On the Term ‘New Afrikan’
In our writing and agitational propaganda on the Black liberation struggle in the ameriKKKan empire, Black revolutionary nationalists and communists often refer to a certain ‘New Afrika’ or refer to ourselves as ‘New Afrikan.’ As a Black nationalist and communist here in Georgia struggling for the liberation of our people, I am no exception to this rule. This causes many questions to arise, however. Why do we refer to ourselves as ‘New Afrikans?’ What is New Afrika, and what is its significance to the liberation struggle here in Georgia? It is these questions that I will answer below, using Marxism-Leninism-Maoism- the science of revolution- and the Black revolutionary tradition as my guide, in an effort to promote consciousness of the meaning and significance of these concepts in our struggle for liberation both locally and nationwide.
To put it simply, New Afrika is the name we use to refer to the nation of people descended from slaves kidnapped from Afrika to serve the parasitic U.S. settler empire. Those unfamiliar with the concept of New Afrika may wonder: “How can there be a New Afrikan nation if New Afrika is not an independent country with its own government?”, “Why is the nation called New Afrika?” or ”Does this nation have territory to call its own?”. These are relatively common, but very important questions- and by answering them here, I hope to shed some light on the fundamental nature of the oppression of our people.
The answer to the first question requires the scientific definition of the term ‘nation’ used by Maoists and revolutionary nationalists alike. In this quote from his essay, Study and Struggle: an Overstanding, the late New Afrikan communist and revolutionary nationalist Sanyika Shakur (formally known as the notorious Crip Monster Kody), clarified the definition of the term nation in the following manner: “Now, a ‘nation’ here is not to be confused with a State or government. A nation is a cultural/custom/linguistic social development that is consolidated and evolves on a particular land mass and shares a definite collective awareness of itself.”
From Sanyika Shakur’s definition of nation alone, it should already be clear that there is a difference between a state or government and a nation, and that a nation can exist independently of its own state or government. With that said, the question remains: “Does New Afrika constitute a nation?” Maxist-Leninist-Maoists use a set of criteria to scientifically define a nation, forged in the struggles of countless oppressed nations around the globe. Those criteria define nations as having:
- A stable community of people
- A common language
- A national territory
- A distinct economic life
- A psychological make-up manifested in a common culture
Going by the criteria for nationhood provided by Shakur and supplementing those criteria with the scientific definition used by Maoists, we can be certain that New Afrika constitutes a nation for the following reasons. New Afrikan people definitely have a distinct culture, which includes culturally relevant foods such as chitterlings, culturally relevant music such as spirituals and rap, culturally relevant literature such as The Invisible Man or Roots and so on. New Afrikan people definitely have distinct customs, such as jumping the broom at wedding ceremonies, establishing kinship relations by bestowing the titles of uncle, aunt, etc., unto people incorporated into New Afrikan families despite lacking blood relation to said families, celebrating holidays such as Junteenth or Kwanzaa, and many more. Finally, New Afrikans possess specific linguistic distinctions that set us apart from other nations within U.S. borders, which range from our common usage of dialects like ebonics, to the existence of languages unique to New Afrikans such as the Gullah language spoken by the Geechee-Gullah people of Georgia’s low country. New Afrikans definitely have a distinct economic life, as a great many New Afrikans reside in racially homogenous communities in which destitution is rampant, poverty is cyclical, and work is hard to find. Our people live all over ameriKKKa, but the largest concentrations of New Afrikan people exist in the “Black Belt,” so the New Afrikan Independence Movement has traditionally considered the five states, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina to be our national territory. For an explanation of New Afrikan people’s development of a collective self-awareness and psychological makeup, the following quote from comrade Sanyika’s essay On Correct Terminology and Spellings is most appropriate. He wrote: “By dint of brutal transport and collusion We were brought together under conditions less than human and barely tolerable. By our own internal dynamics and self-motion, We essentially combined in these conditions to become a new people. No longer Ibo, Fulani, Ewe, Fante, or Yoruba–but Afrikan still. Our cultures weren’t so much destroyed as they were transformed. We survived and remade ourselves on the residue of self-consciousness / self motion.”
The evidence provided in the preceding paragraphs, makes it overwhelmingly clear that New Afrika is, in fact, a nation that was born in captivity, with a wide variety of unique peculiarities forged in the fires of struggle and hardship. Therefore, New Afrika, despite being a distinct nation, is not a free nation. This fact is key to uncovering the true nature of the oppression of our people.
Put simply, the New Afrikan nation is a victim of U.S. settler colonialism. Colonialism is perhaps best defined in the following quote from the book Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth by the late New Afrikan communist and revolutionary nationalist, James Yaki Sayles: “Colonialism is a comprehensive system, operating on all social levels (economic, political, cultural), and is not a mere expression of military aggression, i.e., “violence” in physical forms. In most cases, colonial violence in armed/physical forms is preceded by unarmed and nonphysical forms of aggression, in the guise of traders, academics, missionaries-who seek not only to lay hold of the land and labor of the peoples, but also to lay hold of their minds, their customs, and their languages. These violent actions suppress, distort, injure, frustrate, infringe, profane and unduly alter the targeted peoples and their social orders, and cripple the people’s ability to resist and to regain their independence!”
Comrade Sayles rightly understood the condition of the New Afrikan nation to be that of a nation oppressed by colonialism. The New Afrikan nation is one of a multiplicity of nations imprisoned within the ameriKKKan settler-colonial empire, which once enslaved the New Afrikan people, and is now doing its very best to completely obliterate them as well as every aspect of the nation they form. In the following quote from his essay, War for the Cities, James Yaki Sayles backs up his claim that the New Afrikan people are colonized through a detailed description of the forms of colonial aggression- which he describes as a form of genocide- carried out against New Afrika by the white oppressor nation. The quote reads: “The physical brutality which maims us, the psychological injuries which numb us, push us towards forms of escaping reality, and which drive us in increasing numbers to suicide-all these are symptoms of our economic oppression, our social and cultural oppression. And it’s genocide.
Our every condition of life is a manifestation of the genocide being practiced against us. The ‘mis-education’ of our children, the bad housing and food, short life expectancy, unemployment, lack of adequate medical facilities in our communities, the instability of our families, high mortality rates for our mothers and infants-all these and more constitute genocide.
(…) So when we talk about freedom and national liberation, we’re talking about ending genocide.”
In his writing quoted above, Sayles in essence reveals the reason why New Afrika is not free, and radically asserts the necessity of the national liberation of New Afrika through the defeat of the U.S. settler empire, which seeks to totally destroy New Afrikan people and our nation through means of genocide. This necessity is encapsulated in the slogan of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, “Free the Land!”
New Afrikans often refer to ourselves as Black people or African-Americans, however, the social and historical context in which these terms have developed, as well as the implicit and explicit meanings of these terms that stem from the conditions under which they developed, has led many participants in the New Afrikan national liberation struggle to abandon them entirely. In this quote from his essay, Study and Struggle: an Overstanding, Shakur explained how those terms have developed into tools of the White ameriKKKan oppressor nation in the following manner: “Those who are calling themselves ‘African-Americans’ are really doing so for two reasons. First, of course, there is an implicit overstanding that runs thoroughly through the New Afrikan nation that We are not really amerikkkans. That we are in fact a people/nation unto ourselves. This used to be widely overstood with little notion of anything to the contrary. Neo-colonialism has worked obsessively to change this awareness. The rapid de-colonization (“de-segregation”) of the nation, beginning in the late 1950s, ushered in a new (neo) more thorough and, dare i say, revolutionary, form of control and exploitation: neo-colonialism. ‘Blacks’ took over from ‘negroes’ to lead the masses into an integrated lockstep with capitalism, while they (the misleaders) were awarded nominal posts in local and regional government. Because the bourgeois media postulated these class enemies as being ‘successful’ in a new and improved amerikkka, it fostered an image (crafted by Madison Avenue) that anybody could make it. ‘Now that segregation is over, you can grow up to be anything you want.’ Except free of course.”
Shakur is correct in his argument that the term African-Americans includes in itself a distinction between people of African descent within U.S. borders, and people descended from European-ameriKKKan settlers and is therefore an explicit recognition that the former is distinct from the latter, tied to an integrationist rejection of that distinction. He is also correct in his argument that while New Afrikan nationalists initially succeeded in supplanting the word Negro- a name forced on New Afrikan people by the White nation- with the term Black, that term too eventually became a tool of the white-supremacist ameriKKKan empire, as it is a word that primarily denotes skin color, which left it open to co-optation by misleaders of the New Afrikan community who primarily served, and were essentially appointed by, the White supremacist U.S. empire. A good local example of a misleader of this variety is the Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who, despite being a Black woman in charge of a majority Black city, allows the murder of our people by the city pigs to go unchecked. She does not see people like Jimmy Atchison or Rayshard Brooks as her Black brothers, in fact, she constantly stands in the way of justice for them, siding with White supremacist ameriKKKa against people that look like her. The saying “every brother ain’t a brother” reveals the issue with the term ‘Black’ perfectly, as it essentially means, everyone with Black skin does not necessarily have the interests of our people at heart.
Those of us who choose to refer to ourselves as New Afrikan do not expect the term to immediately replace the terms ‘African-American’ and ‘Black’ in the popular lexicon. Personally, I use ‘New Afrikan’ interchangeably with the term ‘Black,’ for the sake of convenience, despite acknowledging the superiority of the former. However, New Afrikan revolutionaries, myself included, do often take care to use this term in official documents or writing related to the movement. Doing this helps to popularize the term and distinguishes our support for revolutionary nationalism and the national liberation of our people from ethno-nationalism or bourgeois racialism. Using the term also helps us draw a clear line of demarcation between our people and misleaders that look just like us, and it also helps us ensure that the national question is always kept at the center of our analysis of all matters regarding people of African descent within U.S. borders.
Any kind of revolutionary analysis of the conditions of our people in Georgia must also center the New Afrikan national question. Georgia has historically been home to some of the most reactionary manifestations of colonial oppression of New Afrikans, which included but were not limited to segregation and Jim Crow laws. Georgia is also one of the states that once had an economy that relied on the forced labor of New Afrikan slaves. Today, the colonial oppression of New Afrikans in Georgia persists, albeit in a new form. White-chauvinist racism, the ideological component of colonialism, is dominant throughout the U.S., and it is especially strong here in Georgia, where the flag of the Confederate slave regime is proudly flown, and the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan (Stone Mountain) is the sight of an annual laser light show. New Afrikans make up the largest population group in Atlanta, and the city is often referred to by the New Afrikan comprador bourgeoisie as a “Black Mecca” where New Afrikans can attain wealth and power. This could not be further from the truth. The streets are lined with New Afrikan houseless people, police harass and murder our brethren, laws are put in place to disenfranchise us, gentrification destroys our communities, and large swathes of the New Afrikan population are locked behind bars, where we are treated worse than animals. Atlanta is less of a “Black Mecca” and more of a New Afrikan prison- ironically built by New Afrikans ourselves- just like the rest of Georgia.
The oppression faced by New Afrikans in Georgia and elsewhere is severe, but as the Chinese communist and anti-colonial revolutionary Mao Zedong said, “where there is oppression, there is resistance.” This is a statement that has been proven correct in the history of the New Afrikan liberation struggle. For example, last year in Atlanta, New Afrikans resisted oppression through uprisings in response to the murder of our people by police and White racists, mass protests filled the streets, and New Afrikan people even took up arms in self-defense in some cases, such as the defense of the Rayshard Brooks Peace Center by armed members of our communities. Now, New Afrikan people are getting organized into various formations, such as Community Movement Builders and countless others, to engage in the struggle for self-determination. It seems as if more and more people are coming to understand that we are a distinct people who deserve to be able to determine our own destinies. It is becoming more and more clear that ameriKKKa does not accept us- it is at war with us. We must collectively realize, as Malcolm did, that “we didn’t land on Plymouth rock, Plymouth rock landed on us.” We are not African-ameriKKKans, we are New Afrikans. We will fight till the bitter end for the liberation of our entire nation, and we will not integrate into a burning house!