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Looking at yesterday from today’s perspectives

A central question:
How are Panafricans, being the bearers of a 20th Century reflection, supposed to look at ancient history, and traditional cultures on the African continent? The thinkers of Panafricansim realized early on, that this question  would confront the whole continent, facing a common world context shared, or manipulated, as ‘modernity’.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, along with King Mohammed V of Morocco, were those, among the founding generation, who constantly warned us ‘not to throw away ancient working technologies, and trade them for new unproven ones’. They held on to this view, while welcoming new humanitarian developments, in all areas where accepted science shows proven benefits. Their approach favored maintaining a balance between ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’, based on mutual respect between these two polarities. This philosophy applied for them to all areas of African affairs, including in the geopolitical spheres. Being non-aligned meant for these African monarchs, a practice of foresight, a long term vision, in order to avoid imposing long lasting effects on temporary and volatile situations, which are still in the process of balancing out. Africa in its thousands of years old history, has seen entire civilizations rise and fall, and learnt early on that African survival rests upon its own hands. Remembering is one of Africa’s best weapons of defense. The threat of forgetfulness is not only a menace to the forgotten ones, but it can affect and change the one who forgets. A child who forgot where he comes from is no longer the same child. Africa’s children risk too much in forgetting how much their African history gave them. Africans as a whole are culturally the richest people in the world. Theirs are the most ancient uninterrupted cultures in all humanity.
Why act ignorant of one’s own riches, instead of preserving and cultivating them?
On the other hand, for panafricans, it is essential to look at ourselves with different eyes, than before panafricanism came on the world stage. We cannot afford to be divided along any lines, ethnic, cultural, or faith based. Panafricans must look even beyond national lines. Each country in Africa deserves dignity, safety, prosperity and freedom. Each is endowed with multiple cultures and ethnicities that can only benefit from living together in peace and harmony.  In this process the role of the elders of a culture is essential.
At the same time the youths everywhere in Africa are keeping pace with new technologies, many of which have become part of their daily lives.
But African youth must be reminded, that the ones who opened for them the road to take part in the global community, also fought for the right of each African person to be treated with dignity and respect of fundamental human rights. The world we live in would not be the same for anyone without their valiant and heroic efforts. Their victory was the triumph of the entire human race. This did not come without sacrifice and without vision.
From India to China to Europe and to America, everywhere on earth, the struggle for dignity and universal morality was seeded from African spirit, Haiti, the Sokoto Empire, the end of slavery, Marcus Garvey, African decolonization, the creation of the OAU ( today the AU), the Civil Rights movement, the end of Apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe, to the creation of OAU, Black Liberation became the seed universal human rights and equality. We don’t live in the same world as before these panafrican victories happened. What identity and culture meant for most people in Africa before Haile Selassie addressed the League of Nations, was whatever they were allowed or able to save of their unique heritages in the face of adversity, contempt and manipulative racism.
Being an African Jew, Muslim, Christian or Animist, meant something entirely different from what it means now. If you were a Jew, you could be deported to death camps if colonialists decided so. Being a Muslim or a Christian did not protect you from having to sit in the back of a bus or living in segregation from the whites.
Today, after the triumphant changes which came in the wake of the efforts made by the great leaders of panafricanism, an African Jew, Muslim or Christian can proudly carry their culture and live it to the fullest. It was not so before the Emperor of Ethiopia and the King of Morocco, surrounded by dozens of other African heroes stepped on the world stage. The debt we owe that generation of leaders can never be repaid in kind. Through them, God gave us freedom from oppression, and lit in our hearts the quest for human dignity.  Our continent and our people gave its best fighters to the cause of human rights.
World renown artists such as Duke Ellington and Bob Marley made the cause of Black dignity their life long work, and spread its message to the four corners of the world. So that each Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Animist child in Africa does not have to bow before anyone or feel ashamed of their heritage. This was and still is, a new vision of history.
Not only the history to remember the past, but the history you are making in the present, to create a better future. It is essential to realize the value of our heritage as Africans. But we must also remember that in times of oppression, our differences were used against all of us, and that History was made by the ones who put humanity above difference, and unity before divisiveness. They taught us that God unites, whereas the Devil divides. They taught us that the name for evil in our generation is racism. That any form of oppression, be it economic and class based, generation or gender based, between humans, is rooted in racism. They showed us that by fighting racism we are fighting all forms of discrimination at the root. How they showed us is not only by their words but also by their actions. They met with all world leaders showing equal respect. They denounced the last bastions of unabashed racial segregation, South Africa and Rhodesia’s regimes, until they fell. Nelson Mandela lived in Oujda Morocco under the guidance and protection of King Hassan II, before he returned to complete his fight until he was liberated and his country along with him. Mahatma Gandhi drew the inspiration for the liberation of India from the black struggle in South Africa. Martin Luther King and Malcom X were raised on the lectures of Marcus Garvey. The Haitian revolution which triggered and inspired the Latin American Independance, was a movement of African self liberation. Haiti was instrumental in providing intellectual and tactical support for the panafrican liberation.
Africa’s rays around the world radiate a spirit of freedom and dignity for all.
Each one of us must ask what would have happened if Emperor Haile Selassie had not defeated the Italian fascists, if King Mohammed V had not stood up and successfully resisted Vichy’s France. By asking ourselves we discover that even Italy and France, without these African heroes, would still be under the rulership of dictatorial regimes.
The colonial ungratefulness to Africa is obvious. But we Africans cannot afford to be ignorant of unity as our greatest asset. Whichever tradition we come from, we must always remain grateful to those who put their lives in the balance to see all of us raise our heads as free and dignified. When we look at our past, we can be proud that it was leading to our unity and mutual love and respect.

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