Let Our Shared Values Drive The Fight To Win Substantive Representation for Afrikans in Britain
GAPP SPEAKS AT AFRICANS FOR JEREMY CORBYN VALUES CONFERENCE (AFJCV)
Solidarity Message from Esther Stanford-Xosei, Member of the Global Afrikan Peoples Parliament (GAPP) Leadership Facilitation Team.
An abbreviated version of this message was read out at the AFJCV Conference
Picture courtesy of Kwaku @BBM/BMC
Greetings Brothers, Sisters, Comrades & Allies
First of all, let me extend my thanks to Africans for Momentum for Momentum/ Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values for inviting me to give this solidarity message on behalf of the Global Afrikan Peoples Parliament (GAPP)
I preface my comments with reiteration of the right to express freedom of political opinion and will.
GAPP is an emerging representative body of the Afrikan Heritage Community for National Self- Determination (AHC-NSD). We harmonise the voices of various Afrikan heritage communities towards reasserting nationhood and self-determination. We do not represent ALL Afrikan people. We represent those who are committed to our GAPP agenda of developing their national consciousness as a distinct Afrikan Heritage Community for National Self-Determination AHC-NSD. So in effect, GAPP exists as a form of substantive representation of the AHC-NSD and advocates for recognition of the fact that Afrikans are a distinct group who have a right to be regarded as a national minority, (rather than an ethnic minority), in the UK but is part of the global majority of Afrikan people, all over the world, exercising our rights of belonging to the continent of Afrika. At present there is no representation of Afrikan Heritage Community for National Self-Determination in all organs and institutions of the state machinery in the UK and all over Europe.
So our starting point for engaging in this conversation around the values we as members of the AHD-NSD share with Jeremy Corbyn and those in the leadership of the Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister Campaign is what and where are our own Afrikan values in relation to those of Jeremy Corbyn? We can only relate to Jeremy Corbyn’s values from a position of self- awareness, self-empowerment and self-assertion of our own Afrikan values. That is why in this respect, it is necessary do Sankofa in a journey of return to the source, so as to rediscover and bring into the present to light up the road to our future, our historical Afrikan values systems such as Maat and Ubuntu. For this reason, GAPP supports the standpoint and is working through Momentum Black ConneXions to find common grounds between our Afrikan values, the best values of Black humanity who happen to be the majority of the peoples of the world, and the values declared by Jeremy Corbyn. We are just at the initial stage of this ongoing work within and outside the Momentum Black ConneXions. We hope Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values will take an active part in working out what are the common grounds that we can share in terms of values between Afrikan people and the Jeremy Corbyn support campaign. For example, a key question we have to address in terms of elaborating on the actual meaning of these values is that of What does equality, justice, freedom and solidarity mean for people of Afrikan ancestry and heritage in political terms?
Under International Law we, as a people, have an equal right to political representation. This consists of the right to be present (descriptive representation) and the right to representation of interests and perspectives (substantive representation). Descriptive representation relates to the presence of members of Afrikan heritage and other Black minoritised communities in parliaments (MPs). However, a descriptive representative does not need to act for his/her constituents and mere resemblance by gender, ethnicity, religion or other important group attribute is often deemed to be sufficient to make him/her a group representative. It follows that political representation for people of Afrikan heritage and other Black Majority World communities cannot be reduced to the descriptive. This is because a focus on descriptive attributes of representatives, distracts us from their actions and prevents us from holding such representatives to account. Such elected representatives, even Afrikan heritage MPs within the Labour Party do not have to account to Afrikan heritage communities for his/her actions or speeches nor are they compelled to include any action in the interests of Afrikan heritage communities.
On the contrary, true political representation requires substantive representation which means real or full equality (as opposed to mere formal equality) and recognition of the right to identify for Afrikan heritage communities. The right to identity refers to the various possible distinctive Afrikan community characteristics, like language, culture, religion and belief. It also incorporates obligations to differentiate between and among us as minoritised peoples. Accordingly, the right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights is also violated “when States without an objective and reasonable justification fail to treat differently persons whose situations are significantly different.” In effect, substantive equality requires having representatives that speak for, act for, and look after the interests of Afrikan heritage communities and do so in accordance with varying measures of accountability to us as Afrikan heritage communities. Although mere presence of Afrikan heritage and other Black Majority World MPs might have some symbolic benefits, members of Afrikan heritage communities, in general, and the more specific AHC-NSD primarily need representatives to act in our interests, and attempt to influence public policies from Afrikan perspectives and in Afrikan people’s self-determined interests. Let us not think that this is a pipedream for it happens with various national minority groups in Europe such as Jewish communities, some Roma communities, the Sami national minority in Switzerland, and the Cornish national minority in the UK.
Why is there a need for Substantive Afrikan Representation?
To redress and counter the civil and social death of Afrikans as a National Minority for Self-Determination. Civil death is a UN term used internationally; it can be interpreted to mean that one does not exist with political recognition as belonging to a people. Furthermore, that unless there is recognition of Afrikan group status and peoplehood, we are not able to access or secure collective human rights, except those rights that are given or granted us. This means that we are in existence, but we are not recognised politically as national minority groupings in the States in which we reside (e.g. in the use of conflating terms such as ‘BAME people or communities’). As we have no recognised geo-political identity in the world, we are in effect rendered a stateless people. This has been recognised by the UN Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent and in the proclamations of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent (DPAD); which has the themes, recognition, justice and development. At the launching of the DPAD, Deputy High Commissioner for Human, Rights Flavia Pansieri stated: “In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognising that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.”
Nevertheless, this substantive representation can never happen within the existing party political system and certainly not within the Labour Party as it currently is. The Labour Party remains a party that is Institutionally Racist like most of the European political organisations in this country. For this reason, we cannot support the Labour Party in an unqualified way! Granted, we have allies in the Labour Party. We will critically support those people politically, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and others. However, we should never make the mistake of thinking that the strategic interests of Afrikan heritage communities, such as the overthrow of White supremacy in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labour, law, politics, religion, sex and war as theorised By Dr Frances Cress Welsing); the reestablishment of Sovereignty; and recognition of Afrikan people’s Self-Determination in and outside of Britain, can or will ever be realised within the Labour Party, today, tomorrow or even in the future. We should also take as a cautionary note, the current situation we see unfolding with the suspension of Ken Livingstone as it is indicative of what may very well happen to those of us seeking to uncritically support the Labour Party, seemingly closing our eyes to its White supremacy racist, very right wing and imperialist sections.
So as we in GAPP see it, part of the responsibility of groups such as Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values is to defend the right to represent the authentic autonomous Afrikan heritage community interests and perspectives within Momentum and the wider campaign to support Jeremy Corbyn.
Our struggle at this time demands that we do not compromise with neocolonialism and that we as Afrikan progressive forces draw lines of demarcation between the masses of our people on the one hand and Afrikan elites and their paymasters who are enforcing neocolonialism at the expense of the masses of our people. As in Afrika, here in the Diaspora we also have people who support and work for neocolonialism. It is our duty as Afrikans to expose these Afrikan elitist quislings of neocolonialism wherever they exist. We should have representatives of our communities who express this wherever they are representing us. That is what the likes of of Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano, Mary Prince, Robert Wedderburn, William Davidson, William Cuffay, Henry Sylvester Williams, Dadabhai Naoroji, Bhikhaji Rustom Cama, Kaka Joseph Baptista, John Archer, Shapurji Saklat Valla, Krishna Menon, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, CLR James, Ras Makonnen, Amy Ashwood Garvey, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, Claudia Jones Walter Rodney, Yusef Dadoo, Bernie Grant and Lester Lewis did when they represented Black peoples.
There is a lot of educational work to be done to explain these matters and make them part of the conscientisation of our peoples to be able to properly use their vote in a meaningfully powerful way. This is what GAPP would like to see Africans For Jeremy Corbyn Values working together with Momentum Black ConneXions to do leading up to the 2020 General Elections.
That is why none of our Afrikan and Black structures, to be true to our community interests, can be subordinated to any White structures. This is a non- negotiable principle as far as we in GAPP are concerned. From this perspective GAPP contributed to the formulation of Momentum Black ConneXion’s self-description as the “independently self-organising, autonomous and self-determining Black Power constituency within the network of people and organisations to continue the energy and enthusiasm of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign, committed to advancing Black Power perspectives on the 10 priorities that Jeremy Corbyn has identified as his own standpoint.”
So Momentum Black ConneXions, to us, is not a branch of Momentum and cannot be run according to the diktats of the overwhelmingly White structure that Momentum is. We in GAPP are requesting our Brothers and Sisters in Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values to think carefully about these matters so as to clarify your own definition and positioning of your organisation in relation to Momentum, the Labour Party and the wider Labour Movement vis-a-vis the legitimate inalienable interests of Afrikan people within and beyond the UK. It has been a well-established maxim in Afrikan organising for centuries now that WE ARE OUR OWN LIBERATORS!!! The challenge of completing our liberation struggle against European imperialism; stopping the Maangamizi (Afrikan Hellacaust of chattel, colonial and neocolonial enslavement); and totally emancipating ourselves at home and abroad demands more than ever in this neocolonial phase of the Maangamizi, an amplification of this maxim that we are own liberators. No individual Messiahs from within and outside our own communities can set us free. Only the truth of our people’s power, manifesting itself in our own concerted glocal Afrikan peoples power at home and abroad, can set us globally free.
Asante Sana/ Thank you
Member of the GAPP Leadership Facilitation Team