Africans should be natural participants of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. However, Africans have generally been excluded from the narrative in part because they are not viewed as a core part of the ‘Black’ community in the USA. There are social barriers between Africans and Black Americans – a distinction between people from Africa and the descendants of African slaves. As a result, Black Americans are typically associated with the BLM movement, whereas Africans are not to the same extent.
The Black Lives Matter movement must include Africans as part of its narrative, to increase awareness that Africans are an important part of the group that is the subject of discrimination. Law enforcement for the most part does not see the difference and the people who are discriminating are not making a distinction between Black Americans and Africans. We can enhance the BLM debate by telling the authentic African story in stark contrast to prevalent stories of crime/terrorism, corruption, electoral crises and poverty and highlighting the need for African Lives to be included in the BLM movement.
Even more pernicious is that Africans in their own countries have suffered in a way that would suggest that their lives don’t matter. The effect of colonialism on borders and regional instability is still felt to this day in several African countries. Consequently, Africans can make a meaningful contribution to the debate about the importance of black lives. African platforms and movements in conjunction with the BLM movement, will be natural leaders of the effort to promote the notion of black lives matter within the continent and make it known that Africans identify with Black Americans, Black Caribbeans and anyone of African descent.
We need more of the show of love demonstrated during the death of George Floyd and bold acclamations issued by the likes of the President of Ghana. We need to stand in solidarity to change the entire narrative. There is a deep connection between the continent and Black Americans. A recent example of this commonality is the selection of Sir David Adjaye, a Ghanaian, to design the National African American Museum. Many Black Americans would be surprised to know an African designed that museum because Black Americans and Americans in general tend not to identify with Africans in terms of their experiences, culture and successes. The African narrative has been overwhelmingly negative. But here is an African man who was selected to design the most symbolic structures of black lives in America today.
We cannot talk about black lives mater without going back to the root of black lives, which is Africa and connecting these two in a way that would be powerful. Africans being able to relate to the suffering of Black Americans is a point of unity between the groups. Let’s capitalize on what unifies us to overcome. For a black life is an African life.