Politics & Spirituality: The Intersection
THE VISION: A 21st CENTURY MAROON MOVEMENT
By: Brian Simpson
It is this author’s contention that the end of the Obama presidency marked the end of the Civil Rights agenda. We are in the early days of a new chapter which presents the opportunity for those of us within the Pan Africanist milieu to reassert ourselves and our agenda so that we may positively impact our people. Offered herein is a concise vision of the way forward.
A tale of two sociopolitical paths
One interpretation of recent history in America suggests that during the great era of sociopolitical movements which peaked in the decades of the 60’s and 70’s, blacks in America gravitated to either one of two sociopolitical approaches to their future – the civil rights approach and the Self-determination approach. The Civil rights approach won hands down with most blacks and white liberal supporters lining up behind the charismatic leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King.
This was a movement founded on an American identity. It was Black folk saying, “Hey white folk, we’re just as American as you. We’ve been here just as long as you. We demand entry into the societal framework which you have set up to benefit you and yours. We demand equal access to your institutions because we too want the American dream of successful upward mobility.”
These demands were largely met. Some of the successes include the rolling back of forced segregation (which was replaced by corrective legislation mandating forced integration); the creation of a sizeable middle class with an attendant rise in black income (not to be confused with black wealth/ economic power). We also are more educated than ever before. In fact, the feather in the cap of the Civil rights movement was the election of a black president alongside a ‘fully 100% black’ first family. This was the ultimate demonstration of black upward mobility.
And then there are the ‘Self-determinationists’ – the apparent losers in the sociopolitical popularity contest. Their approach was marginalized and rendered largely impotent as the civil rights approach gained ascendancy. These were the folks who refused to forge a new identity with those who had enslaved them. They insisted that they were Africans, possessed of a distinct culture and core values which was worth preserving and passing down to their progeny. They reasoned that it would be a tragedy if the kidnapped lion who was transported to a pig pen started to oink rather than roar. These were the heirs of the teachings of the right honorable Mwalimu Marcus Garvey and thus the clear imperative was self-reliance, self-governance….self-determination.
The good news for the African Self-determinationist is that there is no further for the civil rights agenda to go. It has achieved its goals but the glaring omissions in their agenda are beginning to show. So we had a Black president under whose tour of duty the killing of unarmed black folks by police sky rocketed. According to the Pew Research center, from 2007 onward the wealth inequality gap between whites and blacks have continued to widen. We had a black president whose foreign policy continues to target the non-white peoples of the planet through drone strikes and who approved the killing of an African leader, Muamar Gadhafi, who had actually been working well with previous administrations. Please don’t misunderstand the sentiment. This author finds the president quite personable and affable. He brought a dignity and unmistakable African swag to the office of the Presidency. However, what is becoming clearer to our people is that his presidency does not represent Black power or empowerment. He was the black face of white power, the one elected to carry out the mandates of white supremacy/US imperialism (as all US Presidents have to do). Clearly, the emperor wears no clothes. The point of all of this is that now is the time for a resurgent African Self-determination agenda.
Maroon Villages: The Way Forward
Bearing in mind that we live in a political jurisdiction of 300 million people functioning in a white supremacy operating system, what process must black folks who have embraced an African identity spearhead in order to revitalize the path of self-determination. In other words, what does self-determination for Africans in America look like in 2017 and beyond?
Quite simply, it looks like a vast network of maroon villages: islands of African communities with a high degree of autonomy and self-sufficiency thriving within the boundaries of America, linked together through strong bond of mutual responsibility. This vision requires us to embrace a process of conscious decentralization wherein there is a blooming of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of intentional villages within the obese corrupt nation state. The use of the word ‘intentional’ to describe the maroon village emphasizes the deliberate coming together of like minds to create a life of well-being together. We must be clear that the self-determination paradigm means organizing to take control of our lives by marshalling all of our various resources. It is not protest activity where the weak make demands on the strong (although said activity might have limited tactical utility in some scenarios)
We are a diverse people and so we must expect there to be multiple sub-categories of values around which our people will choose to organize community. For example, it could be based on religious/spiritual affiliation or a particular political philosophy. It may even be based on blood kinship ties (extended family). Whatever the ideological nucleus of the start-up (or already existing) community, it’s essential to remember that it is part of a larger movement. Just as it takes two wings for a bird to fly, a successful maroon movement will have a twofold devotion: village building and bridge building between communities. The power to render the existing order obsolete lay in the strength of deliberately cultivated relationships.
It is helpful to look at this exercise as a way of arresting our downward spiral from people to ‘sheeple’. The difference is that people are self-determined and ‘sheeple’ are in need of ‘shepherds’ to order their affairs. In this regard it is necessary to pay attention to all the various ways the ‘sheep’ conditioning is reinforced such as through religious programming where we commonly affirm our status as impotent beings awaiting this or that divinity. Also be weary of entrenched political programming where the sheer size of the state encourages us to be the political animal that merely hires a representative every election season rather than being a fulltime engaged citizen participating in the shaping of our lives. This is where we’re collectively at right now. The result is that our innate abilities to carry out village functions have atrophied and it has been outsourced to government agencies and other ‘shepherds’. So we rely on police for safety. We rely on health insurance carriers and pharmaceutical drug dealers for health. Our food is sourced non-locally for the most part and the village has ceased to raise the child. This we have outsourced to the underpaid and overworked employees of the public school system.
We often draw inspiration from Africa’s classical civilization like Kemet, Ethiopia or the city states and kingdoms of West African where there was a high level of social stratification (class-based societies). No problem. These societies have provided us with valuable insights into the spiritual systems that drove their accomplishment – spiritual systems we can call our own. However let us not forget that most traditional African societies were organized on the basis of communalism. In defining Communalism as a distinctly African way of life, Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariway in their book, ‘African Anarchism: the History of a Movement’ state that
1. “different communities enjoy near unfettered independence from one another”
2. “Communities manage their own affairs and are for all practical purposes self-accounting and self-governing”
3. “Every individual without exception takes part, either directly or indirectly in the running of community affairs at all levels.”
The time is right to shine light anew on African Communalism as we reclaim our energy from the white supremacy framework and reconnect within (and across) Maroon villages.
Spiritual Power: The Lynchpin
Visions are easy to state and elucidate. Harder to accomplish is the manifestation of vision. It requires spiritual power. This vision, in particular, is a steep climb. Famous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein is reputed to have said something to the effect that no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. This rings true. What this means is that the building of a maroon village must be seen as a spiritual pathway to union with the Divine. It might seem far-fetched but the proposition could very well be approached as say, ‘the yoga of maroon village building’. Casting it in this light is just mere branding to strongly suggest that we are devoting ourselves to a program of conscious evolution which when properly implemented will yield a harmonious network of Maroon villages filled with wellbeing. Whether we embrace the Judeo-Christian paradigm or traditional African spirituality or some other form of personal growth and development let us be sure that we are connecting with the most transformative version of the tradition. To be even more explicit, there are two roads within spirituality: the broad road of salvation through acceptance of dogma and Deity adoration, and the narrow path where salvation is attained through awakening and nourishing our Divine nature thus transforming into extremely high functioning versions of ourselves. Let us commit to the narrow path because the times demand it. It requires nothing less than a critical mass of Africans making a personal commitment to transform themselves and their relations with each other using effective behavior modification processes.
Brian Simpson is a 45 yr. old Jamaican African currently residing in Greenbelt, MD who aspires to deeper involvement in manifesting Divine Community. His Consciousness has been shaped in large part by Traditional African Spirituality alongside generous helpings of left wing politics, Rastafari and energy based healing practices such as yoga and Qi Gong. He is a blue-collar worker in the medical field, a member of the Temple of Nyame and a Father of one.
Brian, you hit the nail right on the head with this brilliant piece. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Even as I struggle to discover and/or dare to make, "my own way back," I have always believed that that Spiritual Power - our African traditional spirituality - is the Lynchpin.
I hope, no, I shall, become involved in manifesting, as you so eloquently call it, Divine Community.
Thank you for writing this timely article.
Thx for reading and for the feed forward. i generally have a hard time telling if there is any interest in applying African spirituality to "earthly" goals such as African self determination. For me though, earth is the proving ground for our spiritual development. Peace & Blessings.