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Foundation of Pan-Africanism



The Concepts of Pan-Africanism

The concepts of holism, collectivism, and spiritualism are some of the basic ethos among Africans that inform their way of life. Pan Africanism has multiple principles, depending on what aspect, political, economic, ideological or religious, is under consideration. Regardless of the aspect, the African ethos plays an important role in actualizing the movement’s fundamentals. Holism influences the most basic principle of Pan Africanism, the belief that African peoples, in the continent and diaspora have shared pasts and futures or a shared destiny.

The ethos of collectivism influences the principle of freedom for Africans, seeking freedom for all peoples of African descent, not just for individuals or small groups. Further, the ethos of spiritualism affects the principle of African identity which led to the conception and actualization of churches with African-related names and entailing African cultural practices and rituals. The African ethos of holism, collectivism, and spiritualism was the foundation of Pan Africanism, informing the principles of interconnectedness, collective importance, and African identity.

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The Basic Principle of Pan-Africanism

The basic principle of the shared past, future, and destiny by all African peoples is founded on the holism ethos. This ethos is centered on the theory that all parts of a whole are intimately interconnected, in a way that they cannot be independent of the whole, or fathomed without referencing the whole. This perceived interconnectedness of all parts form the ground of the principle of the shared experiences by all Africans, regardless of their location, the African continent or the diaspora. The ethos of holism does not deny the existence of the part or individual independent of the whole but points to the connection between individuals’ experiences.

That is, to fully understand all dynamics of the experiences of individuals or small groups of African heritage, it is necessary to consider the issues affecting, and influencing all people of African heritage. With this understanding, Pan-Africanism was founded and the founders tried to intervene in the plight of other Africans, living in the African continent, because the experience of those was connected to those in the diaspora. Although the ethos of holism may seem far-fetched, it is understandable that Pan-Africanism was founded on it, since despite being in diaspora, the founders were not spared from similar woes to those affecting their fellow Africans in the African continent, domination, and lack of freedom. In this light, despite their difference in location and experiences, they were connected in the lack of sovereignty and exercise of free-will and freedom, compounding the holism belief.

Freedom for All African Peoples

In response to the plight, domination, and lack of freedom, the Pan-Africanism principle of seeking freedom for all African peoples is founded on the ethos of collectivism. Collectivism refers to the practice of according to group precedence over each individual within it. This ethos informed the pursuit of freedom for the colonized Africans in the continent and the fight for human rights for those in the diaspora. The principle to pursue freedom was not dependent on the individual’s free status, or experiences with human rights, but the experience by the majority of being colonized, enslaved and denied human rights.

Thus, the dignity of African peoples was at stake, not because every individual of African descent was oppressed but because the oppression of the oppressed among them was more important than the freedom and good experiences of the rest. In response to this belief, the Pan-Africanism founders wrote to the queen, repeatedly asking for the freeing of the African people, from the clutches of colonization. Although the founders were in the diaspora, they considered the suffering of those in the continent to be of significant importance to the well-being of the African peoples everywhere. The collectivism ethos continued to inform this Pan-Africanism principle even centuries after the founding, when Julius Nyerere, conceived the support for nations fighting for sovereignty in 1994.

Although most of the African countries, at the time, had acquired sovereignty, the collectivism ethos meant that the domination of the few took precedence and needed to be addressed by the whole. It is imperative to note that the ethos of collectivism closely relates to that of holism, and so does the principle of the fight for freedom and that of African peoples’ interconnectedness. The interconnectedness of all African peoples and their shared destinies, by default, creates the need to ensure the welfare of the whole group, regardless of one's status at the time to secure the whole group’s shared future.

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Political Aspect of Pan-Africanism

Away from the political aspect of Pan-Africanism, the principle of African identity was founded on the African ethos of spiritualism. Spiritualism is the belief that the spirits of the deceased exist and have the inclination and ability to communicate with the living. One of the most noticeable aspects of Pan-Africanism is the establishment of African-based churches, by Blacks in America in response to the segregation. One of the issues with segregation was that Blacks were not allowed to be buried in church cemeteries, and is buried there was of great importance to them.

These peoples of African descent believed in the existence of the spirits of the dead, with the ability and inclination to communicate with them. Being denied the opportunity to commune with their deceased, and the exclusion from church gave birth to the African-based churches. These churches were given African-related names, such as the Free African church. These churches did not only provide them with places of worship but allowed them to incorporate aspects of their African rituals and cultural practices in the Christian religion. The combination of rituals and Christianity gave birth to religions of African origin, in locations with heavy residents of African peoples.

These rituals were a statement and a way of staying connected to their African identity, despite the introduction to and adaptation of the new religion, Christianity. The principle of the African identity propelled many Blacks from coastal cities of America to relocate to Haiti, where they could establish spaces where they could occupy with their dead. That is, the spiritualism ethos necessitated the establishment of spaces where the living and the dead could co-exist, and establishing African communities was a start. The need to retain the believed connection between the living and the dead was the foundation of the African identity principle, which reclaimed the Blacks' connection with the spirits.

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Summary on Foundation of Pan-Africanism

The African ethos was the foundation of Pan Africanism, informing and influencing the principles on which Pan Africanism revolved. Although Pan Africanism was conceptualized to fight against the tribulations facing people of African descent, it was founded on African Ethos and belief system. The ethos that was crucial for the existence and thriving of African societies were the building blocks of Pan Africanism, an attempt to improve life and ensure African peoples’ existence, as well as retain the connection with their African roots, for those in the diaspora.

The African Ethos are interconnected, such that one ethos could inform several principles, and one principle could derive insight from several ethos. The Holism belief does not only apply to the African peoples but also to the ethos, such that the principle of shared destiny also related to the ethos of collectivism and the fight for freedom principle. Just like Pan Africanism basic principle of the interconnectedness of all African peoples, the principles of Pan Africanism are interconnected, and so are the ethos as well.

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