Pan-Africanism : Relations between Africans and African Americans

Discussion in 'Pan-Africanism - African Diaspora' started by oldsoul, Feb 21, 2005.

  1. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

    United States
    May 16, 2002
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    Staying Alive
    Bronzeville USA
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    "Relations Between Africans and African Americans:
    Misconceptions, Myths and Realities"
    Godfrey Mwakikagile

    This work looks at relations between Africans and African Americans from the perspective of an African, and of shared perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Incorporated into the analysis are stories of individuals who have interacted, worked and lived with members of both groups in Africa and in the United States, including the author himself. Stereotypes and misunderstandings of each other constitute an integral part of this study, explained from both perspectives, African and African-American.
    The author, a former journalist in Tanzania and now an academic author whose books are found in public and university libraries arund the world, has lived in the United States, mostly in the black community, for more than 30 years. He articulates his position from the vantage point of someone who has lived on both sides of the Atlantic, focusing on a subject that has generated a lot of interest among Africans and African Americans through the years. And it continues to be one of great misunderstanding between the two sides, in spite of increased contacts and communication between Africa and Black America, and between individual Africans and African Americans in the United States and in Africa.
    Chapter One: Enduring Ties Between Africa and the Diaspora
    Chapter Two: My Life with African Americans
    Chapter Three: The Image of Africa in America
    Chapter Four: The Attitude of Africans Towards African Americans
    Chapter Five: The Attitude of African Americans Towards Africans
    Chapter Six: Misconceptions About Each Other
    Chapter Seven: African Americans in Tanzania: Black Panther Leader Pete O'Neal and Others
    Chapter Eight: Back to the Motherland: Fihankra An African-American Settlement in Ghana and Other Diasporans
    Appendix: What Africans and African Americans Think About Their Relations: Voices From Within
    About the Author
    Excerpts from "Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities"
    What is the state of relations between Africans and African Americans? How do Africans see us, and how do we see them? What is their experience with us and what is our experience with them, individually and collectively, in general? How are they accepted by black people in the United States? How are we accepted over there in the motherland? Do they see us as fellow Africans, cousins or distant cousins, or just as Americans?
    These are some of the questions answered in this book, written by an African, and based on his experience for more than 30 years interacting with African Americans, and on the experiences of many Africans and African Americans quoted in this study.
    Here are sample chapters four and five:
    Chapter Four: The Attitude of Africans Towards African Americans
    AFRICANS don't feel the same way about everything just like other people don't; nor do they think alike anymore than whites, Orientals and others do. But there are some things on which many of them tend to agree or share perceptions because of their common African background and history. One of those subjects is their attitude towards African Americans. But even on this subject one cannot generalize and say that is how all Africans feel or think.
    The purpose of this chapter is to explore what is perceived to be a consensus among a large number of Africans on how they see African Americans, and what I myself have observed in my dealings with both in the thirty years or so I have been in and out of the United States.
    I am here reminded of what I heard after I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from Detroit in 1976. I moved to Grand Rapids to attend Aquinas College in this conservative and predominantly white mid-western city in southwestern Michigan that is also a Republican stronghold as much as it has been for decades. I was the only African student from Tanzania and the second in the school's history to enroll there. There were a few other African students and they all came from Nigeria, except one student who came from Sierra Leone.
    I got to know all the African students well and we interacted on regular basis on- and off-campus. Since they were mostly Nigerians, it was they who invited me to their homes, as much as I invited them to mine, to socialize and talk about what was going on back home in our continent.
    Now and then, the subject of African Americans crept into the conversation since we were also around them and even went to school with them. We lived mostly in the inner city, which was predominantly black, and we interacted with quite a few of them, inviting them to our homes.
    The black American students at Aquinas College, most of whom came from Detroit, was another group we dealt with, especially on campus. But, almost invariably, whenever the Nigerians talked about African Americans, they would use the term akata. I didn't know what they meant by that and I never asked them. It didn't take me long to figure out that they were referring to American blacks. I did not detect any hostility towards them, or a condescending tone when they talked about these cousins of ours in the diaspora. They were always friendly and laughing, although I am not sure I interpreted correctly what the laughter meant most of the time back then. It was not until years later that I found out what the term akata meant after I read an article in the Detroit Free Press by a Nigerian reporter, or someone with a Nigerian (Yoruba) name, who explained what it meant: a brutal wild animal or something like that. It is said to be a Yoruba term.
    Shortly thereafter, I again stumbled upon the term on the internet when I was reading an article posted by an African American who was a member of a Yahoo discussion group, Mwananchi (meaning countryman or citizen in Kiswahili), which addresses many issues in a Pan-African context and in a very intelligent if not highly intellectual manner; and one of whose members is the acerbic and highly controversial Ghanaian professor of economics, George Ayittey, who teaches at a university in Washington, D.C.

  2. Akilah

    Akilah Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Aug 11, 2003
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    Scheduling Coordinator for large Health System
    Da' Gump
    How very sad...

    Brotha OldSoul,

    Thank you for this informative, if troubling , article.
    They say the truth can set you free... but how come
    I feel sick ? :puke:

    Akilah :spinstar:
  3. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Aug 24, 2002
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    The Diaspora
    I first became familar with the term "akata" upon hearing it in a movie (Sugar Hill) about 12 years ago. A Nigerian Drug Lord used it to refer to Wesley Snipes' character (a African American Drug Lord) in the movie. I don't know if other Africans have similar terms for African Americans, or if this is unique to Nigerians. Either way it is an indication that much more work needs to be done to eliminate the tribalism and self-hated which is all too common within the black community!
  4. Khasm13

    Khasm13 STAFF STAFF

    United States
    Mar 26, 2003
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    with people that are as proud as afrikans and afrikan-americans is very easy to sow a seed of descent in between us...unfortunately...i also remember the term akata from sugar hill....smh

    one love
  5. pdiane

    pdiane Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Jul 1, 2003
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    This was a strong article, very revealing. I plan on moving to Senegal next year and I find this very informative. Some of my friends and family members feel I am being romantic about living in Senegal. I maybe, but someone has to make a way for my people in the diaspora, like that brother who building homes for diasporans in Ghana.

    We have to learn to respect one another, we have to learn to love one another, the only way this can be done is by doing it.

    I have learned the language, I don't act like I am better, I believe Senegal is mine no matter what some Senegalese may think about me. I happen to know my great grand father is Senegalese and as far as I am concerned it is my home too.

    My husband is Senegalese and we have a very happy, realistic relationship. We have worked out our cultural issues and we have great respect for each others differences. He is learning about Africans in the diaspora and enjoys it. I am learning about west African culture as well.

    We focus on the similiarities.

    I think that Afrakans from the continent and from the diaspora have to work to make our relationships work. Focusing on the greater good, the future of our children, the future of our people.

    Having a nationalistic spirit really helps, because it deals with history, it deals with what happened to all of us as people and what must be done to reverse our self-hate and destruction.

    Last weekend, my African dance teacher give me and my sister a surprise birthday party. Needless to say, Afrakans from the continent and diaspora was there. One particular sister who was very standoffish in past encounters, from Senegal, was there. This time she and all of us danced, sang and ate together. She was very comfortable with us this time and we with her.

    Someone has to break the ice.
  6. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

    United States
    May 16, 2002
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    Staying Alive
    Bronzeville USA
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  7. Blackbird

    Blackbird Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jan 31, 2004
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    Professional Hitman
    Da Desert, literally
    My wife is from Ghana and have overheard some of her Ghanaian folks refer to me and us as those "akata people." There is another Nigerian term, "eranko." It is sad that the fragmentation of our people cause to see each other as unrelated.

  8. panafrica

    panafrica Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Aug 24, 2002
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    The Diaspora
    That is an understatement brother Blackbird. But if your wife, my wife, and sister Pdiane's husband are any indications not every African shares those views.
  9. African_Prince

    African_Prince Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Jan 1, 2005
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  10. napress

    napress Member MEMBER

    Mar 7, 2005
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    Africa and Black America: How We Differ and Why

    This was forwarded to me from Africa-Politics, a Yahoo discussion group, by an African on the same subject of relations between Africans and African Americans addressed in a book by Tanzanian writer Godfrey Mwakikagile. The post was addressed to an African American member of the discussion group who had responded to previous posts on the same highly controversial subject. It was also addressed to other African Americans in general probably more than anybody else, but also to his fellow Africans as well, and even to other people in general interested in the subject. Read below:

    From: "tnygb" <[email protected]..>
    Date: Sat Mar 5, 2005 11:59 pm
    Subject: Africa and Black America: How We Differ and Why


    I would like to add something right here at the beginning before you
    and others read the rest of this post.

    One of the biggest disappointments among African Americans comes from
    their distorted, romantic view or image of Africa. I think they
    sometimes expect too much from Africans, that they should
    automatically be embraced by them simply because they are fellow
    blacks and have a common origin: Africa. But it's deeper than that.

    Africa is a huge, diverse, and complex continent of more than 700
    million peoeple even after being ravaged by AIDS and other scourges
    including civil wars. Africans are NOT one people the way black
    Americans see us. We are all Africans, it's true. But we also belong
    to different ethnic groups, speak different languages, have different
    cultures and so forth. We even have different races. Just look at the
    Somalis, Ethiopians, for example. Look at their features. Do they
    look like the Bakongo in Congo, or like the Ewe in Ghana or the Bemba
    in Zambia? There are obvious racial differences. They are
    not "Negro." The same applies to the Fulani in West Africa who
    probably originated from Ethiopia, but obviously somewhere in the
    northeast of Africa because of linguistic evidence which ties them to
    the Ethiopian highlands, where the Somali also originated.

    The point I am trying to make here is that when African Americans
    lump all of us together, these African peoples (and NOT just people
    but PEOPLES) together, they assume that we are all just one people;
    which is simply not true. And we have conflicts among ourselves.

    Therefore don't expect Africans to automatically embrace African
    Americans when they don't even fully embrace each other over there in
    Africa. Just ask the Hutu and the Tutsi and others who have been at other's
    each throat for years. And ask the rest of the Africans about the
    devastating impact of tribalism. Ask the Igbos what happened to them
    in northern Nigeria during the civil war in the sixties, and why the
    Hausa and others slaughtered them; and why they still complain today
    about being marginalized in Nigeria just like many other people - the
    Ogonis and others - complain about the same thing.

    After we understand all that, we then begin to understand why these
    people, who are not united in their own countries let alone across
    the African continent, should not be expected to automatically
    embrace black Americans, especially when they visit Africa, the way
    American blacks expect to be embraced and welcomed. It also shows why
    Pan-Africanism, true Pan-Africanism in its concrete, practical form,
    is no more than a myth despite the hopes cherised by some of us.

    Now we can go ahead with the subject we addressed earlier, but always
    keeping in mind the background I have just provided for a better
    understanding of the issues we have already discussed and which I
    continue to discuss here, although for the last time. I have also
    added a few other things below.

    As I said earlier, adaoma, I really appreciate your response. I would
    also like to let you know that you don't have to wait to read in the
    library the book on relations between Africans and African Americans
    written by Godfrey Mwakikagile.

    The book is available free on the internet for anybody, and for
    everybody anywhere in the world, interested in the subject. So nobody
    really has to buy the book if he or she doesn't want to. I don't know
    how the author is going to make some money this way, but that's up to
    him and his publisher.

    The entire book has been posted on a Nigerian web site - an African
    site, really, but managed by Nigerians - and is accessible now, 24
    hours a day.

    If you, or others, want to read the book, go to:

    Now, concerning my opinion on the subject, as you asked me in your
    last post, I thought I explained myself well. Obviously I did not, to
    your satisfaction. So, I will try again, and put it this way:

    As an African born and raised in Africa, and as someone who has lived
    in the United States and in other African countries - including Ghana
    and Nigeria in the seventies during the liberation struggle in
    southern Africa where I come from - and who knows many Africans in
    Africa and in the US from many different African countries, I know
    that a very large number of Africans really don't care whether or not
    they associate with black Americans, or African Americans. And there
    are different reasons for this, mainly because Africans have their
    own group or groups, of fellow Africans and even fellow tribesmen whom
    they associate and mingle with; they don't accept black Americans as
    fellow Africans, at least not the way they accept each other from
    different countries on the continent as fellow Africans; they are
    concerned about making it life and not about what goes on in the
    lives of American blacks; they see black Americans as arrogant who
    look down upon Africa and make fun of us even if behind our backs;
    and the enslavement of Africans - whose descendants are you and other
    African Americans - is NOT on the minds of most Africans since it
    happened so long ago, and therefore they feel that they really have
    nothing to do with it, or with its legacy especially as it affects
    the lives of black Americans even today.

    But it is also true, and abundantly clear to many of us from Africa,
    that many Black Americans in general are no more interested in Africa
    than Africans are in the lives and well-being of American blacks;
    although there is also a significant number of them who seem to be
    interested in Africa.

    The reasons for this are equally obvious: Black Americans ARE, first
    and foremost, AMERICANS, and NOT Africans, and THEY identify
    themselves as such; although they are also Africans genealogically.
    Black Americans also don't make a conscious effort to embrace African
    immigrants and students in their midst - so why should Africans rush
    to embrace them? In fact that's something which Africans really don't
    care about, since they have their own groups and identities they
    identify with, and from which they seek solace and spiritual

    African Americans in general also don't care about Africa because
    they are ashamed of their origin as a primitive place. They also
    think they are better than Africans. Another major reason is that
    they really believe that we DON'T want them over there, in Africa,
    and that we have nothing to with them. Whether this is true or not,
    it makes no difference to them. They do have this belief. And,
    unfortunately, it is also true in many cases - not in all but in many
    cases. Many Africans see black Americans just as that - black
    Americans, therefore simply as Americans and NOT Africans like them.
    Many of them don't even see them - let alone accept them - as distant
    cousins but just as another people, AMERICANS, over there, far away
    in the United States, or from the United States when they visit

    The record of African immigrants in the United States(more than 2
    million today according to census figures), as well as students, also
    has had negative consequences. Africans are on average very
    successful in the United States and are among the most successful
    immigrant groups. And they use that as a yardstick to measure the
    performance of black Americans.

    In general, African immigrants and students see black Americans as a
    people who don't take full advantage of the opportunities they have.
    And they don't see them as achievers, at least not in the same way
    they see themselves. Is it true or not? No, it's not. I don't believe
    that it's true. One of the reasons, besides arrogance among many
    Africans as better blacks than American blacks (and vice versa, of
    course), is that Africans come from a continent with very limited
    opportunities. So when they come to the United States, they see
    abundance everywhere in a way black Americans don't.

    I have dealt with black Americans for quite some time and, frankly
    speaking, many of them don't care about Africa, or about Africans,
    anymore than Africans care about them and Black America. The author
    contends otherwise, of course, and I disagree with him on this,
    especially when he says you find large numbers on both sides who care
    about each other. I don't know where he got that from. May be I'm
    wrong. But I think he should know better than that, especially as an
    African, although I agree with most of the things he says in his

    It's common knowledge among many Africans that they really don't care
    about American blacks and even blame them for "commtting all that
    crime," as the saying goes, and for complaining too much, way too
    much, about racism instead of working hard or going out there to look
    for a job, and keep on looking until you find something to do.

    That's the attitude of many Africans towards black Americans, the way
    I see it, from my own observation; which differs from the author's in
    significant ways. He seems to be too optimistic for me. Others, of
    course, will differ with me on that, as much as they will differ with

    So, where are we headed? I really don't know, although I would like
    to be optimistic as well. But I haven't seen any solid evidence of
    African immigrants, as a group or groups, working with African
    Americans anymore than I have seen that evidence from the other side,
    African American groups working with African immigrants and students.

    Where are these groups of Africans doing this in California, Georgia,
    New York, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, some
    of the states with a very large number of African immigrants; where
    are they and where is the evidence showing that they work with black
    Americans in terms of racial solidarity as one people? And where are
    these groups of black Americans doing this, working with African
    immigrants, inviting and welcoming them into their communities and
    churches and social organizations and civic groups in an organized
    way, not just randomly or just on an individual basis? Where are the
    black churches doing this, taking the initiative to do so especially
    as the most powerful institution in Black America, inviting African
    immigrants and students, to achieve this goal of working together and
    in pursuit of racial solidarity? A few individuals do that, now and
    then, in different parts of the country. But that's about it. Nothing
    on a sustained basis, in an organized way, and as a concerted effort.

    So, we remain divided. And that is why Africa also is still divided.
    Each to his own. Nkrumah tried to unite Africa back in the sixties.
    He was ignored. Malcolm X also tried to forge links between Africa
    and Black America probably more than any other black American leader
    did in the sixties. He was also ignored. And both are still ignored

    We hear, for example, of a dream of a united West Africa under one
    government some time in the future. It's just that, a dream. And just
    recently we have even heard of a specific time table on consummation
    of an East African federation, that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are
    going to start uniting next year, in 2006, and by 2010 will form a
    political federation under one government with one president. Well,
    we will see. I am a realist. I don't believe it is going to happen.
    And if it does, the three countries would be better off to start with
    a confederation, which is a loose federation, than with a federation.

    It seems to me that Pan-Africanism will remain just that, an ideal,
    for generations to come; no more than empty rhetoric besides a few
    achievements in terms of cooperation among African countries, and
    between Africans and African Americans, as has been the case all the
    time. And I am not going to lose sleep over it.

    I also rest my case and will go on to something else. Let others
    continue this discussion if they want to. I think both of us, you and
    I, have raised a lot important issues which can be addressed by
    others as well.

    Best wishes,