May 25th. Now, a date for global Black calendars. George Floyd's murder one year ago today ignited and expanded a movement, and on this day in 1963, an organization was birthed to build unity across Africa. One killing brings both together - that of Amadou Diallo. It combines race, police brutality in America, immigration and Africa. For me, it opens a difficult door to talk intra-racial reckoning and racial healing in the context of global blackness, and Emotional Justice.
From this year on, it will be an anniversary that intersects Blackness, liberation, brutality – on the Continent and in America. What these two anniversaries do is open up space to connect our Blacknesses, even as we honor the particular experience of Blackness geographically.
Being black in America, being black from the Continent of Africa in America, being Black in Europe, should be a unifying space, not a dividing one. White supremacy shapes our peculiar and particular blackness in the places where we are raised, schooled, where we love, and work. To be raised in America is to carry a blackness shaped by that specific and distinct experience; to be raised Black in Britain is also a distinct experience – the unifying elements are the beast that is white supremacy and the ancestral connection of the Continent.
Global Black folk are grappling with a legacy of untreated trauma from a history of brutal systems that shaped how we see ourselves and each other as global Black people; as well as global Black and white people.
What we need is Emotional Justice. What cannot win in our fight for a full liberation is a divided, segregated Blackness.
Unity within Africa has for so long been a battle about political ideology, economic interest and future survival and growth. For my work in Emotional Justice, there are wounds within our Blackness that need tending, even as a global racial reckoning is taking place, the call, fight and work for reparations grows louder, and the recognition of systemic inequity by global organizations is challenged to move beyond the performative.
African Liberation Day honors the birth of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. When Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, delivered his 1963 passionate speech, he called for Africa to unite as the only path to defeat the colonialism that had devastated and decimated the Continent. His plea: we were a Continent carved up by those who had no interest in what was lost only what could be snatched, so now there needs to be a fight to unite. The crowd applauded and cheered. The focus by other leaders of African nations’ was their particular corner of the Continent, their individual fight for independence, and their personal political power.
We should not do with reparations and reform what those African leaders did back in 1963 when there was a call for unity; we should not frame our reparations movements as distinct from those of other Black peoples in other corners of the globe. We can recognize distinct Black experience, without creating black supremacies. We can work to heal the trauma and intra-racial hurt and harm. We can do this in concert with each other, but the call to segregate Blackness must not win, it only fuels division and deficit in ways that are more harmful after a year that has caused so much loss and pain.
I am a global Black chick. I have political, familial and emotional connections across different parts of the world and with a range of Black peoples. My dad was a Pan-Africanist who worked in Kwame Nkrumah’s government. I lived, worked, created and loved in New York for 8 years. I then moved to Accra, Ghana where I have lived for the past 5 years. Before both I was in London, and had also worked in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. As a global Black chick who was worked and lived in the US, the UK and the Continent, I have observed how our relationship to our Blackness, to the failures of our government, to the relationship with the West is incredibly similar, and yet we direct our ire and anger at each other in ways that are antithetical to the liberation we say we want, and what this day should conjure.
I call for us to expand and connect our global Blackness as an issue of Emotional Justice, as part of our healing as a global Black people. That means honoring the specificity of a black experience and a connectivity to an ancestral Blackness in the fight for liberation.
Emotional Justice means grappling with the betrayal, harm, anger, pain that exists between us as global Black people in America and in Africa; and that is currently manifesting in the fight for reparations. The global Black struggle for reparations is ongoing – for the descendants of the enslaved in America; for the Congolese from Belgium; for the Kenyans from the British – each fight speaks to a distinct black experience geographically, but is connected due to the beast that is white supremacy and its insatiable appetite for Blackness.
We more effectively defeat this by framing our Blackness and the fight for reparations in global community, while honoring the distinctness of the black experience in different nations. That means including the Herero-Nama from Germany for the Namibia genocide of 1904 – 1908 when German troops starved, tortured, killed and drove men, women and children from their land for resisting colonialism. For Namibia, this nation in South-West Africa, this month marks the announcement of a reparations payment of £940m for this genocide. We should claim that, and frame it as a victory in the global fight for reparations by Black peoples everywhere.
In an organized, strategized and connected way, it’s time to squad up, pull up and throw collective global Black hands at the monster that is white supremacy. That is Emotional Justice, and that too is healing.
Twitter @estherarmah and IG @emotionaljustice
Esther Armah is Executive Director of The Armah Institute of Emotional Justice (AIEJ). This global institute provides emotionality education in the context of race, gender, culture via the Emotional Justice framework through Projects, Training, Thought Leadership globally working across Accra, New York, London.