It is the day on which Africans and people of African descent celebrate the blood-bought achievement of freedom from European colonialism. We’re talking African Liberation Day – aka Africa Day, aka African Freedom Day – the 25th of May. On this day in 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded. The OAU, spearheaded by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, came into being in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with ambitious goals – to unite Africans and their governments as much as possible, and to continue the struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism. That struggle continues, as does the quest for unity of purpose among Africans.
Bob Marley called on all Africans, all people of African descent, to come together in his AFRICA UNITE classic released in 1979. Says Brother Bob, “Africa, unite! / ‘Cause we’re movin right out of Babylon / And we’re goin to our father’s land / How good and pleasant it would be / Before God and man, yeah / As it’s been said already / Let it be done, yeah / We are the children of the Rastaman / We are the children of the lyaman / So, Africa, unite / ‘Cause the children wanna come home / Africa, unite / ‘Cause we’re movin right out of Babylon / And we’re goovin to our father’s land / How good and how pleasant it would be / To see the unification of all Rastaman . . . Unite for the benefit of your people . . .unite for the benefit of my children . . .Unite for the Africans abroad . . .Unite for the Africans ah yaard . . .”. This is a clarion call, and it speaks to the sameness of our struggle – Africans in the diaspora, and those in the Motherland. As this writer learned on his surreptitious boyhood visits to the Afro Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM) headquarters on Alfred Peters Street back in the early 70’s, “All arwe is one.”
And we are seen as such in the eyes of the colonialists, who, wherever they may be, see us merely as people to be taken advantage of. Who amongst us can forget how, as the sugar estates were collapsing here in Antigua and Barbuda, Moody Stuart and his ilk sought to sell the Syndicate lands to (gasp!) colonialist planters from Africa, so that they could continue denigrating and exploiting Black people, and raping and plundering their lands. Seems, capitalism, colonialism and racism, knows no boundaries; those of that persuasion are tied together in a bond of greed fueled by the exploitation of people of colour. We share a common enemy!
No wonder Bob Marley declares in ZIMBABWE, “Every man’s got the right to decide his own destiny / And in this judgement there is no partiality / So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle / ‘Cause that’s the only way we’ll overcome our little trouble / [CHORUS] Brother you’re right, you’re right, you’re right, so right / We’ll have to fight, we’re gonna fight, we’ll have to fight; fight for our rights / Mash it up inna Zimbabwe, natty trash it up inna Zimbabwe / Africans ah liberate Zimbabwe, I and I ah liberate Zimbabwe.” Indeed! Brother Bob is speaking to the universality of the black experience and fight. Ours is a confraternity of struggle! As it is in Africa, so it is in the Caribbean.
Peter Tosh, he of Jamaican extraction, and one of the founding Wailers, urged Africans to FIGHT ON. His African ancestry constrained him. He could not deny his heritage and his kinship. The Cuban fighters who entered the liberation fight in Angola in 1975 in support of the Peoples’ Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), were similarly constrained. Consider the Castro regime’s reasoning that since so many Africans were taken to Cuba as enslaved people, that this intervention was Cuba’s way of playing its part in the further dismantling of the world-wide colonialist, ‘slaver’ regime. Again, we see the oneness of Black people in Africa and around the world. No wonder that so many calypso and reggae artists sang songs of struggle and freedom and empowerment of Black people, in Africa and abroad, in the 70’s and 80’s. See Bob Marley’s BLACK MAN REDEMPTION and BUFFALO SOLDIER.
Of course, no discussion of the notion that “all arwe is one,” and that “African liberation is our liberation,” would be complete without a nod to Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which sought “The unification and empowerment of African descended people under the banner of their collective African descent, and the repatriation of African slave descendants and profits to Africa . . .”. Garveyism still informs political thought and political struggle among right-thinking people of colour everywhere.
One noted Garveyite is a regular caller to our VOICE OF THE PEOPLE (VOP) broadcast, Brother Nabu by name. He, of St. Kitts extraction, is a strident Pan Africanist, and is quite vocal in his stirring denunciations of capital and neo-colonialism. He is all for Black empowerment and unification, and is radical and uncompromising in his thoughts on how that can be achieved. He usually ends his calls to VOP with the admonition, “Pan Africanism or perish” – a timely reminder. He is from the old Black Power school of the late sixties and seventies, and we posit that much can be learned from him.
On this African Liberation Day 2021, let us be guided and inspired by Marley’s BABYLON SYSTEM: “We refuse to be what you want us to be / We are what we are / And that’s the way it’s going to be /. . .Talkin bout my freedom; people’s freedom and liberty / We’ve been troddin’ on the winepress much too long . . . / Rebel! Rebel! / Babylon system is the vampire suckin the blood of children day by day / Suckin the blood of the sufferers . . .” Hmmmm! See also, Calypso Rose’s I AM AFRICAN, Chalkdust’s THEME FOR AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY and Black Stalin’s CARIBBEAN MAN. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. so nicely puts it, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” African liberation is our liberation, because ‘all arwe is one.’
Here’s to a happy and meaningful African Liberation Day.