At 92, Dudley Thompson, Esq., is perhaps the oldest Pan-African activist still active. Born in Jamaica, where he held several ministerial positions and holds the Order of Jamaica, the nation’s highest honor, Thompson was a friend and colleague of renowned 20th-century Pan-Africanists. The list includes Kwame Nkrumah, first prime minister of Ghana; Trinidad and Tobago’s George Padmore, who, with Kwame Nkrumah, organized the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England, in 1945, that influenced the decolonization of Africa and the West Indies; C.L.R. James, another Trinidadian, whose 1938 book, The Black Jacobins, was banned in South Africa until the dismantling of apartheid; Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania; Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya, whom Thompson defended against sedition charges for his role in the Mau Mau Rebellion against British rule; and Chief M.K.O. Abiola, a former vice president at ITT Corp. and former president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.
On July 22, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, Thompson welcomed the faithful and the curious from North America, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America to the World African Diaspora Union’s 2009 Pan-African Summit. “Our power, our strength, our wealth lie in the unity of the Black people of the world,” Thompson declared in a voice that still spewed the fire of the “Burning Spear,” a nickname he acquired in Kenya. “There are 169 million of us in the Diaspora. All of us must acknowledge Africa as the motherland.”
For five days, ending July 26, the World African Diaspora Union, or WADU, celebrated “109 years of Pan Afrikanism” since the first Pan-African Conference was held in London. The celebrations culminated in a banquet, the highlight of which were speeches by Her Excellency Amina Salum Ali, a former finance minister in Tanzania, now the African Union’s ambassador to the United States, and by Julius Garvey, M.D., whose father, the late Marcus Mosiah Garvey, rallied Africans around the world with the cry, “Africa is for the Africans, those at home and abroad!”
“Africa will be united when we all have one African mind,” the younger Garvey announced.
WADU is the brainchild of longtime Pan-African activist Elombe Brath. It was formally launched in 2004, following the Conference of African Intellectuals in Dakar, Senegal, in 2004. Under its auspices, the gathering in Atlanta deliberated such topics as “Restoring the African Mind”; “The Role of African Heritage, Spirituality and Religions”; “Challenges and Opportunities for Pan-African Union”; “Cultural models for African Rebirth”; “The New Scramble for Africa”; Pan-African Economy — Reconstruction and Empowerment”; “Doing Business with Africa — Business Models”; and “A U.S. of Africa — Role of the Diaspora.”
Pan-Africanists call for intellectual, political and economic cooperation among African people, leading to the political unity of Africa. Some of its followers contend that the Diaspora — which the African Union has designated the sixth region after North, South, East, West and Central Africa — must drive the movement in the 21st century, much as it did in the 20th century. “We in the Diaspora must once again take the lead in imagining the possibilities of Pan-Africanism and connect with our sisters and brothers on the continent in mobilizing/organizing to push African leaders and the African Union to tap the collective potential of African people to achieve Black Power!” writes Ron Daniels, Ph.D., president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, distinguished lecturer at York College, City University of New York, and host of Night Talk on WBAI 99.9 FM, Pacifica New York.
One of the most electrifying presentations at the summit came from Ivorian economist and political scientist Nicolas Agbohou, a fervid critic of the link between the CFA franc, the currency of France’s former 15 colonies in Africa, and the euro. Speaking in French, with Yaa-Lengi M. Ngemi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, author and executive director of the Congolese Coalition, translating, Agbohou called for the creation of a single African currency and local transformation of Africa’s raw materials as “the only solutions capable of eradicating French monetary Nazism from Africa, effectively overcoming Africa’s underdevelopment.”
Pan-Africanism is alive and well, evidenced by the “burning spears” in Atlanta. “I have seen an appreciable spread of interest and support for our movement. There is so much interest by the Diaspora in African affairs, evinced throughout groups, associations, individuals and the media,” Thompson said in his message to the Diaspora as president of WADU.