The ADOS Movement Offers Division, But Little Direction

Chinaman helping Chinaman

Syrian helping Syrian

African making confusion

About who is American

And who is a West Indian


Image for post
Image for post

In this article I want to follow up on what I previously wrote regarding the ADOS movement. The feedback that I received inspired me to hone in on some of the topics that I addressed previously. I’ll start by referencing my book One Caribbean and Other Essays, which features a chapter about how disunity in the Caribbean has resulted in the Caribbean being stagnated since obtaining independence. Rather than opting for regional unity, Caribbean leaders have tended to pay only lip-service to regional unity, while upholding nationalistic (and anti-immigration) policies. The case of Shanique Myrie is one example type of discrimination that Caribbean people have sometimes endured while traveling to fellow CARICOM states.

I mention the Caribbean to demonstrate not only why Pan-Africanism is necessary, but also how disunity hinders our progress. I also mention the Caribbean because one of the commentators on my previous article stated: “ Jamaicans can rep Jamaica, Trinidadians can rep Trinidad, Nigerian and Ghanaian can rep Nigeria and Ghana, but you take issue with us.” I am honestly not sure why people of African descent “rep” any of these national identities which were imposed on us. The difference between a Trinidadian and a Jamaican is only a matter of where the boat dropped them off. The national differences between most people on the African continent boils down to how the colonial borders were drawn up. So my issue is not so much against ADOS or African Americans, but against any ideology which seeks to continue the divide and conquer tactics that have been used against us based on national identities which were imposed on us as a result of slavery and colonialism. This is why I consider myself to be an African first and foremost. Where the slave ships dropped off my ancestors is a secondary consideration to me.

I won’t get into the discussion of cultural and national identity in great detail here, but one thing that I will mention is that the identities of those of us in the diaspora are too complex to simply be reduced to who is ADOS and who is not. In the first place, national identities have little to do with culture. The U.S. Virgin Islands are Caribbean countries and the culture there is very much Caribbean, but Virgin Islanders are Americans by nationality because the United States controls those islands. Now where do Virgin Islanders fit into the ADOS movement? They are not descendants of people who were enslaved in the United States, but they became Americans after America bought those islands from the Danish. Likewise, Afro-Puerto Ricans are also American citizens, despite being from the Caribbean.

And what about the Gullah people? The Gullah people are Americans and are ADOS, but the Gullah people are culturally more similar to Caribbean people than they are with other ADOS. Keith Baird was a linguist from Barbados who once went on a trip to South Carolina. He was able to carry on a conversation with a Gullah woman. He spoke Bajan Creole and she spoke Gullah, but the two Creole languages are so similar that the two understood each other and were able to converse. And what of the cultural similarities between Louisiana and Haiti. Africans in Louisiana and Haiti were both enslaved by France, so the culture that developed in Louisiana was one that was very similar to the culture of the Africans in the French islands. So there has never been a neat cultural or national division between who is ADOS and who is Caribbean.

As I explained in the previous article that I wrote about the ADOS movement, there is a lot of talk, but no plan of action. One thing that members of the movement talk about often is the reparations which are due to ADOS. How does the ADOS movement propose achieving these reparations? Will they try to take the reparations case to the United Nations like Queen Mother Moore did? This isn’t likely to work. The ADOS movement has rejected Pan-Africanism, so it’s not likely that the ADOS movement will seek to make the African American fight for reparations and redress an international issue like Queen Mother Moore, Malcolm X, and others have done.

I personally believe that any struggle for reparations for the descendants of slavery needs to be an international one and a unified one. An example of this would be the 2001 World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which was held in South Africa. At this conference the topic of reparations for the African descendants of slavery was raised by those such as Brazilian activists Edna Roland. The struggle for reparations has traditionally been an important element of the Pan-African struggle in diaspora, and Africans from different parts of the diaspora have been unified in that struggle. I am not sure if those who support the ADOS movement are even aware of this connection. The recent fight for reparations in the Caribbean has helped to inspire a similar fight in the United States.

Antonio Moore expressed concern about immigrants receiving reparations that he believes should go to ADOS. I am not arguing that immigrants who come to America from Africa or the Caribbean should necessarily receive the same reparations that ADOS are entitled — although many immigrants end up living in black communities and intermarry with ADOS, so it’s inevitable that immigrants who integrate into black communities will also receive these benefits as well. My argument is that when the struggle for reparations for African Americans is won, it will be because of the support and encouragement that African Americans have received from others in the diaspora. The ADOS struggle is not an isolated struggle.

Starting at 17:30

One of the responses to my previous article came from an African American who insisted that African Americans have enough of their own issues to worry about and do not have time to fight for African countries like Togo. This brought to mind this video of Amos Wilson.

The point that Amos Wilson was making is that it is foolish for African Americans to stand by and watch as America destroys people of African descent around the world and somehow believe that Americans will treat African Americans differently. Malcolm X stated:

And they’re able to take these hired killers, put them in American planes, with American bombs, and drop them on African villages, blowing to bits Black men, Black women, Black children, Black babies, and you Black people sitting over here cool like it doesn’t even involve you. You’re a fool. They’ll do it to them today, and do it to you tomorrow. Because you and I and they are all the same.

This statement should immediately bring to mind the bombing of Black Wall Street in 1921 or the 1985 bombing of MOVE. A nation which is comfortable ignoring the suffering of millions of black Togolese, black Congolese, black Cameroonians, black Sudanese, and black Zimbabweans is perfectly capable of ignoring the suffering of black Americans. I don’t think the members of the ADOS movement understand this point well enough. As Malcolm said, if they do it to our brothers and sisters in Africa, they will do it to us here. In fact, they have repeatedly done it to us here. And when I say “us” I mean all of us, whether African American or West Indian. The 1985 MOVE bombing came only two years after America intervened in Grenada, dropping bombs and killing some of the black people there.

The ADOS movement is a withdrawal from the international struggles of African people. The movement seems to believe that African Americans are going to be able to achieve their liberation independently from other people of African descent, but this is a completely ahistorical approach. Recall that the civil rights movement was concurrent with the decolonization movements in Africa and the Caribbean. The ADOS movement simply does not have any sort of historical precedent to support their contentions.

I know the counterargument will be that just because an idea worked in the past does not mean that it is likely to work in the present. Let’s say for argument's sake that the ADOS movement is right and that Pan-Africanism is outdated and no longer relevant. What do African Americans do now? Those who support the ADOS movement don’t seem to have a real alternative, nor do they seem to understand the Pan-African struggle which is currently taking place. Take for example, this video by Morpheus Unplugged.

Morpheus Unplugged discusses Pan-Africanism at 18:30

The creator of the video states that Pan-Africanists “put the entire burden of Pan-Africanism on African Americans.” We do not actually, which is why I elaborated on how disunity in the Caribbean has impacted the Caribbean countries. The burden of Pan-Africanism is placed on all people of African descent and the failure to build a unified front is a failure that hinders all of us. As Walter Rodney said,“every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow.” Who are these Pan-Africanists who are placing the burden of Pan-Africanism solely on African Americans? Morpheus Unplugged does not say because he is speaking in vague generalities, rather than speaking on specifics. Morpheus Unplugged also seems to think that Americans are the “fathers of Pan-Africanism.” He mentions Martin Delany, but makes no mention of Delany’s Jamaican colleague Robert Campbell. He also makes no mention of the Pan-African ideology of the Haitian Revolution, which greatly inspired Delany and other early Pan-Africanists in America.

Morpheus Unplugged also says that “it’s not Africans leading the Pan-African charge.” How does the creator of the video explain organizations such as Africans Rising? A lot of the people who are supporting the ADOS movement think that because they aren’t aware of the Pan-African organizations that presently exist on the continent that means such organizations do not exist. No serious Pan-Africanist is expecting African Americans alone to lead the Pan-African charge. The only people who think this way are the people who don’t even participate in the Pan-African movement anyway, so their opinion is just that; an opinion. It’s not based on any actual experience within the Pan-African movement or within Pan-African organizations.

Morpheus Unplugged is driven to support the ADOS movement based on the negative things that some Africans have said about African Americans. As I noted in my last article, I am aware that some immigrants come to America with negative views of ADOS. The Pan-African movement has always been about working to overcome that division. For example, xenophobia has become a serious problem in South Africa. There was an incident a few years ago in which a taxi driver from Mozambique named Mido Macia was brutally killed by the police in South Africa. As Pan-Africanists we are working to overcome problems like this, rather than retreating back into these national identities which were forced on us.

Moreover, there are immigrants like Opal Tometi that have involved themselves in the struggles of ADOS. Instead of highlighting only the immigrants with hostile views towards ADOS, why not also highlight the fact that there are immigrants who come to America from Africa and the Caribbean, and do participate in the ADOS struggle? And I am aware that many who support the ADOS movement are not very fond of the Black Lives Matter movement of which Tometi is a co-founder, but thus far the BLM movement has had a bigger impact on shaping the conversation about racial injustice in America than the ADOS movement has, so the ADOS movement should be taking notes from BLM. And as I explained in my previous article, the BLM movement has garnered international support from people in the Caribbean and Brazil.

A lot of Americans did not like Marcus Garvey simply because he was Jamaican, but Garvey didn’t withdraw from the African American struggle because a few individual Americans didn’t like him. Garvey stated:

My enemies in America have done much to hold me up to public contempt and ridicule, but have failed. They believe that the only resort is to stir up national prejudice against me, in that I was not born within the borders of the United States of America.

Garvey’s response to these critics was:

So, if I was born in Jamaica, it was no fault of mine. It was because that slave ship which took me to Jamaica did not come to American ports. That is how some Negroes of America were not born in the West Indies.

Decades later, Dr. John Henrik Clarke would make the same point when he stated:

The Caribbeans think that they’re different from the black Americans. The Afrikans think they’re different from all of them. All of us need to remember that we’ve all had the same slave master. Those who came out of Afrika, were brought out of Afrika. All came on the same slave ships. The slave ship brought no Barbadians, Jamaicans or Trinidadians. They brought all Afrikan people. These Afrikan people came where the slave ships put them down. Those who were put down at Trinidad, became Trinidadians. Those who were put down in Jamaica, became Jamaicans.

The ADOS movement is trying to position itself in opposition to Pan-Africanism, which, in my view, is detrimental to the African American struggle because the ADOS movement does not offer any concrete plan for ADOS. And that’s really my main objection to what the proponents of the ADOS movement are arguing. If the ADOS movement has a better program than what the Pan-Africanists are doing then let them bring it forward, but until then I’ll continue to defend and uphold Pan-Africanism because its the only movement which has produced results for African people, including ADOS.

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.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store