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?
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
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