African American Sovereignty: Are We Ready To Walk That Talk??

Posted on August 16, 2011 by

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By Bro. Mxolisi

Sovereignty! It’s a big word; difficult to spell; even more difficult to achieve. For centuries, at the international level, the world has been trying to decide what the term really means. Over that time period, the idea that a state could be sovereign was always connected to its ability to guarantee the best interests of its own citizens. The United Nations currently only requires that a sovereign state has an effective and independent government within a defined territory.

In the context of the above, how do we address the question of African American Sovereignty the right to dictate our own affairs in all realms of human activity without external coercion or manipulation? A right we have not fully enjoyed in over 375 years; a topic of considerable discussion in recent days.

Sovereignty seems to be a lot like “revolution,” a concept that our honorable ancestor, Malcolm X, challenged us to truly understand – its violence and bloodshed, its quest for the control of territory, its all or nothing commitment – to weigh the costs and truly decide if we were truly prepared for revolution. We obviously and evidently were not.

But Bro. Malcolm also spoke of another kind of revolution: “We must revamp our entire thinking and redirect our learning trends so that we can put forth a confident identity and wipe out the false image built up by an oppressive society. We can build a foundation for liberating our minds by studying the different philosophies and psychologies of others. . . . Such studies will give us, as Afro-Americans, a direct access to ideas and history of our ancestors, as well as histories of mankind at large.” 

Additionally he said this: “Once you change your philosophy, you change your thought pattern. Once you change your thought pattern, you change your — your attitude. Once you change your attitude, it changes your behavior pattern and then you go on into some action.”

In the decades since Bro. Malcolm uttered those wise words, significant numbers of African descendents in the U.S. (and around the world) have been engaged in the kind of studies he suggested, and we now have African-centered organizations and individuals in every corner of the U.S. and every continent on earth. It is time to begin galvanizing ourselves, in order to become the force that brings about the revolutionary transformations that the best interests of our people require.

Our most important challenge in this process is embodied in these words from Bro. Malcolm: “The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first, then you’ll get action.”

In the call for African American Sovereignty, it seems that this admonition relative to the awakening of “a sleeping people” as a priority is being honored via the call for efforts toward the development of a “sovereignty consciousness” among greater numbers of our people; a change in thinking and learning trends, self-knowledge and self-perception, philosophy and attitudes, leading to actions by our masses on the required scale, around specific goals.

Prof. Jahi Issa

The call for sovereignty consciousness among African descendents is not an entirely new one. It was an important point in a 2005 paper

Prof. Salim Faraji

by Jahi Issa, Assistant Professor of African History, Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, N.C. and Salim Faraji, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills  (entitled “A Disproportionate Legacy: From Slavery to Sovereignty in America – A Critical Reflection on the 140th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment”).

In that writing they outlined this nation’s long and continuing history of failing to guarantee the best interests of African Americans and asserted this: “It is imperative that African-descended people in the United States develop a sovereign consciousness, directed toward at least, the four areas that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has identified as essential: public health, education, economic development and African Globalism. By “sovereign” we mean the collective assertion of our innate, inherent authority as Human Beings to be self-defining, self-determining and self-building in the world. This is nothing less than the affirmation of African Humanity as the primary and fundamental contributor to the development of Black America and the African World Community. . . .

 “A sovereign stance suggests that African Americans not play into the old, dichotomized trap of assimilationism or accomodationism neither separationism nor isolationism, but advance a position of total sovereign participation according to the cultural excellence and human interests of African World Peoples. The practice of sovereignty encourages African Americans to secure their strategic place in the world as actors and definers and to dialogue with African world history and cultures as a resource for creating solutions to the ongoing dilemmas that face Black America and the African global community.”

(For the whole paper: http://www.sons-of-ra.org/writings/From%20Slavery%20to%20Sovereignty.pdf)

What Issa and Faraji were suggesting is that we must move beyond expecting (hoping, believing) that Congress, even with the Black Caucus, will ever have the collective heart and soul to do the right thing by us, to put a halt to the ongoing, recurring, systematic denial of our human rights! That we must turn the resources of our hearts, minds, monies and institutions to a full scale, all or nothing examination and appreciation of the excellent ways by which our ancestors and elders have provided for our greatest good, throughout our history, all over the world, under a great variety of circumstances, and allow those findings to lead us to solutions for the ongoing dilemmas that we face. Kujichagulia!!  Sovereign Consciousness!!

Sovereign consciousness was on the agenda of the July 2011 National Convention of the Black Psychologists Association, where Dr. Marimba Ani, among others, reiterated the point: Our culture is the basis of our sovereignty!!!  (This is nothing less than the restoration of African Humanity, intelligence and creativity [AHIC] as the primary and fundamental contributor[s] to the development and preservation of our greatest good.)

A writing by Dr. Uhuru Hotep (“African Centered Leadership-Followership: Foundational Principles, Precepts, and Essential Practices”) of the Kwame Ture Leadership Institute offers an outline of some of the steps to be taken by those who would be leaders or followers in our movement toward sovereign consciousness, and self-sustaining, democratic organizations and communities, and a “peace-and-justice-filled African nation within what is now the United States of America.”

Dr. Hotep challenges us to get serious in the development of Sankofa vision. That is, not only looking back to acquire and celebrate the “knowledge of the contributions of our wisest and most courageous leaders, but also the willingness to take up their struggles” — to embrace, update, and boldly incorporate their insights and practices (our culture) into our quest for our greatest good in the 21st century and beyond.  Dr. Hotep asserts that our re-focusing back to our “ancestral knowledge bases” is essential for the development of African centered leaders and followers who can “shift the Black World back to an internal locus of control.”

Dr. Uhuru Hotep

High up on the good doctor’s list of AHIC to be recovered and restored is Maat, the all-encompassing principle of Truth, Justice, Propriety/Righteousness, Harmony, Balance, Right Order and Reciprocity that undergirded the most profound of African civilizations, that of ancient Kemet (aka Egypt).  He asserts that, “The dysfunctional state of Black intra- and inter-family relationships can only be mended by the healing touch of Maat,” coming through those who understand, cherish and revere its healing, repairing presence and power in their lives, and are devoted to the proliferation of mental, spiritual and physical well-being  throughout the world African community.

Some modern-day AHIC advocated by Dr. Hotep is the development of “hi-tech, multimedia production teams that skillfully use music, dance, theatre, spoken word, comedy, graphic arts, publishing, video, cosmetics, fashion, and film to inundate African social spaces with sounds, images and fragrances of Maat, found in the customs, rituals, ceremonies, belief systems and social practices of our classical African civilizations, like Kemet, Nubia, Axum, Zimbabwe, Yoruba, Akan,  . . . that made them sovereign, prosperous, and in many cases, peaceful societies prior to their invasion, conquest and colonization by Europeans and Arabs.” 

It ought to be crystal clear to us by now that hi-tech (and low-tech) media, in the hands of our adversaries, are destroying the genius and capacity for vision in Africans all over the world. We must learn to use these powerful forces for our healing and wellbeing, and the proliferation of sovereignty consciousness. Consistently! Diligently! Pro-actively! Sovereignly!! 

Echoing and expanding upon areas that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation says are crucial for African American wellbeing, Dr. Hotep says that we need to get organized to exercise control over the production, distribution and consumption of our six basic survival needs – food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and self-defense — in communities (“liberated zones”) organized around educational centers equipped to provide the training needed for such endeavors.

Additionally, he outlines a curriculum of transformational studies needed to deepen and strengthen our shift to Black loci of control, both leaders and followers, and to raise up new seekers. These are studies to make good our “escape from the mental prison of conceptual incarceration and slip the soft chains of comfortable captivity to become intellectual maroons . . . restoring Maat thereby ending the maafa.”  Advanced studies include Sankofa (Historical Connectedness), Ib (Data Collection, Analysis & Exchange), Njia (Victorious Thinking), Dwt (Paradigm Shifting), Harambee (Team Building) and Ndaba (Kilombo-Taifa Reconstruction). 

(See Dr. Hotep’s complete writing here: http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol3no6/3.5AfricanCenteredLeadership.pdf) 

(PS: This writer would say that a serious and thorough interaction with the sovereignty consciousness substance embodied within the principles, symbols, precepts and rituals of the Kwanzaa/Nguzo Saba traditon must not be overlooked in this endeavor.)

As Dr. Marimba Ani closed her presentation to the Black Psychologists, she urged us to remember: When we choose to be born African, we promise to engage in victorious struggle to restore our peoplehood!!! Envision those victories: universal health care for all African people; revolutionary educational system; economic self-reliance; defense capability on every front – political, militarily, and otherwise.  “IT CAN BE REAL IF WE MAKE IT REAL!!!” 

The same true for sovereignty consciousness. It’s in our hands, if it’s in our hearts!!!

Ankh, Udja, Seneb!!!

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