Guest Editorial: ADOS Defined by Father of Afrocentricity, Nana Molefi Kete Asante

(PHILADELPHIA – April 26, 2019) – It appears that Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore have found a way to mine the bountiful field of potential divisions within the African American community; they have declared a movement for the American Descendants of Slavery. They have been joined by Cornel West one of the most visible personalities in the American society. Perhaps sparked by the candidacy of Senator Kamala Harris, of Indian and Jamaican ancestry, Carnell and Moore have articulated a retrogressive idea of discreet identity based upon the narrow point of enslavement in the United States. Although they say America it appears that they must mean United States since West has argued against Jamaican, Haitians, and Barbadians. Historically the people of those islands have always been seen as part of the world that was brutalized and enslaved by Europeans.

I find this sentiment quite disturbing and defeatist. There may be other reasons for African Americans to question supporting Kamala Harris for the Presidency, but it cannot be, must never be on the parochial basis of ethnicity. For those of us born in this unsaintly country, from Georgia to Washington, from Alabama to Wyoming, we cannot declare who comprises the African American community on the basis of ethnicity. I am married to a woman who was born in Costa Rica of Jamaican parentage, but she is black and African, and African American. Who is to say that Marcus Garvey of Jamaica was not an African American, or Kwame Ture who was born in Trinidad, or Hugh Masekela who spoke of our common victories over bondage, apartheid, and racist segregation practices in the United States? Who wants me to deny Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, and why?

No persons of Africa escaped the onslaught of enslavement and colonization during the European blitz across the world. Our experiences produced in us the same reactions as they did in Africans in all parts of the continent of Africa and in the Diaspora. Who seeks to divide us and for what political purpose?

When I first heard the idea of ADOS and saw Cornel West on YouTube railing against black people who were not born in the United States I thought I was listening to a Russian troll introduced to create cleavages among our people. This position is ahistorical, irrational, and impossible to defend socially, politically, or culturally.

Let us begin at the beginning. Europeans from every major nationality profited and benefited from the enslavement of Africans from more than one hundred nationalities. What does this mean? Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, Swedes, Scots, Spaniards, Danish, and Germans, all participated in the monstrous removal of Africans who were Mandinka, Wolof, Congo, Bamileke, Bamun, Efik, Ibibio, Ngola, Songhay, Peul, Dan, Fulani, Hausa, Ewe, Igbo, Yoruba, Asante, Fante, and scores of other nations, including a few from the east like Zulu and Madagascar.

Our identity from the time that the “20 odd” Africans landed at Point Comfort, Virginia, was one that was inclusive, quintessentially a combination of African peoples, united in the same common experience at the hands of a common enemy. There was no hiding place because you were Igbo or Yoruba. No distinctions were made between the Congo and Ngola or the Fante and Bamileke in the cotton fields, tobacco fields, copper mines and sugar cane fields. Our culture was immediately one that was Pan African in the sense that we accepted each other’s as much as survived during the enslavement. It was nationalistic in the sense that out of the multiplicity of African nations was formed a people who share a common history with common heroes and a common opposition to our peculiar form of historic oppression, but that does not and cannot make us a static people. It is not like we were formed and did not keep forming. Nipsey Hussle was as much an African American as Charles Barkley, in fact, he might have been more than Barkley or others in the way he participated in the African American community and inspired African American children.

Those of us who have been here for seven or eight generations or more did not all arrive at the same time. The Haitians who fought in the American Revolutionary War, the formidable and courageous military men like Denmark Vesey, and others who gave their lives serving the interests of Africans in the United States are only different from us by their locations in the Diaspora, not because they were not born on the soil of the American Slave State. We trace our history to the 20 odd Africans who landed in the Jamestown province in 1619 and we will observe the four hundred years, but those Africans were not born in the United States. They came on a Spanish ship flying a Dutch flag and they had most likely come from numerous places in the Caribbean and Africa. They are our Founding Parents. Now ADOS wants to deny them participation as African Americans even if they have become citizens. This is neither African nor correct; it is a terrible example of what the Russians can do to America or the Republicans can do to the unity of Black Americans.

Who benefits from this type of doggedly betrayal of our history? Who stands to gain and who will lose if this movement succeeds? The sowing of a bitter fundamentalism among the black population of the United States, one of the most diverse black populations, is a treachery that must not succeed. African Americans are those who identify as descended from Africans, participate in the noble struggle against all forms of oppression, recognize the heroic actions of Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Ture, as a part of their legacy as I recognize Kwame Nkrumah, Cheikh Anta Diop, Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Leopold Senghor, George G. M. James, Ivan Van Sertima, Nanny of Jamaica, Zumbi of Brazil, Yanga of Mexico, and Dessalines of Haiti.

They all belong to me because they are all participants in the grand African struggle against the oppressive forces of Europe over the past four hundred years.

As I read the ADOS, I read a reactionary intent and I am saddened when I see the so-called Black Marxists come out in support of a very narrow ethnocentrism. If the problem for the ADOS movement is the sometimes anti-African American spirit seen in the commentaries of some black people from other nations who have become tools in the hands of the Republicans and thus assert reactionary positions even against us, then the solution is not to deny that they are black, or that they have now become a part of our community, but to teach them our special historical relationship to white oppression.

It is not to say as Cornel West said “They have not been Jim Crowed!” Perhaps in their histories it was not Jim Crow that became the central expression of oppression, but maybe it was the fact that the Germans in Namibia killed 50,000 Africans in one day. It was the fact that our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia had to defend themselves repeatedly from the assault of the Italians until Menelik Ii defeated them at the Battle of Adwa. It may have been the sacrificial struggle of our South African brothers and sisters who ultimately shook the pillars of apartheid. Now that they are in the United States they are all Africans, like we are Africans, and our struggle remains one often overcome with ignorance about each other.

Those whites who have campaigned against Africa have done so as one block, whiteness, although they are descended from various specific histories. Our circumstances, experiences, and resistance have made us collective Africans although we have our own specific genealogies.

I cannot support ADOS because I am an African American, but I am Pan African first and a self-determining, self-affirming African who accepts all of the gifts and warts of African people.

Molefi Kete Asante
Facebook: Father of Afrocentricity
Author of The History of Africa