E-Letter To Bob Dart And The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Re: "Africa's potential belies 'Afro-pessimism,' Young says"

Yesterday, I read your article, "Africa's potential belies 'Afro-pessimism,' Young says" with great interest. I honestly wake up, every day, enthused and optimistic about the future of Africa. The reason for my "Afro-optimism" boils down to really one event which took place earlier this year - the official declaration of the African Union, "The United States Of Africa." I am so optimistic about the United States Of Africa, that over a year ago BlackElectorate.com published a 200-plus page special report - a Volume 1 on the economic foundations of the African Union, that we will soon make available, again. I really shouldn't use the word event as much as the word "process" in describing the African Union. Indeed, it must be spoken of in the past, present and future tense, as the process "began" as an idea in the mind of Brothers and Sisters, primarily as intellectuals, in the Diaspora, and eventually was spread as a goal by African leaders - particularly Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah. It was embodied and executed, at the state level, in the person of Libya's Moammar Khaddafi under the auspices of the Organization Of African Union (OAU). It's magnificent future awaits us.

I was disappointed, but not surprised to find that nowhere in your article is the African Union mentioned. Not surprised, because after all, I thought, your piece centers around Andrew Young, one of the most fascinating individuals to ever be part of the Black political establishment. And it has been politics more than any other element of the power nexus that has been used to destroy reasons for optimism regarding Africa and the relationship between Blacks in the United States and those living on the continent.

The process of countering some of the pessimism surrounding Africa will end with the work of the Black political establishment, but it must "begin" and accelerate in Black civil society, in America. Black intellectuals, have done a fine job in helping in this area but their reach, manner of speaking, and penchant for "preaching to the choir" limits their influence. That is why I have limited expectations for the "Ambassador Andrew Young Lecture Series," in the area of overcoming "Afro-pessimism," even though I do not doubt the value of its content or the great role that Andrew Young has played opposite Africa and may continue to play.

But sales and marketing is everything on this issue.

The problem with the political establishment is that it has been the most compromised and limited in its advocacy on behalf of Africa because of the national security objectives of the United States government; its membership in White-led partisan coalition efforts; and its estrangement from Pan-Africanist scholars.

National Security Memorandum 46 authored by President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbignew Brezenski, in 1978, spoke of the importance of never letting the Black power and civil rights movement of America unite with the liberation struggles against the vestiges of colonialism in Africa. It also spoke of the potential danger in the possibility that Black Americans' sympathy with their Africa homeland could naturally lead them to side with Arabs against Israel in the Middle East conflict. NSC 46 saw, that because of the Arab presence on the continent of Africa, Blacks were in fact related to them by bloodline and spirit, more so, it argued, than was the case with Israelis. Mr. Brezenski denies his authorship of NSC 46 but I have spoken to Black leaders who have met with President Jimmy Carter and who say he, in their presence, acknowledged the impact of the contents of NSC 46.

The second factor I have identified is that Black leaders have compromised, muted or diminished a pro-African agenda due to the reticence or prohibition concerning such that exists within the White-led partisan political method of coalition. The Democratic, Republican and Third political parties of prominence, all ignore real pan-Africanist items in their platforms. White Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives alike, for the most part, have only variables of "trade and aid" in mind when the subject is Africa. And while White progressives are the most willing to consider Africa's colonialist and neo-colonialist burden, they too have little tolerance for Black-led Pan-Africanism and a ringing indictment of White Supremacy that undermines their leanings toward statist intrusion. All of them are paternalistic, in one way or another.

The litmus test for all that I am saying is the African Union, which these White Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives either attack or ignore.

Forget, for a moment, about Libya's Moammar Khaddafi's (the most popular leader in Africa, among Africans) inspirational yet controversial role in the AU. His involvement in the effort is not the real problem or reason for their ambivalence or opposition to the African Union. When have Whites ever supported the concept of a United States of Africa? Never. Black political participation in coalition with such "partners," alone, will never produce a truly proactive lobby on behalf of Africa, among Blacks in America. Could it be that traditional Black leaders have been scared away from supporting the AU because of Mr. Khaddafi's involvement and what that means to their coalition partners? Paradoxical when one considers the fact that the Whites who guide much of Black political thinking on Africa are so enamored with Nelson Mandela, who absolutely loves Moammar Khaddafi. Although it is hard for White intellectuals and politicians to swallow (and the Blacks under their influence) the Libyan "autocrat" is their favorite leader's (Mandela) favorite leader. I wonder what U2's Bono and his new African-advocacy group, DATA, thinks of Mandela's love for Khaddafi, don't you?

And lastly, Black politicians in Washington D.C., yes, the Congressional Black Caucus, when the subject is Africa, have a humiliating tendency to rely upon the scholarship and ideas of Whites. You really have to see it to believe it. It is a sight. The cottage industry of White experts on Africa in D.C. is something to behold. Indeed, "White makes right" when the subject is Africa and a host of others. The CBC's dependency or real preference to rely upon White intellectuals at think tanks and interest groups is really, in my view in the category of crisis. But it is not purely their fault. Their is a famine of Black think tanks, period. However, I am of the view that if the CBC would consult with eminent Black scholars at the university level, all across America, their is ample intellectual power and pan-Africanist ideas to overpower anything coming out of D.C.'s White elite intelligensia. Not to mention those great thinkers in the Pan-African Movement on the continent. The Congressional Black Caucus, as yet, has not supported, engaged or promoted the African Union in any prominent or united manner among its constituents.

What is needed in the way of sales and marketing to overcome 'Afro-pessimism' is a three-pronged attack in the heart of Black civil society. Here are the major elements:

1) The Black Preacher. There is no more powerful entity in the Black community, collectively, than the Black Preacher. But the preacher is wedded to a theology that causes him to not adequately consider the relationship between his or her people in America and what is written of, even prophesied in the scriptures. In sum, the Black Preacher is lost in a theology that causes him to view White-skinned people in the Middle East as the Chosen People of God and the establishment of the state of Israel, to varying degress, as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

If you pin down most Black Preachers they will tell you that God's chosen people are those people in the country of Israel, where Ariel Sharon is political leader and that it will be in that part of the world, that Jesus, the Messiah, will return. While they rail against Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell politically, most Black preachers are in lock-step with the religious right when the subject is specifically theology and the identity of the chosen people. This goes for Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Rev. Fred Price. But if Black Christians would look deep at Genesis Chapter 15: verses 13-15 and the Book of Joel Chapter 3: 1-7, and the 37th Chapter of Ezekiel they would see a word picture themsleves and the history of their sojourn from Africa, and a beautiful future, I believe. Once the Black Preacher sees Africa and the Western Hemisphere in the light of the scriptures, he or she will be able to properly place the establishment of the United States Of Africa, in its spiritual context and teach, like only a preacher can, the masses. I would recommend that these Black Preachers consider the exegesis that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad gave on this subject. Of course, this would mean that they would have to consider what Minister Louis Farrakhan has primarily stated on this subject. They should also study what Nation Of Islam theologian Minister Jabril Muhammad has written on the subject. They can visit his website at http://www.writtentestimony.com, join his mailing list, and get all of his available books, latest articles, writings, and study materials.

A conference among Black Christian, Muslim and Hebrew theologians should be convened to discuss the geopolitical and cultural affects of theological positions regarding the identity of the Chosen People and prophecy of a slave experience, a Diaspora, and return to a homeland. Are the the Torah and prophetical books more relevant to a Black Nationalist and Pan-African movement than to Zionism? If not politicians and intellectuals, the Black Pastor, Imam, and Rabbi should be free to raise and critically analyze this question from the Word Of God.

2) Hip-Hop artists. I was in attendance in June of 2001 when the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan asked a leading group of Hip-Hop artists to rap about current events in order to raise the consciousness of the legions of young people who follow them. The very first current event he listed was the establishment of the United States Of Africa. I haven't heard Ja Rule, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, P. Diddy, Jemaine Dupri, Talib Kweli or Dead Prez (all of whom were in listening to the Minister that day) rhyming about the United States Of Africa specifically yet. But perhaps I missed it on a hidden track or they are in the studio now recording such material (smile). In any event, if Hip-Hop artists would follow Minister Farrakhan's guidance, the thinking of young people and the optimism for Africa's future would be lifted overnight!

3) Business and Dual Citizenship. I was happy to see in your article the following:

Young said the continent could also benefit from a "returning of the sons and daughters of Africa."

There are millions of people of African descent who are in Europe and America and the Caribbean, he said. All of those who came in the 20th century migrated on their own, bringing or gaining skills and education. Many run successful businesses.

If they were to return to their homelands regularly, he said, they could "create and relate to an African market. They could begin to share some of their skills and provide growth opportunities to the companies for which they work."

Andrew Young has largely identified the economic power of immigration in most efficiently marrying human, financial, and physical capital. Some of what Africa lacks in the way of human capital, at this stage, is present in her sons and daughters in the Western Hemisphere, especially the United States of America. And what Blacks in America, in particular lack, is present on the continent. If the Black business establishment can be persuaded of this and develop a way to negotiate this marriage in a way that does not disrespect Black Americans or Africans, the greatest economic renaissance in world history will occur in Africa. The African Union's economic development fueled by an offer of dual citizenship to Blacks in the Diaspora is reason alone for optimism.

I look forward to reading your next article on Africa. Let's see if we can get that nasty little p-word that appears in the title of your current piece out of the sequel.


Cedric Muhammad

Cedric Muhammad

Thursday, November 14, 2002