Kendrick Lamar's Grammy Performance Points to a Simple Truth, #Black Lives Matter When Africa Matters

By Faraji, Salim | The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online), April 2016 | Go to article overview

Kendrick Lamar's Grammy Performance Points to a Simple Truth, #Black Lives Matter When Africa Matters


Faraji, Salim, The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)


In January 2006 while flying on an 11 hour flight from Accra, Ghana to Washington Dulles airport I sat looking out of the window as we approached the landing strip, both excited and exhausted from my three week sojourn in a country that many consider the gateway to West Africa. I remarked to the Ghanaian woman (an Ewe) I had sat next to during my air travel that it felt so good to be back "home." She retorted, "This is not your home-Nigeria, Ghana, Mali maybe, they are your home." I began to laugh, and of course I agreed with her. I did not need to be convinced or persuaded. I had simply spoken out of travel fatigue. Yet she continued with her gentle reprimand, "The United States is a good place to pursue an education or establish an economic base, but Africa is your birthplace, your home; although African Americans have been over 400 years removed from the continent of Africa the heritage, history and culture is still yours." She posed the question, why is it that Blacks have built up America yet continue to be abused, maligned, discriminated against and maltreated? She said to me finally, "You don't have to accept that return to Africa and develop your homeland." The counsel of this Ghanaian woman was not only instructional for my own personal interests, but also prescriptive for a new generation of insurgent, grassroots, organically devised, millennial led, indigenous Black freedom fighters on the streets of Ferguson, Baltimore and New York as well as the university campuses of Mizzou, Yale, Occidental and Howard among others. In fact today as I engage in transnational, Pan Africanist leadership between Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana I am even more convinced that the struggle for the dignity of African humanity in the United States transcends the quest for racial equality-and is more precisely a battle for the assertion of African power, sovereignty and the right to be self-determining, self-defining and self-building in the world.

The #Black Lives Matter movement emerged in response to a series of violent police assaults that have killed countless unarmed African Americans around the country, including Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson and more recently Laquan McDonald. These criminal acts by police against their own citizenry have been exacerbated by the failure of the justice system to convict or in many cases even investigate the perpetrators which for many equates to a system of state-sanctioned police violence. Unexpectedly this racialized para-military force has rekindled an awareness of how racism and white supremacy has embedded itself into the institutional fiber of this nation's universities-and students have responded by demanding that university administrators be held accountable for their apathetic and complicit stance in reinforcing hostile campus environments for African American and Latino students.

The declaration #Black Lives Matter presents another opportunity however, that is the possibility and necessity of African-descended people in the United States, realizing that their lives matter because their ancestral continent, Africa is the most important and strategic piece of real estate on the globe. #Black Lives Matter need not reinvent the wheel of protest politics and political and social activism by reiterating a position that the Black Power movement settled over 40 years ago-not only do Black lives matter, but organized Black Power can alter this nation and transform the globe. The late Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Toure who helped shaped the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party and anti-imperial and anti-colonial resistance in Guinea, West Africa left for this generation a valuable lesson when he said the highest political expression of both Civil Rights and Black Power is Pan Africanism.

In other words #Black Lives Matter when Africa Matters. Hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar reminded a new generation of this truth-in fact his own generation of emerging activists and revolutionaries through his blistering, conscious, progressive and uncompromising Africa-centered performance at the 2016 Grammys that Africa is in Compton and Compton is in Africa and by extension wherever Black folk live in the United States we too are Africa. …

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