OPEN LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY
I am penning this letter to the Black community, well aware that I am not saying anything new here about anti-Black racism. It has been written and spoken about for centuries. It is important that such voices be reiterated at this moment in our history. I do not necessarily expect everyone in the Black community to share these views and that is not my goal. It is for those who believe in similar ideas to reflect on where we go from here and to act for concrete changes. As the old African adage goes, “it is not what one is called that is most important, but rather what one responds to”.
Black people still endure colonial violence and so we must continue to develop the power to speak and write through our pain, vulnerabilities, suffering and resistances. There are many challenges confronting us as a community. We have to deal with health, employment, education, the criminal justice system and media representation inequities. I refuse to accept that no one knows what a community means anymore. Communities are not handed down to us from the skies, instead, we create communities and we have always worked to ensure that there is a strong Black community.
Black people are only strong if we pay collective attention to all the factors affecting Black life. Although the inter- and intra-group divides and the tendency to see ourselves more through our ethnicities and nationalities is understandable at some point, we must also create avenues for us to see the Black collective in these moments. It is not enough to be of Ghanaian, Nigerian, Jamaican, or Trinidadian ancestry or heritage, etc. without understanding and upholding a connection to the Black/African commonality and humanhood. A community is only as good as we collectively work to make it, and events of the past few months can only point to the necessity and urgency for the community to come together to heal wounds and look out for each other.
If there was anyone who still believed that race and skin colour did not matter in our world, hopefully, that doubt has been put to rest. Race matters not just because we are only about race, but more so because our skin colour has been a punishment against us in a way other people’s skin colour has not. One can express love or like as a friend and still see your skin colour as a ‘problem’.
Like everyone else I am saddened, heartbroken and angry from the recent events happening in our communities, locally and globally that continue to shock the existence of Black and African people. We all know anti-Black racism is endemic, subtle and at the core of our human existence. We must never underestimate the trauma of anti-Blackness, the colonial wounds and the countless impacts on Black bodies, minds, souls and spirits.
We are experiencing a convergence of crises that call for urgent critical reflections. Some time ago, a student of mine stated: “fighting anti-Black racism is not a jacket you wear—but lifelong work and many of us have been doing it relentlessly”. Many have expanded our learning about anti-Black racism, and we know well that it is everywhere in our societal climate, environment and socio-organizational life. Anti-Blackness is not only expressed in forms of police violence, but also, systemic racism in education, and the harmful anti-Black organizational practices in the workplace, and much more. Anti-Blackness manifests tirelessly in various forms and globally. Our responses must equally be comprehensive and compelling.
We know that Black humanity is not generally valued or acknowledged. We constantly have to prove the legitimacy of our humanity. While Black potential and excellence are always in doubt, white people and other non-Black people are seen as individuals expected to do great things. White privilege does not mean a denial that white people also face hardships in life. We acknowledge white communities can experience hardships based on class, gender, sexuality, ability etc. However, white identity can be a mitigating factor to these hardships. White skin does not worsen these intersecting hardships in the way our Black skin does for us. This is a reality for Black life and any denial just adds to our pain.
Anti-Black racism is written very well in the history of slavery and colonization and it is extremely consequential. It kills the inner soul and spirit and we need to heal ourselves collectively in the process. Anti-Black racism is also about Black rage, anger, resistance and love. This is why spiritual healing and community building are inseparable from the work ahead of us.
A time like this calls for uncompromising action. The awareness of racism is global right now. Let us use this momentum to amplify and continue the work that has been done by the people before us. We must build within our communities, collective solidarity that will summon our ancestral wisdom. For sure, we will have ‘critical friends’ as genuine allies in this road ahead. But this must be the beginning of a new future: one where racial and social justice seems more and more attainable. We cannot lose hope and faith. But, brothers and sisters, our dreams and imaginings of hope and new futures cannot ensue if we do not unite in our collective communities.
We must also stand in solidarity with global Indigenous communities and recognize our convergent histories against colonial structures and powers. Let us recognize the importance of broad coalition politics of Black people working with other groups and communities in different spaces, fighting for global justice.
We must work together to build up each other. Let’s also use this time to challenge and transform our own dilemmas and troubles. A recovery must also include those within our Black communities who are left behind. Let’s challenge homophobia and transphobia. Let’s fight ableism. Let’s question class disparities. Let’s fight religious bigotry and language arrogance, and let us consign sexism and patriarchy to the dustbin of history. We must strive for Black excellence where no one is left behind. Black lives matter and all Black lives matter. When Black people thrive, everyone thrives and we know it.
This is our time and we must come together as one. We must be involved socially, spiritually politically and educationally. We must let our voices be heard. When we see injustice being done to one of us, we cannot walk by. In the collective witnessing of history, we must ensure that we produce our own histories. When we see an altercation involving one of us in the stores, public transportation, encounters with law enforcement officers, in our workplaces, and schools, we must not walk away as if it is not about us. Walking away is no longer an option.
Of course, we must continue to hold each other accountable and responsible. This is a collective task. Our Elders and leaders must be prepared to listen and our youth must be acknowledged as having the knowledge to share as well.
Our youth are observing, our Elders are looking and our ancestors are watching.
[Nana Adusei Sefa Tweneboah] Member of the Black community
Reproduced in SHARE: June25, 2020