REPARATIONS, AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY, AND MALCOLM X
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (May 23, 2007)
This is the second of a two part series. In part one of this series, I began discussing the origin and development of African Liberation Day and its relationship to the work of the National Black United Front as we prepare to celebrate African Liberation Day and Malcolm X’s Birthday.
The Reparations Movement is intensifying throughout the African World Community. Increasingly, the masses of African people in America, Africa, and the Caribbean are actively supporting the demand for reparations as a vehicle to seek repair for the damages inflicted upon African people in the past and their continuing vestiges.
It is in this spirit that African people worldwide celebrate African Liberation Day and Malcolm X’s Birthday during the month of May.
The celebration of African Liberation Day (ALD) in the United States began in May 1972 in Washington, D.C. More than 60,000 people participated in this historic event. Since the untimely assassination of Malcolm in 1965, movement forces throughout the world have consistently commemorated his birthday. Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.
From the 1980s through 1997, NBUF Chicago Chapter sponsored African Liberation Day / ALD on the Westside, where we marched down Madison Street and culminated with a rally and cultural program in Garfield Park. These ALD events have been very successful and we have been honored to sponsor them. In recent years, we have moved the celebration to the Southside of Chicago and have changed the format of our festivities.
Now, I will continue with the history of African Liberation Day from Part I of this article. The colonial period in Africa, as well as the enslavement of African people who were captured and brought to North America, had a devastating impact on Africa and African people.
African people did not sit idly by. Just as we resisted our slave circumstances in America, African people resisted their colonial condition. Pan African meetings were called to plot strategy to end colonial rule. The Garvey Movement and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) galvanized African people worldwide to embrace the idea of African independence under “One God, One Aim, and One Destiny.” The Garvey period in our history, more than any other era, laid the foundation for what we now call African Liberation Day.
African people began waging a battle to reclaim their lands. This has been a long and bitter struggle. Resistance to white supremacy and colonial domination took many shapes and forms.
The Pan African meetings (1900-1945) provided a mechanism for a small group of African leaders to plan and plot strategy for African freedom. The Garvey Movement of the 1920s brought the idea of African freedom and independence to the masses of our people around the world. “Africa for the Africans – At Home and Abroad,” was a slogan that captured the spirit of African people. This slogan gave a clear understanding of who we are as a people and what we should be struggling for.
It was not until the early 1950s that the first African country gained political independence in the movement to reclaim Africa. That country was Ghana, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, who led the Ghanaian people to their fight against British colonialism. Shortly after this successful defeat of the British, Sekou Toure led the people of Guinea towards their independence from French colonialism. Right on the heels of this victory was the victory of Patrice Lumumba and the people of the Congo, who won the battle, for a brief moment, against Belgium.
This independence movement sparked an onslaught of African people reclaiming their territories and led to the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in May 1963. (This is why we celebrate ALD in May.) It was during this period that Malcolm X linked the struggle of African people in this country with the struggle of African people worldwide.
It is interesting to note that the Civil Rights Movement in this country was sparked in Montgomery (1955) at approximately the same time the independence movement in Africa began (1956-57). The call for Black Power (1966) sparked a discussion in the Black Liberation Movement in America that placed the re-identification with Africa and African people on the Movement’s agenda, once again. This renewed a new phase of the Pan African Movement.
The call for support of our brothers and sisters fighting against the Portuguese in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau led to the formation of the African Liberation Day held in the country on May 27, 1972 that attracted over 60,000 African people. African Liberation Day has become an institution in America since that time.
African Liberation Day is a day when all Black people should come together. As I have emphasized many times before, whether you were born in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize, Bahia, Germany, England, France, Alabama, Georgia, or on 47th Street in Chicago, as long as you are Black, you are an African with a common heritage and a common set of conditions. We must continue to fight against racism and white supremacy as we demand reparations for African people in America and worldwide. ALD and Malcolm X’s Birthday Commemoration and activities should serve as a catalyst for our continued building of the Reparations Movement in America.
The Reparations Demands will become our “Shining Star!”
National Black United Front (NBUF)