It is incredible that more than 100 years ago 37 delegates from the African Diaspora gathered in London, England for the first Pan-African Conference. Organized by Henry Sylvester Williams, a Trinidadian barrister and Pan-African movement founder, the effort was the first to unite people of African descent living in the United States, Europe, Africa and the West Indies. It was also the first call for collective action against racism towards Black people around the world.
Conference participant W.E.B. DuBois’, one of the foremost African-American thinkers, wrote in “To The Nations of the World”:
In any case, the modern world must needs remember that in this age, when the ends of the world are being brought so near together, the millions of black men in Africa, America, and the Islands of the Sea, not to speak of the brown and yellow myriads elsewhere, are bound to have great influence upon the world in the future, by reason of sheer numbers and physical contact. If now the world of culture bends itself towards giving negroes and other dark men the largest and broadest opportunity for education and self-development, then this contact and influence is bound to have a beneficial effect upon the world and hasten human progress.
DuBois’ address, signed and adopted by conference leadership, became a foundational document of the Pan-African movement.
I recently returned from Ghana where I was able to visit the house where W.E.B. DuBois’ spent his twilight years. It was an intense experience to roam the house of a man who dedicated his life to globalizing the struggle for Black equality. To stop by his final resting place and contemplate how his relentlessness and dedication to connecting the Diaspora has made my life and the lives of so many others that much more vibrant — what a privilege!
This Black History Month we recognize the many contributions African-Americans have made to human progress. We also celebrate the origins of Pan-Africanism found in the brilliance of African-American social, political, and cultural pioneers.
In particular, we remember the extraordinary exercise of will, fortitude, and commitment of individuals like DuBois’, Booker T. Washington, Rayford Logan, Addie Waites Hunton, and so many more African-American Pan-African leaders. Against what most would consider insurmountable and violent opposition, they campaigned for acceptance that Africa’s people would always have a critical role to play in the success of our shared future.
This belief is at the core of our mission at The Africa Center.
As leaders of the Pan-African movement declared in the early twentieth century, efforts to counter racism against people of African descent and the ability to realize our potential in the communities of which we are a part, are directly correlated to the possibilities of our collective progress. At The Africa Center, a Harlem-based, African-run institution, we recognize our connection to this Pan-African lineage as we work towards the continued development and advancement of a united, active, and powerful African Diasporic community.
We hope you will consider celebrating Black History Month with us by joining us virtually on Thursday, February 16th at 6:30PM for African Immigrants: 2023 & The Issues That Matter. We also hope you’ll visit States of Becoming, our exhibition featuring the works of artists from across the African Diaspora. The exhibition is now “pay what you can,” and will be extended through April 2. More information on how to register is below.
As always, thank you for your continued attention and support.
Uzodinma Iweala, M.D.