Guest Lecture series. . .
“The Black Diaspora and Pan-Africanism: The Search for Binding African/African American Ties; Reparations and the Struggle for Black Freedom Worldwide”
Presented by Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem
Nov. 4, 2005
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem brought his dynamic advocacy and contagious enthusiasm to a full auditorium of IU students and faculty on Nov. 4. Noting that the United Nations had declared 2005 the Year of Africa, Abdul-Raheem began with a vigorous condemnation of the United States and Britain's walking out of the U.N. discussion of reparations for people of African heritage worldwide, ironically reminding the audience that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was the U.S. official who walked out. Next he launched into an analysis of the musical events sponsored by well-known musicians to raise funds to help Africa. These actions, he said, amount to charity for Africa rather than substantive assistance, such as fair trade and debt cancellation.
Those examples illustrated the continuing problem for Africa, in which other nations do not address the structural issues underlying the continent's constant poverty. Africa, he said, has been a "cash cow" for Europe. The continent is not a poor land, but one with enormous resources - resources that were exploited by colonizing European countries in the past and still exploited by the governments and large corporations of other nations today. Africans, since colonialism and slavery, have been denied the wealth of their own lands, leaving the people not only materially impoverished, but also lacking in human resources as many Africans in professional fields immigrate to Europe and the U.S.
Abdul-Raheem also discussed the morality of righting the historical atrocities done to Africans, stating that reparations and the acknowledgment of those wrongs are long overdue. For the exploitation has had not only a negative effect on Africa by depleting its resources, but also has had a positive effect on the exploiting nations, who have prospered at African expense. While colonialism and slavery existed in the past, the repercussions of that time are continuing today. Even the corrupt leaders who exploited their various African countries were aided and abetted by the West, who sold arms and provided other assistance to them, especially during the Cold War.
Three actions are necessary to truly help Africa, said Abdul-Raheem: restitution, which allows rehabilitation and prevents a recurrence of exploitation; reparations, which would restore money to Africa, even if only a symbolic gesture; and reconciliation, which requires confession of the wrongs done, followed by forgiveness. He added that Western museums must also return to Africa the many artifacts, which represent Africa's heritage, that have been "collected" from African soil.
The Pan-African Movement was founded by W.E.B. DuBois as the anti-colonial movement grew worldwide in the first half of the 20th century. While slavery and colonialism have been eliminated, Africa has been left in a weakened position and is still exploited or ignored. Hence the continued cry for reparations. The problem now is to strategize ways to keep that issue alive, despite other differences among nations. The movement is strongest in the U.S., is gaining momentum in Europe, and is uneven in Africa.
Abdul-Raheem noted the "circular" situation that Africa today finds itself in: To gain the respect of the world, Africa must put its house in order, but opportunity and resources are withheld from Africa. That is why debt cancellation, the return of artifacts, and acknowledgment of wrongs are necessary. The "new slavery" of globalization must also be addressed. In addition, solidarity among Africans and people of African descent is crucial. Black people everywhere must get past their "mental slavery." They do not need the permission of America and Europe to untrap African thinking.
Abdul-Raheem is secretary general of the Pan-African Movement, headquartered in Kampala, Uganda, and director for Justice Africa, a human rights and peace advocacy group based in London. His syndicated column appears in newspapers in several nations.