The Need To Reestablish Black Nationalist Thinking
By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill.
One of the biggest challenges African people face in America is to rejuvenate Black Nationalist thinking as we struggle to determine for ourselves as a people what is in our best collective interests.
There are far too many African people in this country who think what is good for other people should be good for us. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can only determine what is good for us by reestablishing Black Nationalist thinking and developing a Black Nationalist program of action. This is the missing link to the liberation of African people in America.
Let us briefly review the development and impact of Black Nationalism in America.
Black Nationalism is a tradition that emerged in the early 19th century among those Black leaders who understood the need for African people in America to develop a national entity as the only solution for Black people in America, Latin America or the Caribbean.
These 19th century Black Nationalist leaders such as Denmark Vessey, Nat Turner, David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, James T. Holly, Martin Delany, Pap Singleton, Edwin McCabe, and Henry McNeal Turner understood that African people in America were a “nation within a nation” and should organize to collectively struggle for the liberation of Black people in this country and throughout the world.
During this era there were some Black Nationalist leaders before, and after the Civil War, who led movements for people of African ancestry to leave this country and establish a homeland somewhere else. These proposals included Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. Other Black Nationalist leaders led movements for Black people to control the towns where they lived and others who led movements to the western region of this country to establish all black towns in Kansas and Oklahoma.
The core of this Black Nationalist tradition has been to defeat and overthrow the system of white supremacy, seize control of land (somewhere) and to achieve self determination for the oppressed Black masses.
The Black Nationalist tradition has always been opposed to integration, assimilation, and accommodation as a solution to the problems of people of African ancestry in America. In this regard, Black Nationalist tradition has rejected the strategy and tactics of appealing to the morality of white people and their white supremacy system.
Black Nationalists have been historically clear that people in power don’t teach powerless people how to get power. And they certainly don’t give power away, even though, when challenged, they may give up some concessions.
As Black Nationalism emerged-in the 20th century, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communicates League (ACL) became the leading spokesman for Black Nationalist ideas and organizing.
Garvey used his varied skills to become one of our true 20th century freedom fighters. Garvey arrived in Harlem, New York on March 16, 1916. By 1919 Garvey was well established as the President General of the UNIA/ACL which had a membership of over three million people with more than 300 branches in the U.S.
Perhaps Garvey greatest contribution to the upliftment of our people, through Black Nationalism, was his ability to find a formula for organizing African people around the African principle: the great good for the greatest number.
This was reflected in the First International Convention of the Negro Peoples of the World in Madison Square Garden in 1920. Over twenty thousand Black people from all over the world witnessed the choosing of Red, Black and Green as the colors of the Provisional Government.
In this context, Garvey and the UNIA/ACL had established an economic arm, the Negro Factories Corporation, with cooperative stores, restaurants, steam laundry ships, tailor shops, dressmaking shops, millinery stores, a doll factory to manufacture Black dolls and a publishing house. Also, Garvey had formed a Steamship Corporation.
The Black Nationalist tradition was continued in the 20th century through the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad who utilized many of the Garvey and UNIA/ACL organizing tactics and strategies.
It was during the 1960’s Black Power explosion that the Black Nationalist tradition reemerged through the influence of Malcolm X who adopted Black Nationalism as the political philosophy, economic and social philosophy of the organization of Afro American Unity in 1964 after he left the Nation of Islam.
Finally, the Black Nationalist tradition, today, is spearheaded through the African Centered Education Movement. The mass acceptance of Kwanzaa, African Liberation Day, Buy Black Campaigns, the Reparation’s Movement, and Controlling Our Own Communities Campaigns are all part of the on-going Black Nationalist tradition.
Once Black Nationalism is understood by all Black people, it will be the foundation upon which the true liberation of people of African ancestry in America will take place.
Without vigorous Black Nationalist thinking and an aggressive Black Nationalist program of action, we will continue to chase false dreams created by our oppressors. We must put an end to this!