Occasionally circumstance and history beckon the conscious element to undertake phenomenal tasks that on appearance, exceed their capabilities and resources to capture the moment.
New Black Nationalists’ September 4, 2020, call to explore launching an alternative Black Diaspora Movement (BDM) may be one such moment. Unlike the iconic Black Writers conferences and Pan African diaspora movements of the 1900s, this summons to raise a new intellectual standard wasn’t triggered by cataclysmic changes attendant to world wars and disintegrating colonial empires.
Rather, an eight-second cell phone video capturing the execution of George Floyd in May, propelled more than twenty-one million Black-led protesters into the streets over the next month. The reverberations and aftershocks are still being felt today.
Defying tear gas, water cannons, bullets, riot police, armored military vehicles, and a global pandemic, the ubiquitous Black Lives Matter-inspired protests dominated the political battlespace on six continents--affirming Black humanity and demanding a terminus to the global war on Black flesh.
Even as the hot and tempestuous “Days of Reckoning” in June gave way to the temperate chill of autumn, indigenous BLM Aboriginal activists clashed with police in Australia. Black-led rebellions torched American cities in Louisville, Rochester, and Kenosha. In October, Nigeria’s youth-led #EndSARS movement erupted into the biggest protests against the comprehensive corruption of Nigeria’s carceral state in history. Sub-Saharan Africa’s leading economic power now totters on the precipice of a governing crisis.
Still, the largest and most sustained international protests in human history does not a Black diaspora movement make. We are therefore presented with a somewhat profound question; What is the larger meaning of this unprecedented, Black-led global revolt?
How to analyze this seismic shift that disrupted the diaspora’s equilibrium, is a matter that agitated the minds of New Black Nationalists, among others. On reflection, we determined that five new developments have substantially altered the molecular structure of the African Diaspora, thereby necessitating a break with certain orthodoxies dominating contemporary diasporic thought.
Taken as an interlocking whole, the following constitutive elements have created a new compound that is inchoate in its formative stages but outlines the architecture of a dissenting strain of new diasporic thought:
1) The unprecedented surge of grassroots, Black-led protests engulfing every continent has produced a wealth of variation in modes of resistance and culturally particularistic responses to how Black people are subjugated as the “Other” in any given country or region.
2) The impactful leadership and broad-based participation of Black women, feminists, and LGBTQ communities is enlarging the diaspora’s discourse and political bandwidth through its advocacy of new issues and more inclusive thinking.
3) The historic levels of participation and support of white and other non-Black supporters and sympathizers has exponentially scaled up the reach and influence of the global Black resistance movement.
4) An accelerated “Black Pacific” push for independence in West Papua from Indonesia, and the sovereignty movement of First Nation Aboriginals of Australia and the Torres Straits is expanding the geo-political space of the Black diaspora.
5) A broad historical reckoning—in symbol and substance--with the racist legacy of imperialism and colonialism is bleeding into the non-Black mainstream of Western societies and injecting oxygen to increasingly radical Global South decolonizing movements.
The planetary revolts that metastasized under Black Lives Matter’s banner weren’t initiated by national leaders, heads of state, Black intellectuals, heteronormative men, hierarchal organizations or even Black Lives Matter chapters. It was a spontaneous, essentially leaderless surge ignited by the broad masses that stands without parallel in the pantheon of Black diasporic history. New Black Nationalists characterized this phenomenon as Black Lives Matter 2.0.
The five new threads coursing through the insurgency were embedded in subjective factors: namely the consciousness, composition, and actions of the protesters. Thus, the argument for a new Black Diaspora movement is anchored in the reality that a new generation of Black millennials are leading a new global multi-racial movement, with a new combative resistance agenda. This constitutes a foundation to build a New Black Diaspora Movement.
At the root of this new consciousness, was the visceral reaction to George Floyd’s execution. It conjured an almost mystical sense of revulsion and outrage that quickly crystalized in a collective diasporic moment. The realization that irrespective of station, wealth, class, country or national identity, Black and Brown flesh is wholly expendable provoked outrage and action heretofore not previously seen.
Understanding that by its very existence, Black people and "Blackness" pose a hostile, subversive, and existential threat to Western imperialists and their neo-colonial international system, these revolts directly targeted the instruments, edifices and symbols of the international imperial system. Police stations, army barracks, courthouses, prisons, embassies, flags, and statues all came under assault.
Cognizant that the design of gratuitous violence visited on Black flesh was intended to instill terror and submission, protests in some cities and countries were sustained for weeks and even months. In Louisville, site of the brutal assassination of Breonna Taylor, the resistance against riot police and the national guard continued for more than 120 straight days, culminating with armed clashes in the streets and the shooting of two Louisville police officers.
On a global scale, the Black diaspora resistance not only stood up to affirm its own humanity and “Blackness”, they looked the enemy in the eye and refused to be intimidated. In doing so the diaspora created a common psychological moment—a spiritual bonding that provides a new inflection point with the capacity to sustain our forward momentum. The October #EndSARS revolt in Nigeria validates the potential sustainability of this incipient movement.
New Black Nationalists are not suggesting that this current strand of common consciousness or this "common psychological moment" is permanent. We are saying that it is real. It is epiphenomenal. It has assumed a material force that is impacting the actions and responses of Black people across the planet in resisting anti-Black state-sponsored violence. And it can be built upon and grow. Today’s common psychological moment can also whither on the vine. But given the changing composition of the Black diaspora’s conscious element and its allies, there is a stronger argument to be made that this movement can be catapulted forward.
At the center of the Black Diaspora resistance were countless Black women, feminists, and LGBTQ activists playing leadership roles and engaging in mass participation. Were this not the case, this global uprising could never develop beyond an episodic moment, ultimately doomed to fail as a heteropatriarchal bound enterprise, attempting to liberate one half or less of the diaspora.
The leading role played by Black women, feminists, and LGBTQ activists is consistent with the tradition established by Black Lives Matter founders in 2013: two self-identifying Black queer women and a black feminist. That tradition has inspired thousands of women successors from Brazil’s favela’s to the Australian outback, and provides a new Black Diaspora movement with an indispensable element to its future success.
In Bristol, U.K., Jen Reid scaled the plinth of British slave trader Edward Colston’s toppled statue. Her likeness as a statue temporarily replaced Colston’s in Bristol Square. In Oxford, BLM supporter Sasha Johnson, rocked the nation with her call for a Black militia and independent Black political party. Koteka Wenda emerged as a student leader and spokesperson for West Papua independence. In France, Assa Traore, a mother and teacher led two demonstrations of 20,000 people in Paris, seeking justice for her murdered brother Adama. She not only became a national force challenging the French justice system, but the leading voice of Black and Arab men abused by the French state.
The massive worldwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder were also marked by the unprecedented support of millions of whites in Australia, Europe, and the United States. For the first time in history, even in cities with nominal Black populations, Black Lives Matter protests occurred.
That so many whites outside of the traditional left-socialist Euro millilux, overcame their ambivalence and reluctance to accept the reality of institutionalized racism and the systemic state-sanctioned violence directed against Black people. marks a major breakthrough. European and Oceana nations that engaged in slave trading and colonial ventures in Africa, South America and Asia have invested billions in intellectual and political capital to illicit the support and complicity of their white natives in the “civilizing missions” of what they deemed "third world savages."
Unlike America's settler state, with the exception of the U.K., Europe has virtually no ethnic studies departments or curricula. Why would the French academy accommodate ethnic studies when all Blacks from former French Caribbean and African colonies are officially recognized as “Frenchmen,” and the concept of “race” does not exist? Former French colonies in the Caribbean still maintain official "Department" status in the French Empire, just as former British Caribbean colonies are still part of the commonwealth, and recognize Queen Elizabeth as head of state.
Similarly, in Europe, transgressions against an immigrant of color are merely regarded as the “bad behavior” of an individual, not structural or racist acts consistent with the historic white supremist legacy of the nation.
As millions of whites honored the work, authenticity, and general political thrust advanced by the Black Lives Matter movement, New Black Nationalists believe the Black-led 2.0 resistance now leads a global multi-racial, multi-ethic social justice movement invested with moral authority. How to sustain and expand this new multi-racial alliance is the challenge for a new diasporic movement.
The forceful emergence of West Papua’s independence movement from Indonesia, and Australia’s First Nation Aboriginals sovereignty movement signals the Black Pacific’s rise as the new revolutionary front of an African diaspora movement long dominated by Black Atlanticism. Those days are over.
West Papua’s fight for independence is a diplomatic and armed liberation struggle against Indonesian colonization. The U.S. and Indonesia are plundering the world’s largest gold mine in West Papua, its timber and palm trees, and destroying the ecological balance of the island’s tropical rainforest. By pillaging the land and displacing indigenous West Papuans with Indonesians and Javanese natives, we are witnessing a “rolling genocide.”
One-hundred thousand years ago, Black people walked out of East Africa’s Rift Valley, on an historic trek that for some ended in New Guinea (renamed Papua and West Papua). Others continued 200 miles further to Australia then connected by a land bridge.
Sixty-thousand years later, those African Rift Valley descendants reside in West Papua. Some still live in its tropical rainforests as “uncontacted” people. They are among the oldest tribes on the planet surviving with their ancient culture and customs in splendid isolation. They should be a treasure to the world, and especially to the African diaspora. But are they?
The plight of the Black Pacific’s indigenous people poses challenging questions about what kind of new Black diasporic movement we envision building. In supporting self-determination for West Papua, are we also fully supportive of its “uncontacted” indigenous tribes maintaining what some might call their “primitive” lifestyle--free from induced westernization and our notions of progress?
In embracing their cause, how eager would we be to discover and benefit from the knowledge of their ancient technologies concerning work, science, medicine, and diet? Where, on our diasporic timeline of progress that is probing the celestial frontiers of Afrofuturist digital space, would we locate these Melanesian societies? By taking the proverbial step “backward” to discern the mysteries of their ancient cultures, would we in fact be moving forward in another dimension of space-time?
What is involved here theoretically and philosophically is something more complicated than mechanically applying concepts of “return” to Africa or charting linear progress narratives based on Black Atlanticist notions of “Middle Passage” epistemologies. The problematic involves our interpretation of the Black diasporic “cosmos” at any given point in time. It also means grasping the intersection of these epiphenomenal moments with our understanding of diasporic difference that possesses an "intimidating array of historical, cultural, national, ethnic, religious and ancestral origins,” according to Professor Michelle Wright.
Those differences were in full play during the “Days of Reckoning,” as Black communities began correcting and rewriting the white supremist and racist legacy of imperialism and colonialism in their corners of the world. Renaming streets, tearing down statues, correcting historical accounts and desecrating venerated imperial spaces was part of the spade work of the Black diaspora insurgency.
But to tear down that which is deserving of destruction is one thing: rebuilding and reconstructing an alternative Black diaspora that vibrates to a new cosmic rhythm is quite another. That will require the constant energy and commitment of a new set of social actors.
It is the contention of the stateless maroons of the New Black Nationalist movement that these new social actors have risen in the course of the BLM 2.0 diasporic insurgency.
As outlined here, an ascending alternative Black diaspora movement now possesses the rudiments of a new consciousness and common psychological moment; it’s ranks are composed of new Black millennials, women, feminists, and LGBTQ activists; it has acquired substantial new allies among U.S., European, and Oceana whites; and the rise of new revolutionary forces in the Black Pacific has expanded the Black diaspora’s geo-political space to six continents.
In “The Arguments For a New Black Diaspora Movement” Paper No. 2, we will explore the changing dynamics of the international situation that are creating favorable circumstances for the Black Diaspora to make significant advances and win victories in the decade of the 2020s.