It's been over 100 years since the inception of the 1st Pan African Congress. Generations later, activists, scholars, and community organizers are gathering for phase two of the 8th Pan African Congress to face modern issues, while focusing on global connectedness.
The 1st Pan African Congress was held in two phases. The first meeting took place in 1900 followed by a second phase in 1919. Organized by Pan Africanist teacher, Ida Gibbs Hunt along with renowned scholar W.E.B. DuBois, the Pan African Congress was meant to unite Africans and African descended people around common struggles while also harnessing the strength of their global interconnectedness.
During the seven past congresses, each generation has tackled key issues of their time, especially focusing on decolonization, independence, unification, lynchings, global racism, abolition, and human rights. A few notable participants and organizers include Kwame Nkrumah (the first president of Ghana), Jomo Kenyetta (the first president of Kenya), Amy Ashwood Garvey (co-founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association), and Trinidadian Pan Africanist George Padmore.
There are numerous milestone accomplishments by the congresses including the 1945 PAC's creation of a structured plan for the decolonization of Africa by leaders and attendees. This was followed by a surge of anti-colonialism movements that resulted in independence for many African countries.
As for the African Diaspora, the Pan African Congress has solidified Black solidarity worldwide fighting for racial equality, human rights, access to a quality education and economic upward mobility. Within these struggles globalized support has emerged providing additional resources and backing.
When members of the Black Panther Party were in exile, African countries like Tanzania welcomed them with open arms. Former Black Panther Pete O'Neal and his wife Charlotte O'Neal still reside in Tanzania. They now run the United African Alliance Community Center. Tanzania was also home to Geronimo Pratt, the wrongly convicted high ranking Black Panther that was imprisoned in the U.S. for murder and kidnapping. It was only after 27 years in 1997, that his sentence was vacated and he was awarded wrongful conviction damages. He passed away in 2011.
The last congress convened 1994 in Kampala, Uganda. Following this gathering, the African Diaspora was formally added as the 6th region of the African Union. This congress also led to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban South Africa.
After a 20-year hiatus the Pan African Congress is reconvening to tackle similar but modern struggles. The 8th Pan African Congress is being held in two phases, following the tradition of the first.
Phase I was held in Accra, Ghana March 2015. Phase II will be held during the spring of 2016. However before the second phase, delegates are gathering for regional meetings across the world. The next regional meeting for North America is taking place October 30-31st 2015 at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY.
The North American delegation is focusing on progressive Pan Africanism, highlighting the voices of women and maintaining an inclusive environment that embraces Black and African communities of various backgrounds. The delegation is also pushing for the inclusion of Black and African LGBT communities that often endure further marginalized lives. Among some circles, these may not be popular stances, but the North American delegation recognizes the need to advocate for Black people of every religion, gender, sexual orientation, and social economic status.
Additionally, the North American delegation has fully embraced the mantra "Black Lives Matter" and hopes to promote its usage and meaning throughout the Pan African world. They recognize that the Black Lives Matter movement, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, showcases the fervor and strategic aptitude of Black activists in the African Diaspora.
Dr. Horace Campbell, Syracuse University professor of Pan African Studies and member of the North American delegation to the 8th Pan African Congress, states:
The contemporary struggles realize that the Pan African project requires a higher level of grassroots organization and committed programs than that have been coming from the governmental structures associated with the Pan African Movement. The challenges of reparative justice, emancipation, and reconstruction requires a revitalized Pan African movement from below.
As for old struggles, sustainable African development that benefits African communities is still a work in progress. Racial disparities, state sanctioned violence, and economic disenfranchisement is still prevalent. In terms of new struggles climate change is at the top of the list, rendering devastating effects on not just the African continent but also the low income workers and residents in the poorest communities of the world.
The delegation hopes to nurture a new generation of activists that understands the nuances of the global Black world and the intricacies of oppression, while maintaining the confidence to dismantle systematic oppression. In this way, the delegation continues the work of W.E.B. DuBois and other Pan Africanist scholars that advocated for freedom and opportunities for African descendants around the world.