Why Pan-Africanism is Important for the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

by Jaimee A.Swift “...I said physically we Afro-Americans might remain in America, fighting for our...

by Jaimee A.Swift
“...I said physically we Afro-Americans might remain in America, fighting for our constitutional rights, but that philosophically and culturally, we Afro-Americans badly needed to ‘return’ to Africa — and develop a working unity in the framework of Pan-Africanism.” — Malcolm X
In a historical context, Pan-Africanism served as both a cultural and political ideology for the solidarity of peoples of African descent. Most notably championed and pioneered by Marcus Garvey, Jomo Kenyatta, and Kwame Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism aims to connect and understand the universal injustices within the Diaspora. However, the past Pan-Africanist calls of Garvey, Kenyatta, Nkrumah and countless others have translated into modernity; as neo-black liberation movements are advocating for the socio-economic, political and even psychological independence from those under colonial and now, neo-colonial regimes.

Although the #BlackLivesMatter movement was birthed after the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the movement itself extends beyond the extrajudicial killings of Black people in the United States and addresses how other structural elements such as racism are embedded in American society. However, the ideological application of Pan-Africanism is essential and crucial to the Black Lives Matter Movement because it serves as a holistic, liberatory mechanism for all Black people in the African Diaspora.



Just as Andre 3000’s poignant question on his black jumper he wore at Coachella alluded to — “Across cultures, darker peoples suffer. Why?” — the Pan-Africanism perspective must be embraced as a foundational premise to the movement because it speaks to the interconnectedness of the Black struggle, Black triumphs, and Black perseverance and resiliency within a global context. In this same vein, the articulation and reclamation of cultural, artistic and philosophical African legacies that have been continually denied and appropriated must be embraced to extend the movement.

Examples of this contemporary, cultural Pan-African articulation include the resurgence of embracing natural hair styles, wearing African-inspired fashions and jewelry, enlightenment to African Diasporic literature and teachings, the creations of Pan-African organizations and support groups, and even the reclamation of indigenous, African religions and worship.

Of course, with any such revolutionary movement, there are schisms present. With Pan-Africanism and its application, many barriers are evident much due to intercontinental divide and lack of cross-cultural understanding. Some of these barriers include stereotypes that African-Americans and Africans have of one another; the lack of understanding of race-relations in the United States; the inexperience of racism due to those who live in homogeneous societies; the way the media portrays African peoples worldwide; and those who are in fact Black but do not identify as a person of African descent.

Although these divisions are thoroughly embedded in the psyches of many, the Black Lives Matter movement, in conjunction with Pan-Africanism, serves as a catalyst to defy these divisions via the continued mobilization for global, Black solidarity and consolidation.

So, whether it is Haitians being deported in the Dominican Republic; the African-American addressing the systematic brutality by law-enforcement and vigilantes in the United States; the discrimination of the Aboriginal people of Australia; the genocide of the West Papuans; the Afro-Brazilians living in the favelas of Rio de Janiero; or the South African suffering under the present manifestations of Apartheid, all in all, from the Pan-African perspective, #AllBlackLivesMatter.

Photo: Free West Papua Campaign

Jaimee Swift is a graduate of Howard University and Temple University, with a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, respectively. A writer and truth-seeker at heart, Swift is currently the Communications and Youth Advocacy Officer for Together for Girls, which is a Clinton Global Initiative to end sexual violence against women and girls. You can follow her on Instagram @jaimeeswift.




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