how it is so hard to find a man locally who is not intimidated by her success and independence. I can almost hear the resonating chorus of “Amens” from the women who are reading this. But on the flip side, I hear from seemingly well-rounded men about how hard it is to find a well-rounded woman. So from my observations I can safely conclude that there seems to be this gap where we see more and more successful and empowered woman who are single and in the late 30’s versus men who want the best of both worlds. In the general African culture that is something we frown against, the African culture encourages women to be settled and married no later than 25 on average. Once you have passed the 25 mark you are considered expired goods. Usually when I speak to some of my “homeboys” they tell me how they prefer marrying someone who is young and in their early 20’s versus someone who is in their late 20’s or 30’s while they themselves are in that range and still single. Double standard?
However, when I look at my generation today and I see this growing trend of successful single black women and intimidated black men, I ask myself is this the cost of being a progressive African woman? Or is this the new Africa? I would like to say though that there are many African men who are not intimidated by successful African woman who in fact encourage their success and consider them to be quite the catch, but unfortunately those men are more in the minority than in the majority.
So I define progressiveness in this context as a branch of empowerment, or to put it in directional terms it is a continuous forward advancement that is embedded in all areas of society and culture. Please note the word “continuous,” which means that there should not be a standstill, the play should always be in motion. So as we continue moving forward, we need to close the gap between progressive African women and have more progressive African men so we can have a progressive Africa and be the progressive Africans. When we look at where Africa is going and what Africa already has, it only makes logical sense to say that the future is bright for Africa. That means our mind sets need to be changed if we want to not only maintain, but sustain this inevitable progression.
Take some time and evaluate your values, your mindset, as well as your philosophies and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to think in another direction or be afraid to make the necessary changes or adaptations. My fellow Africans, let us be Progressive Africans!