“Onwards and Upwards”

In Black History, Culture, Lifestyle, Opinion by Xavier Adams

It is no secret that peering into the past affords us a more illustrative picture of the present and allows us to grapple with pressing issues of change, liberation, and one that I find particularly interesting, progress. 

My enthusiasm may then come as no surprise once I was granted access to NOMMO’s historical archives which date back to half a century ago. The burning question in the foreground of my mind was: How does the past compare to the future? 

As I dug through the archives, the headlines read: “The Perpetual Rape of Africa: The Scramble Continues” “Gates Wants it All: Battering Ram Not Enough” “The Coming Racial Struggle and the Crisis of Capitalism” “Radio Stations Refuse Airplay of Anti-Apartheid Single” “African Self-Determinism Through the Arts” 

Not to mention a flier that read, “We are Promoting the Complete Unification of All Africans. We Understand this to be the Prerequisite to Liberation.” 

Although these articles were published decades ago they are, in a sense, uncanny – all too familiar despite the celebrated notion of progress. 

Here we witness calls to end colonial rule throughout Africa, South America, Asia, and the Middle East; editorials concerned with the increasingly repressive police apparatus; unrelenting social and economic racial disparities under capitalist regimes; popular media, grounded in a white standpoint, refusing to shed any spotlight on the subjugation of the subaltern; the need for independent Pan-Afrikan voices to reveal the gravity of their own oppression; and calls for nation-building through the unification of the Afrikan diaspora. 

Decades have passed and yet these issues reverberate perfectly in today’s world. Neo-colonialism is well alive (a struggle that especially resonates in Palestine, the Congo, and Sudan, whose people routinely suffer from atrocious acts of injustice). Mass incarceration and police violence as instruments of oppression are well alive. The social and economic inequalities wrought by capitalism are well alive. The widespread neglect of the marginalized experience is well alive. The need for independent Pan 

Afrikan voices is well alive. The fragmentation of the Afrikan diaspora is well alive. 

The notion of progress within the Pan-Afrikan community is a slippery one: it is widely assumed that we have significantly – though gradually – progressed toward freedom, effectively severing ourselves from 20th-century ills. Yet, it must be asked: how much progress have we enjoyed? 

To my disappointment, this all too attractive idea of significant progress is, for the most part, a 

mistake. The present is marked not by linear and gradual progress but by its absence. 

The ills of the 20th century are the ills of today.