Ndaba: ‘A great sitting-down’ (FCN News, 08/09/2003)
(FinalCall.com) – Preparations are underway in Jackson, Mississippi, for the second ndaba, or “great sitting down” on reparations set for October 4. A mass rally and town hall meeting at the auditorium of Jackson State University are in the works to culminate the day’s summit of leaders as a follow-up to the meeting held in Chicago, Illinois that was convened by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and called for by Dr. Conrad Worrill, the national chairman of the National Black United Front.
“When we have this second ndaba and these experts, historians, researchers, lawyers, youth and religious figures assembled here to give the diversity of work that has been done in the area of reparations movement, we expect to close that chapter of ignorance that exists in the minds of too many of people,” Baba Hannibal Afrik, the host of the summit and rally, told The Final Call. “We will move towards a new day of enlightenment, because the evidence is clear. Every area of research that has been done documents the crime against humanity that’s been committed against us. So, we are delighted to have an opportunity to be the host.”
A leading elder in the nationalist community, Baba Afrik moved to Mississippi in October 1999 to study rural community development. He is a citizen and active supporter of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), which started in 1968 by a group of nationalists who were determined to build a sovereign state in the Southern Black Belt area of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
“This desire for independence, as a nationalist, we talk about ‘it’s Nation time’ but we don’t really have the evidence to show our people where our Nation is,” the elder said. “We are following the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam of working for nationhood and independence, and the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his movement to help develop the consciousness and the commitment to do for self and to build institutions.”
Coming from a northern, urban environment down to a semi-rural area with five acres of land, the elder activist said the transition has been challenging but essential.
“Now that I’m down here, I understand a little bit better why our people have not responded,” he explained. “One, it’s ignorance and second, it’s fear. Our people really have not studied and learned African culture and history; it’s not taught in the schools.
Parents feel that they need to shelter their children from that knowledge, because it might cause them to become proactive. They want to get the horrors of the past out of their mind and move forward, but the realities keep coming back.”
He continued, “It’s no New South; it’s the Old South, just repackaged. What we have is the illusion of progress, because we have more visibility and we have seemingly more access to opportunity.”
A case in point is the level of ignorance about one of the most brutal murders that fuelled the civil rights movement: that of Emmett Till in 1955. As a result, the local reparations committee has been busy in the last six months focusing on his murder “to activate the consciousness” of Black people in the state.
Through a postcard writing campaign, the group is urging the state’s attorney general to re-open the investigation. Their grassroots organizing also involves town hall meetings, educating the community through the churches, and speaking to students on college campuses.
However, Baba Afrik’s work with the small cadre of citizens of the RNA has been most stimulating. “It’s been very inspiring to know that there is a potential, as the Nation of Islam has always demonstrated, in the work of agriculture, we can achieve independence if we work at it,” he shared. “I’m an elder and I’m expected to give guidance and support, but I’m also trying to learn about doing. It’s not a case of reading about it and talking to people about it. You have to get your feet in the mud and your hands dirty and learn how to build a nation from the ground up.”
The RNA runs an annual summer camp for youth where academics, political education and survival training are taught for one week in Alabama. Adult political education classes are also provided for the community. Another project the group is developing is a cooperative investment association, which pools their resources for the goal of opening up a credit union or bank. The RNA is involved with regional and local politics as well as offering community safety and security training.
All of his experience in organizing within the reparations since the 1950s has taught Baba Afrik one invaluable lesson that he sincerely works to translate in his efforts: “The reparations movement is so critical. This is not a welfare gift; this is an obligation by international law, by every semblance of morality and ethics,” he states passionately.
“We’ll never heal ourselves until we purge from our memory the fear that was instilled in us. That fear was insidious. The making of a slave, that process was so dehumanizing that it has become inter-generational. That’s why we need spiritual surgeons to awaken us and force us to deal with the reality of what it means to be a whole people, a self-determining people.”