The average Jamaican is seemingly not concerned about issues relating to Pan-Africanism. This was evident in the low turnout at a recently held Pan-African public symposium at the University of the West Indies. Despite, a population of more than 90 per cent African ancestry, a significant percentage of the populace do not view themselves as descendants of Africans or Afro-Jamaicans. This separation and arguably denial of our history is largely due to how the society has been cultured and schooled. To a large extent the society pays little attention to our historical grounding and this lack of historical significance is demonstrated in the in the growing number of our young men and women who bleach their skin. It bears thought that for many of us a sense of self and personhood is the missing link between believing in our own sense of self and how we fit into and contribute productively to the society. Additionally, the issue of poor self-esteem exhibit by some of our students’ stems in part to an education system in which History is optional at the secondary level. A significant number of students shy away from the subject. It can be argued that the society’s level of black consciousness is largely dormant, added to this the education system in part fosters this quiescent attitude. On Friday, May 26, 2017, the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work in collaboration with the UWI Pan-African Consortium of the University of the West Indies, Mona, hosted an African Liberation Day Symposium. The theme of the forum was “Peter Abrahams: A forgotten Pan-Africanist”. The presenters Professor Rupert Lewis, Dr. Michael Barnett, Dr. Shani Roper and veteran journalist, Earl Moxam all did a excellent job at discussing aspects of Peter Abraham’s life and work while making the connection to African Liberation Day which was commemorated a day earlier on Thursday, May 25. The presenters were excellent in highlighting how involved Peter Abrahams was in early years of the Pan Africanism movement. In fact, Abrahams was the last surviving member of the organizing committee of the Fifth- Pan African Congress held in 1945 at the time of his death in 2017.The turnout for such an important event was low, thus reinforcing the perception that the scholarship and activism surrounding Pan- Africanism is rooted mainly in the halls of academia. We should not fool ourselves; we are still on the plantation. What we now have are new colonial masters, very much steep in the Anglo-Saxon culture, far removed from our historical journey and socialization. We must remember that many decisions which affect our daily lives are made in European or North America even though we political independent. Despite the progress we have made as a society and as individuals, it can be argued that collectively we are still shackled in this era of neo-colonialism, chained by institutions and processes which are Eurocentric in nature and scope. Professor Rupert Lewis argued that fiction writing and journalism were central to Pan-Africanism as embraced by Abrahams. Professor Lewis was also concerned about the sociology of the elderly. He added that the elderly are at particular risk to criminal violence. The society was shocked and outraged recently at the rape and murder of 88 year old, Nettie Rowe, of Runaway Bay, St. Ann. Regrettably, Abrahams himself fell victim to the level of violence which targets the old and vulnerable in the society on January 18, 2017 at age 97. Dr. Michael Barnett, bemoaned the fact that so few outlets are available for Pan-Africanism in the media landscape. It must be noted that while we commemorated African Liberation Day, we are mindful that many of our African leaders have plundered the coffers of their respective countries and in a sense have caged their own people resulting in the continent of Africa not realizing its full potential. The time is now to revisit and recast a new vision of Pan-Africanism in order to move our people of African descent to that level where entrepreneurship becomes the engine of growth and advancement. Pan-Africanism is an ideology and movement which promote and support solidarity of Africans globally. We all need to get involved in some form of advocacy and activism in order to keep the awareness of black pride and consciousness alive. In the prophetic and powerful words of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a race that is solely dependent upon another for economic existence sooner or later dies.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
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