Some of the responses to my previous article about Cornel West and the ADOS movement are interesting to me because they demonstrate precisely some of the issues that I have been raising regarding the ADOS movement. In this article I am not only addressing some of the problems with ADOS as a social media movement, but also some of the issues that I have noticed with how we address our differences with each other as African people.
Some have accused me of writing a hit piece against Cornel West, so I want to start by responding to those assertions. At no point in my article did I personally insult West or attack his character. My position is that West is a very brilliant scholar, but he is misinformed when it comes to the topic of Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism. Throughout my article I gave examples to support my position. This included the debate that West had with John Henrik Clarke on the issue of Black Nationalism, as well as West’s writings about Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey in Race Matters. My point is that West is someone who has never been comfortable with Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism. Anyone who has studied West’s work over the years would not be surprised to hear this.
As I said, many have accused me of writing a hit piece, without offering any real evidence to support that assertion. Others have taken a more curious approach. Their rebuttal is to highlight the fact that I am an immigrant.
So intellectual discourse in the black community is that when I write a critique of West rather than a rebuttal against my points, people want to highlight that I am an immigrant as if that fact alone erases everything that I have written. I am not sure how many in the ADOS movement are familiar with the Mighty Sparrow, but he is a musician who was born in Grenada and immigrated to Trinidad as a child. At some point Sparrow decided to speak out against the government of Trinidad. As Sparrow explained in “We Like It So,” rather than addressing the serious issues that Sparrow was raising, some preferred to dismiss Sparrow for being born in Grenada:
All I asking is that you pay close attention to
The many problems we all face from dawn to dawn
You’re intelligent, I think, and you should face issue
But you behaving like a moron, cussin’ me for where I born
I mention Sparrow because this type of thinking is not unique to the ADOS movement. This type of divisiveness has hindered the Caribbean’s progress and it continues to hinder African Americans as well. As African people we often have a habit of focusing on the things that divide us, so we end up talking at each other and not with each other. What ends up happening is exchanges within the black community end up becoming competitions rather than intellectual exchanges. This is the type of environment in which the ADOS movement was born and I think the ADOS movement is perhaps the best example of this issue of disunity, which is why the ADOS movement seems so hostile towards Pan-Africanism.
Recall that when Umar Johnson was feuding with Tariq Nasheed and Boyce Watkins, Umar specifically told his supporters that they could not support him and support Boyce and Tariq at the same time. The differences between the two men was not intellectual. It was personal, which is why Umar was telling his supporters to take sides and even threatening to fight Tariq.
And here is Tariq’s 45 minute rant about Umar, so that one can see Tariq’s side of this petty feud:
Boyce Watkins decided to take to Twitter to express his support of Tariq’s take down of Umar.
Comparing Tariq and Umar’s feud with Tupac and Biggie is fitting in a sense. The feud between Tupac and Biggie was petty, unnecessary, and ultimately ended up in tragedy for both men. Neither man benefited from that feud, and the same is true for Tariq and Umar. No one really won this feud and it didn’t advance African people in anyway. I would compare this to the feud between Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois in which Garvey did actually win in the sense that Du Bois was forced to adopt some of Garvey’s ideas. The two men had substantive differences which, in the end, was conclusively settled. George Padmore was another one of Garvey’s critics who ultimately adopted some of Garvey’s ideas as well. Differences over substantive issues can be settled, but no one wins feuds that are based solely on egoism.
After he left the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X stated:
I’m not out to fight other Negro leaders or organizations. We must find a common approach, a common solution, to a common problem. As of this minute, I’ve forgotten everything bad that the other leaders have said about me, and I pray they can also forget the many bad things I’ve said about them.
Malcolm could make such a statement because his differences with Martin Luther King and others were not personal differences. In the past Malcolm had accused King of being a “religious Uncle Tom.” After leaving the Nation of Islam, Malcolm referred to “Uncle Martin” as his friend. Malcolm still had his differences with King, but those differences did not prevent Malcolm from working King. Malcolm certainly was not asking his supporters to choose between himself and King.
Today, however, we seem to have a bunch of social media talking heads who are always bickering with each other, but go nowhere in the process because they care more about their own egos than about the collective advancement of African people. Young Pharaoh claimed that he was going to end Umar’s career. Young Pharaoh wasn’t trying to give an honest critique of Umar. He was trying to destroy Umar’s public image in hopes that he would destroy Umar’s career, but that’s not what happened. Umar is still here. But the question is why does Pharaoh feel the need to even try to end Umar’s career? Who benefits from that?
Yvette Carnell tired to do the same thing in her video about Pan-Africanism being dead.
If Pan-Africanism is dead then why does Yvette write about Pan-Africanism so often on Twitter? Yvette thought that making one video claiming that Pan-Africanism is dead would make Pan-Africanism go away, but when that failed Yvette decided to continue taking shots at Pan-Africanism and Pan-African organizations such as N’COBRA. No matter how much Yvette criticizes Pan-Africanism on social media, Pan-Africanism is still here.
I personally wouldn’t spend so much time posting about a movement or an ideology that I felt was dead or on life-support, but Yvette Carnell continues to do so. And she isn’t even offering any real intellectual critiques of Pan-Africanism. Most of the time she’s just criticizing Pan-Africanism for the sake of doing so. Pan-Africanism has always been about the unity of African people and this unity seems to be the very thing that Yvette Carnell is opposed to. The challenge that Pan-Africanists such as myself face is that African people do not want to unite, which is one of the reasons why the ADOS movement has become what it has. We are a people who are attracted to division and that division has played a significant role in creating the ADOS movement.
At around the 20 minute in the video below Boyce Watkins raises the point that Yvette Carnell attacking other black people on social media only alienates people. Aside from attacking Watkins, Yvette has also attacked Louis Farrakhan, Claud Anderson, and Talib Kweli. Yvette Carnell is one of the many social media talking heads who always seems to be putting down others in an attempt to elevate herself.
We prefer to fight each other, even if we don’t progress or benefit from doing so. And this is a global issue for African people. Take for example the attacks against “immigrants” in South Africa. How does it benefit South Africans to attack other African people? How does it benefit anyone on the African continent to fight each other over some borders that the European colonizers created? It doesn’t, but many of us are very eager to fight for things that do not benefit us.
The issue is not that Pan-Africanism is dead, but that many of us are still too caught up in fighting with each other to accept the fact that Pan-African unity is necessary for us to move forward. But Pan-African unity requires a sense of humility and a sense of understanding that the collective benefit of African people is more important than individual egos. This is our culture after all. As Chancellor Williams explained: “ When we consider the welfare of the whole community, however, we are getting back to a basic African ideology, which is that the welfare of the people as a whole takes priority over that of the individual.” Until we accept this reality we will continue to bicker and argue with each other over issues that will not advance us in anyway.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.