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The Resurgence of New Afrikan Identity


  • The Resurgence of New Afrikan Identity

    I am not colored, Negro, Afro-American, African-American, nor any other identifying appellation or abstract term historically imposed upon me.

    Nor are people that look like me. Black people in the U.S. are “New Afrikans,” and I’m going to tell you why.

    In 1968 at a conference convened by the Malcolm X Society and the Group on Advanced Leadership (GOAL) in Detroit, more than 500 black nationalists - including Queen Mother Moore, Betty Shabazz, Jamil al-Amin, Maulana Karenga, Imari Obadele, Amiri Baraka, and many others - collectively agreed that the descendants of enslaved Africans in America should be identified as New Afrikan.

    That was significant because it was the first time, since the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolishing slavery, that such a broad and credible delegation of black people representing the African Diaspora in the U.S. had assembled to forge a national identity and destiny for the descendants of enslaved Africans in America.

    Maulana Karenga, founder of Kwanzaa and a former Minister of Culture with the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, once argued that the first act of a free people is to define reality and shape the world to reflect their own image and interests.

    Detroit-based activist and entrepreneur Kwasi Akwamu agrees. New Afrikans, he says, “exist in a social and political space that defines us as inferior, worthless, lazy, corrupt, dumb, undisciplined, powerless, criminal, disloyal, lewd, and all that is bad and dishonorable.”

    He disagrees with the use of African-American as a form of identity.

    “African-American dismisses the historical national aspirations of our people in America,” says Akwamu. “It serves to reinforce the misleading notion that all of our people have always wanted to be citizens of the United States, and that is false. It is true that there have always been some of our people interested in citizenship with full rights as Americans, but that represents only one part of our struggle; many have always and continue to desire self-government, national independence on land of our own.”

    The term African-American first came into existence during the early 20th century, but its widespread acceptance mainly has its roots in the Civil Rights movement among proponents of integration and assimilation to white centered American society.

    The term was used most famously by Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr. during his 1988 presidential campaign, and since then has been adopted as the proper means of referring to blacks in the U.S.

    I argue that Akwamu is right. It is inappropriate to refer to black people in the U.S. as African-American.

    Furthermore, history has shown that black people in the U.S. are only Americans on paper; hundreds of years of evidence overwhelmingly support that conclusion.

    Jim Crow laws and the so-called “War on Drugs,” which Michelle Alexander in her book “The New Jim Crow” cogently makes clear is actually a war on black and brown people, are prominent historical and contemporary examples of institutional and state sponsored repression of black people even after so-called emancipation.

    Quite poignantly, the treatment of President Barack Obama and his family serves as an unsavory reminder that blacks in the U.S. are only American on paper. A black person can be the President of the United States and he/she is still a... (Insert racial epithet of choice.)

    To label black people in America as so-called African-Americans is woefully disingenuous; it ignores the persistent socioeconomic reality of second class citizenry for black people in this country.

    Now, let’s discuss that other notorious term used to describe Africans and people of African descent - “black.”

    Referring to any African or person of African descent as “black” is improper, and an abstract affirmation of the white centered social construct of race (though I use the term in this writing to avoid confusion).

    Black, as a noun describing African people, is notional and only exists vis-à-vis ideas of whiteness.

    In her 2011 essay “White Fragility” (, Dr. Robin DiAngelo points out that black is the antithesis of white in a racial dichotomy that positions non-whites, or the “raced other,” as the backdrop against which whites, or the “unracialized individual,” may rise.

    In this way, the African Diaspora and other non-whites in the U.S are reduced to nothing more than a canvas for the expression of white supremacy.

    Black can be thought of as a euphemistic cognomen for “doormat race.”

    Semantics matter.

    Black as a noun referring to Africans and people of African descent must be removed from common usage in the English language the same way “Negro” was.

    Verily, the title New Afrikan is more than just a name. It gives national identity to people of African descent in the U.S. as it denotes consanguinity, and most importantly makes the African Diaspora in this country eligible for rights and protection as a sovereign nation under international laws of self-determination.

    According to international law, newly freed enslaved Africans should have been afforded an opportunity to hold a plebiscite to determine their future as a people, but instead American citizenship was imposed upon them and subsequently their descendants by the 14th Amendment.

    The amendment that made formerly enslaved Africans American citizens on paper also served to rob them of the opportunity to organize as a nation, leading to a myriad of complications since; including the inability to obtain proper reparations.

    The 1968 conference of black nationalists - New Afrikans - was the first plebiscite to occur for formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants, making the title New Afrikan the first and only legitimate name for so-called “black” people in America.

    Though America may want to forget, New Afrikans like Akwamu, myself, and many others are here to remind our people of who they really are.

    #NewAfrikan #RepublicofNewAfrika
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