What is liberation? What is the existence of
liberation like? While most holidays or commemorations celebrate
people and things for whom or what they were, there are some
that celebrate things as we aspire them to be. The latter is
what can be said about May 25th when we celebrate African Liberation
Day, often referred to as Africa Day.
Is African Liberation Day recognition of the
rising tide of national independence that swept Africa and the
Diaspora, or is it recognition of the continuing struggle for
a completely liberated African world, free from all the vestiges
of colonialism and neo-colonialism? The answer should not only
be sought in history but also determined on the basis of which
is more conducive to Africa's progress.
Which best addresses the current exigencies of the African world?
History teaches that the origins of African Liberation
Day are in the first Conference of Independent African States,
which took place on April 15, 1958, in the Ghanaian capital
of Accra. African leaders and political activists joined
representatives from the governments of Ghana, Ethiopia,
Sudan, Tunisia, The United Arab Republic (a federation
and Syria), representatives
of the National Liberation Front of Algeria and the Union of
This represented the first Pan-African Conference
held on African soil, expressing the collective disgust of African
people with the system of colonialism and imperialism.
This conference defined Pan-Africanism as “the
total liberation and unification of Africa under scientific
socialism”, laid out a strategy for coordinating the liberation
of the rest of Africa and looked forward
to the eventual complete unification of the entire continent.
The Conference called for the founding of Africa Freedom Day,
a day to “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation
movement and to symbolize the determination of the People of
Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”
Five years later in the city of Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia another historic meeting occurred. On
May 25, 1963, leaders of thirty-two independent African States
met to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU). By then
over two thirds of the continent had achieved independence from
colonial rule. This historic meeting changed the date of Africa
Freedom Day from April 15th to May 25th and renamed the occasion
African Liberation Day (ALD).
Since then ALD has been held on May 25th in every
corner of the African world. It marks the last stage of African
people's struggle against imperialism, demanding the African
masses to coordinate efforts on a global scale and for the intellectual
and professional classes to fulfill a heightened obligation.
intellectual and professional classes must not forget that we
are only such because generations of our people, past and present,
have struggled and suffered. This means that our obligation
is to embrace the theoretical and scientific ground work laid
down throughout the generations, put it into practice and use
it to better the masses of Africa's children scattered and suffering across the globe. Countless
great leaders have practiced and written about the African revolution.
African intellectuals and professionals must study this so we
can know why we occupy this designation and how we can pick
up where generations before have left off.
In order to do this we must collectively examine
the theories and practices that characterized the various stages
and phases of our struggle for liberation. In other words African
people must work and study together within organizations that
exist for the expressed purpose of the liberation of Africa.
Because those historic meetings/conferences called
for the “unification of Africa under scientific socialism” this
means our generation's mission as agents for Africa's
liberation is to make this a reality. We should not allow the
current propaganda interests of the global order to make taboo
the terminology, theories and lessons that have been accumulated
by martyrs like Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, Sekou Ture, Shirley
DuBois, Thomas Sankara, M'Balia Camara, Samora Machel, Malcolm
X, and so many others.
Revolution is a concept that must be resurrected
in the African world, as it currently is in Latin America. Countries like Cuba,
and Bolivia are boldly
showing us that we must hold fast on ideals of socialism and
revolution. If “a better world is possible” then Africa's
rich legacy of struggle and natural potential requires that
a revolutionary Pan-Africanism become possible.
The difference between a revolutionary African
and someone else is that whether they are a doctor, lawyer,
engineer, carpenter, farmer, professor, educator, student, or
whatever; a revolutionary African uses their attributes and
skills to stimulate an organized mass movement that is working
for profound positive change. This is the definition of revolution.
Many freedom fighters before us, and today call for concrete
and working relationships among African/Black people worldwide.
Not a rhetorical or symbolic relationship and cannot simply
be an economic one but a growing, moving, permanent political
Concrete relationships mean systematic, streamlined
and consistent lines of communication between the African continent
and the Diaspora; joint projects, programs and institutions
that engage us on a global scale and that are socialist in nature.
should be an occasion to remind and reinforce African people
and the world of these exigencies. Anything lesser expression
is to adulterate its purpose and its legacy. As the liberation
struggle continues, ALD should be an opportunity for us to become
more politically educated about the history and ever changing
realities of Africa and her Diaspora, in addition to Africa's
relationship to the struggles of other oppressed peoples of
It must become an occasion for highlighting and
hearing directly from men, women and youth who are on the front
line of the struggle for Pan-Africanism and other just struggles.
ALD celebrates the glorious and rich culture of Africa,
but more importantly it is a chance to dedicate and rededicate
our energies and our creativity to an African Revolution.
Guest Commentator, Netfa Freeman is director of the Social
Action & Leadership School for Activists
(SALSA), a program of the Washington DC based
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a longtime activist in the Pan-African and international human rights movements,
and a co-producer/co-host for Voices With Vision, WPFW 89.3
FM, Washington DC.
contact Mr. Freeman.