Why Pan-Africanism Matters: Lessons from ADOS vs. FBA

Pan-Africanism has always been about the unity of African people. When Henry Sylvester Williams organized the Pan-African Conference in 1900, the purpose of the conferences was to bring African people together. Williams didn’t even have a particularly progressive or revolutionary vision at the time because he wasn’t demanding an end to colonialism. The conference was simply about unity among African people. The problem is that the critics of Pan-Africanism don’t seem to understand the importance of unity, which leads me to the ADOS movement since that movement has been very critical of Pan-Africanism, yet recent events have demonstrated precisely why unity is important.

My initial issue with ADOS was the manner in which the ADOS supporters were criticizing Pan-Africanism. The other issue that I had is how misinformed the ADOS movement has been. Here are just some examples of things that I have addressed. Yvette claimed that the Dutch invented dashikis and then sold them to African slave traders, which was utterly false. Antonio Moore (Tone Talks) has said that people in Africa do not identify as Africans. To help cure his ignorance on this matter, I invited him to Africans Rising’s African Liberation Day mobilization event to show Tone and others in ADOS that there is a very strong Pan-African movement in Africa. Then there are the ADOS supporters who keep spreading the untruth that Marcus Garvey came to America because he didn’t have support in Jamaica. So I have always seen ADOS as a very divisive and misinformed movement made up of people who don’t understand very much about African history, Pan-Africanism, or even their own history as African Americans.

For the most part, the people who supported the ADOS/FBA movement did not seem bothered by the divisiveness of their own movement, until recently when that movement began turning against itself when Tariq Nasheed fell out with Tone and Yvette. One of the issues that Tariq raised is the question of whether or not ADOS is a group or a lineage.

See the 32 minute mark above

The problem is that Tone and Yvette are the founders of ADOS. They are the ones who created the label, so ultimately they are the ones to define what ADOS is. Tariq decided to use Foundational Black American (FBA) and then began using FBA interchangeably with ADOS, which created a lot of confusion. People were treating ADOS and FBA as if they were the same thing, but they are not. ADOS is Yvette and Tone’s movement. They co-founded it and continue to remind people that they are the founders of ADOS. It is their movement, not Tariq’s, although Tariq supported ADOS and helped the movement to spread.

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I’ve argued that ADOS was not only divisive because of the line that it tries to draw between African Americans and other African descendants, but the movement has led to a lot of petty infighting among African Americans. This is something that Boyce Watkins pointed out and Tariq retweeted. Yvette has a history of criticizing and clashing with many other leaders.

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In my most recent article I addressed Morpheus Unplugged. When ADOS really started gaining traction he was one of those people who tried to present ADOS as a more practical alternative to Pan-Africanism. He recorded a video explaining why he choose ADOS over Pan-Africanism. At the 15 minute mark in the video below Morpheus Unplugged claims that he debunked every claim that Pan-Africanist have made.

I mention Morpheus Unplugged because he seem to take serious issue with my argument that ADOS is a movement that is mostly talk and little action, but his response to the claims that myself and others have made is to do more videos where he talks about debunking Pan-Africanism. Again, more talk. As I explained in an article on why Togo is an example of modern Pan-Africanism, there are certain political and economic realities which makes Pan-Africanism necessary. No amount of YouTube videos talking about debunking Pan-Africanism can actually undo those realities. Doing so requires work and it requires organization, but the problem with ADOS is that it is a completely disorganized movement. As Morpheus himself admitted, ADOS seems to be imploding.

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Morpheus had some very strong criticisms against me when I began criticizing ADOS. Perhaps if he listened to me he wouldn’t now be expressing concern about the fighting between Tariq and the ADOS co-founders. Morpheus himself said that choose the ADOS movement over Pan-Africanism, and even used the fact that I am a Guyanese to criticize me, rather than addressing my points directly. This the result of siding with a divisive movement that is largely built on personalized attacks against other African people. As I noted before, so long as the divisiveness was aimed towards Caribbean and African people there was no problem, but it’s a problem now because of the internal conflict within ADOS/FBA.

Tariq is opposed to the HR40 that Shelia Jackson Lee is sponsoring, so he criticizes her Jamaican heritage. Rather than having a simple political disagreement, Tariq personalizes it by taking an unnecessary shot at Lee’s ancestry.

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In the past Tariq has talked about building homes in Haiti and even made the 1804 documentary about Haiti, but he also can’t pass up the opportunity to mention Roland Martin’s Haitian ancestors as part of his attack on Martin.

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Even Yvette herself was forced to admit that she was warned about associating with Tariq and did not listen. She and others were willing to ignore the divisiveness of Tariq’s rhetoric because Tariq was targeting other African people, he wasn’t targeting ADOS yet. Now that he is, people like Morpheus are pretending to be concerned. If you were truly concerned, you would have called out Tariq’s divisive behavior long ago, not wait until Tariq starts going after ADOS to then act concerned and call for unity. If you wanted unity you should have stuck with Pan-Africanism. Otherwise, don’t pick and choose when Black unity is convenient for you.

When I started raising a lot of these issues about ADOS, a lot of the ADOS folks didn’t want to listen to me because they didn’t like that I am a Guyanese, so I’d receive responses like this:

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For some reason the ADOS movement thought that they could spread division and confusion among African people and that it the consequences of doing so would not eventually poison their own movement. Talib Kweli’s dispute with ADOS is a typical example of this. Rather than address her disagreements with Talib in a respectful manner, she claimed that Talib was loud and wrong.

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Naturally, such a dismissive comment towards Talib provoked Talib to respond to Yvette and her ADOS movement.

Talib’s emotional response then provoked an even more emotional response from ADOS supporters, with some even encouraging others to hate Talib. This is the type of environment that Yvette and ADOS has produced.

Keep in mind that Yvette was the one who attacked Talib first, and when the attacks against Talib started becoming extremely personal (such as accusing him of having a mental disorder), Yvette did nothing to stop it. She actually seemed to encourage it.

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Also recall that Yvette was calling Pan-Africanists morons for trying to fight for reparations through the prism of global black liberation.

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Tone hasn’t been very much different. He took what should have been a issue with an individual (Cynthia Erivo) and instead went after her lineage by suggesting that Erivo has a slave trading lineage because she is an Igbo. In the article below I addressed Yvette and Tone’s shallow treatment of Igbo history. What is even more problematic about suggesting that someone who is an Igbo may have a slave trading lineage is that some have suggested that as many as 60% of African Americans descend from the Igbo people. That is how many Igbo people were taken to the United States. But as I said, it’s not enough for ADOS to criticize Erivo individually. Some of these people want to go after her entire lineage, as if they don’t also share the same Igbo lineage. It’s both unnecessarily divisive and very ignorant.

As Talib is pointing out, now Yvette is calling for collective uplift and moving past divisive rhetoric because some of that rhetoric is being directed against her by Tariq and others.

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The final point that I want to make is that is the lack of intellectual honesty in the ADOS movement, which is something that I have complained about before. Take for example the fact that Tariq tried to suggest that Candace Owens’ family immigrated from the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands is an American territory, which means the people who are born there are American citizens. This is not a defense of Owens, who is just as ignorant and divisive as some of the ADOS crowd is, but it’s just a simple fact.

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Rather than admit that Tariq was wrong, Tone responded to my article by trying to defend Tariq. At no point did he acknowledge that Tariq was wrong. This is what I mean about the lack of intellectual honesty. Tone tried to obfuscate the issue by discussing issues that were not even relevant to the point that I was making — as an attorney, Tone should understand the importance of relevancy.

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In her response to Tariq, Yvette pointed to Tariq’s ignorance of certain things as being a problem. At around 1:01:30, Yvette explains that it’s a problem that Tariq doesn’t know what down-ballot voting is. So when I call out Tariq’s ignorance, Tone jumps in to defend Tariq, but now that Tariq has had a falling out with Tone and Yvette, Yvette uses the opportunity to highlight Tariq’s ignorance. This again is the lack of intellectual honesty. Yvette and Tone were fine with Tariq’s ignorance until it became a problem for them and their movement.

I just hope everyone who is paying attention to the conflict between ADOS and FBA understands why the ideology of Pan-Africanism is important. Pan-Africanism isn’t about building Wakanda, as Morpheus Unplugged suggests. Pan-Africanism has always been about African people uniting towards a common purpose. The ADOS vs. FBA dispute just further proves why we need unity instead of movements that are built on historical ignorance and divisive rhetoric.


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.

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