African Diaspora Leaders Roundtable Part II Event Recap
Sep 07, 2020 12:10PM
By Nana Ama Addo
On Friday, September 4th, 2020, FunTimes hosted its biweekly FunTimes Friday event. The theme of this event was ‘African Diaspora Leaders Roundtable Part II,’ and continued a conversation about strategies to build and strengthen connections between the African Diaspora. The host, Jennifer Toland, and panelists Michael Days (Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at the Philadelphia Inquirer), Dr. Rónké Òké (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at West Chester University) and Mikhael Simmonds (Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager/ Multimedia Lead of Solutions at Solutions Journalism) led an intriguing discussion on Black Antagonism, bridging gaps between African Diasporan cultures and transformation through utilizing grassroot tactics.
At the end of African Diaspora Leaders Roundtable Part I, Dr. Òké introduced the concept of ‘Black Antagonism’ as a lens to approach problem solving within the African Diaspora. During Part II, she defined the concept:
“Black Antagonism is a response to universal calls for an end to racism and anti Black racism by focusing on white supremacy…Rather than try to dismantle white supremacy, the inherent obstacle to anything akin to Black liberation, if that is even possible, is not to overcome white supremacy, but an inherent anti-Blackness. It has far reaching appeal and implications that don’t necessarily resuscitate the effects of White supremacy. The hatred of Blackness is at its core... We need to stop centering Whiteness, and if we center Blackness, other tensions and dimensions emerge.”
She encourages the audience to consider the role of the African American experience in the Black Panther film through a Black Antagonist lens, and question why the White man was brought back to life when he died, but when Killmonger (the African American villain) died, he was not.
In light of this, Mikhael encouraged audiences to view media representation, and other subjects, using or acknowledging multidimensional perspectives. He mentioned an Asian American writer’s sentiment that “When you have a lack of representation in any space, anything that comes up, in this case, Black Panther, will have all of the pressure put onto it.”
Jennifer and the panelists discussed the tensions that arise between different groups of the Diaspora, when in some instances, African Americans were the antagonists of discrimination and anti-Blackness.”
Dr. Òké recalled her experience facing backlash for being Nigerian: “I remember when it was very problematic and derogatory to be African.” She also says that she has noticed progress with this form of anti Blackness, but acknowledged that her cousins are still called ‘African Bootyscratcher’ in school, as Òké was during her schooling experience.
Days, who is of the historic Gullah, said he was mocked while growing up with African Americans in North Philly because the Gullah speech pattern has a Jamaican like Patois accent. He described how technology has brought today’s communities of the Diaspora together:
“Technology is bringing Black folks closer together, in terms of our music and understanding of each other. We aren’t as foreign than we were before.”
Still, as Days reminded us, Eurocentrism is a reality for people of the Diaspora, in intimate and professional settings. Days said he received colorist comments about his wife’s light skin and notices skin lightening is a conversation within his church. In protest, he had special advice for Changemakers of the Diaspora to find liberation: “We have to begin to free ourselves, and what White people think of us, we have to let it go.”
Mikhael illustrated the impact of European standards on Black women in the media: “Black women had to straighten their hair for a long time to be on camera. It is now that more Black women are embracing their hair as news reporters.” Regarding the intertwinedness of religion, Eurocentrism and Anti Blackness, Mikhael says: “We can look at Christianity versus an African religion. What are you moving towards and what are you moving away from?...This brings us to the question of ‘Who controls the idea of being Black?’ ”
In terms of travel destinations, Dr. Òké said people of the African diaspora with pro Black agendas often choose to vacation or visit European countries instead of African Diasporan dominated islands or countries, fueling anti-Blackness ideals in the process.
Days encouraged people of the Diaspora to visit Africa if they have not already, noting it as a life changing and grounding experience: “I don’t think we as Black people understand ourselves until we’ve been in Africa. You need to just go and be in Africa and experience it..you see people who are your cousins, who are your aunts...It is very important emotionally and psychologically to have that relationship with the motherland.”
To affect change, Dr. Òké encouraged communities to support local Black communities, like the Buy Black Movement.
Mikhael campaigned for communities to grow using “Education at the community level, truth and reconciliation and an embrace of Black diversity.”
He added that the exchange of West African, Central American and Caribbean music has connected people of the Diaspora by catalyzing a self-guided education journey.
Days reminded us of the power of now and strength in numbers. He strongly encourages communities to harness their strength and use it for the collective good, especially in light of the ongoing elections: “We have to understand our power as Black people, especially in this country. Black Women are an important part of the electoral system. We have to make sure that the people in power represent our issues.”
What is your opinion on Black Antagonism and evoking change in your own communities? Send us an email at [email protected], we love to hear from you!