She asked me,
What is this thing called Pan-Africanism?
Who is Pan-Africanism?
Is he/she/it still alive?

I didn’t have the answers for her.
In fact, I had more questions.

Was it a he/she/it?
Was it a baby waiting to be nurtured?
An elder who’d passed on without passing anything on?
Had it left behind any heirs to take up what it had started?

I didn’t know because all the seats
Where such conversations took place seemed
(Pre)occupied by men of another generation
They told me what they thought I should know
The rest, apparently didn’t concern me

But I was having trouble digesting what I’d been fed
I wanted to live Pan-Africanism
Breathe it, grow it, build it, share it
So that I may know it as intimately as they seemed to

Is it the United States of Africa?
Seamless borders
One people?

Is it that pain in my right
That I feel as strongly in my left?
Is it her hunger that gnaws equally at me?
His thirst that I can’t seem to quench for myself?
Is it blood beyond kin?
Is it where I dry the tears you cry?

Is it decisions made that transcend time and space?

Is it evolution or revolution?
Freedom or regulation?
A struggle or a celebration?

Is it Lumumba, Selassie, Fanon or Sankara?
Or Cisse, Mongella, Neto, the female Mandela’s, Machel’s, Nkrumah’s?
Often forgotten, without whom the sky would’ve fallen

Is it anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment?
Authoritarian or totalitarian?
My way or no way?
Or there is no one way but let’s discover what is way?

Is it truth?

Is it a place where none is too good for the other?
Or a place where we’re too busy being better?

Where your fears become mine
As do your sorrows
So we fight them together

Where the tears cried or withheld
By the river in the South ail me in the North
Because our veins through which it runs are inseparable
And so are our dreams
Our aspirations
And our deepest hopes

Where the death and demise
Of one is that of all
As is victory

Where the sum of all is the sum of one

What are the qualifications?
Is there a cut off age/bracket?
Is it a reserve for the literati?

Must one speak African?
Converse in Afro-speak?
Be blessed with a particular accent?
Is it a matter of attire—
“Where are your African clothes!?”
A hairdo or a hairdid?
A birthrite or a birthplace?

Is it a theory, an ideal?
A panacea, a place to aspire to?

Is it a was, is, or will be?

Is it even an ism?

©copyright, Nebila Abdulmelik, May 2013


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Deborah
    May 21, 2013 @ 11:51:08

    You always inspire me Nebu. Your words are so fluid and poignant i. It unmasks and brings into question the many layers of PanAfricanism. its really hard to define, but for me, its a relationship, an innate feeling and need to bring the continent and the diaspora together. in fact, it is also a duty.


    • Nebila Abdulmelik
      May 21, 2013 @ 13:07:50

      Humbled mama. And I think that’s the point – that Pan-Africanism is all those things, or maybe not. That it’s not one thing – we need to also allow it to grow – and breathe, and adapt to changing circumstances.


  2. Chongo Mwila
    May 22, 2013 @ 18:41:17

    Fire! Fantastic words and a wonderful representation of what many of our generation are thinking


  3. Nyaradzayi
    May 22, 2013 @ 19:59:48



    May 23, 2013 @ 09:57:22

    Reblogged this on FEMNET.


  5. Trackback: Pan-Africanism & the Women’s Movement | FEMNET

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