Black Liberation: A Global Vision
Mario Marcel Salas
Black activists and civil rights leaders have always looked across the globe for ways to support and be inspired by movements for liberation. Black revolutionaries have always looked toward Africa and other liberation struggles against injustice. Malcolm X often talked about the importance of African Liberation and the struggles in Africa against white domination and colonialism. Black activists were often inspired by freedom movements in South Africa, and the Portuguese colonies. Blacks in this country supported the liberation struggles of the peoples of southern Africa and liberations movements in the Caribbean, South America, and Central America. There are hundreds of examples of this across time and one is reminded of John Robinson, the father of the Tuskegee Airman and his contributions to aiding Ethiopia with flight training to fight the Italian fascists there during the advent of WWII. When Africans freed themselves from colonial oppression this inspired the civil and human rights movement in this country.
W.E. B. Du Bois as early as 1903 emphasized the importance of the “Color Line” and the white supremacist ideologies that had shaped the world. Many other activists sought to identify the fight for civil and human rights in this country with people of color across the earth. In the 1950s, Paul Robeson once said, “Our fight for Negro rights here is
linked inseparably with the liberation movements of the people of the Caribbean and Africa and the colonial world in general.” Wherever white supremacy ruled it was opposed by millions of Blacks in the United States and elsewhere. Since white supremacy once ruled the
world, fighters for freedom sought to connect local struggles against racist oppression with worldwide freedom movements.
According to reports in a Ghana Newspaper (2018), by Abayomi Azikiwe, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a longtime civil rights organization was concerned with freedom across the globe. The reporter said, “SNCC viewed the struggle for Black Liberation as part and parcel of the revolutionary movements sweeping Asia, Africa and other areas of the world. An International Section was created and directed by James Forman, the former executive secretary. By 1967, Forman would be presenting papers in national and international forums expressing solidarity with the Vietnamese and independence movements in Southern Africa, among other geo-political areas.” Present day Congressman John Lewis, a former SNCC chairman (1963-1966), said, “I met with African students in American many times on college campuses around the country. I’d read the newspapers and watched television reports, and had a basic sense of current events across Africa, the wave of liberation movements there. I felt a sense of communion, a sense of fellowship with these rising nations of Africa, and especially with the young men and women who were so much at the heart of it all.” At the founding conference of SNCC in 1960, the members identified with the African struggle as “a concern for all mankind.”
In the 1970s, blacks in San Antonio and across the country, organized the African Liberation Support Committee (ALSC), and helped to end colonial oppression in Angola, Mozambique, and others that were under the yoke of European imperialism and colonialism through solidarity activity. Blacks correctly supported the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) during the 1970s and beyond and black leaders from San Antonio attended a national conference in support of the liberation struggles in southern Africa. Black San Antonio residents supported the freedom of Nelson Mandela in Apartheid South Africa and raised over $10,000 to help Mandela’s legal team. This participation took place across dozens of American cities.
According to an interview with Progressive Magazine, Randall Robinson, an attorney, anti-apartheid activist, and founder of TransAfrica in 1977, he stated that the mission of the TransAfrica organization was to conduct, “Major research, educational and organizing institution for the African-American community, offering constructive analysis concerning U.S. policy as it affects Africa and the African Diaspora (African-Americans and West Indians who can trace their heritage back to the dispersion of Africans that occurred as a result of the Transatlantic slave trade) in the Caribbean and Latin America.” The connections that blacks have developed with the freedoms struggles in Africa and elsewhere have always been a part of American black culture. We are inspired by freedom struggles wherever they may be on this earth.
Black understandings of racial oppression provided fuel to understand the connection Black America and Africa. Pride, dignity, and respect among blacks in this country was emphasized when Malcolm X said, “You can't hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can't hate Africa and not hate yourself.” Malcolm X made political and social connections with Africa and drew comparisons between Apartheid in South Africa and American segregation by saying, “America is worse than South Africa, because not only is America racist, but she is also deceitful and hypocritical. South Africa preaches segregation and practices segregation. She, at least, practices what she preaches. America preaches integration and practices segregation. She preaches one thing while deceitfully practicing another.”
The world is a different place since the days of Malcolm X. Or is it? African countries are free from colonial oppression, but still face ethnic wars and manipulation from outside powers. Divisions set up in Africa by European colonialism still leads to ethnic and tribal conflicts to this day. African Americans are no longer prevented from using public facilities, yet young black men are subject to police killings and mass incarceration. The seeds of racism, planted long ago, are still growing as there are more than 900 racist hate groups in America, not to leave out a president that is obviously surrounded by racists and is a racist himself.