There has been a convergence of African descendants in South Florida. While we are racially the same, and treated pretty much the same by the dominant community, we are culturally and ethnically different. There seems to be a great pride in showcasing this difference, to the detriment of us all. We are a balkanized African people and have not yet learned that it is this separation from one another that renders us ineffective in demanding equal treatment for ourselves in South Florida.
African Diaspora, Pan Africanism and Negritude are three concepts generally associated with movements designed to foster a gememienschaft of Africans and our progeny wherever we are located around the world.
Originally, diaspora was a term applied to the scattering of the Jews after the Babylonian exile. Since then, it has undergone several changes in meaning. The term was also applied to places where diverse Jewish populations settled. In time, diaspora began to imply kinship, fraternity and common origin.
It is this last usage which should inspire the leaders of African people in our community to cogitate about the possibility of Pan Africanism or a movement toward Negritude. In any case, diaspora, in the African sense, and as it is so successfully used in the Jewish sense, seeks to create a universal bonding of peoples with common ancestry. The primary question for us is: “To what extent, if any, can this be done in South Florida, where it is so desperately needed?”
A community is only a collection of people and it can only be as strong as its leaders. “Leaders” who cannot or will not carry the African agenda are no leaders at all but, rather, blockers – people whom the dominant community can point to as “The Black Community.” So, when the pie, so to speak, is divvied up and the “leaders,” ipso facto, accept the sliver that is given us, the dominant community assumes that the African community is satisfied.
I can say with unequivocal certainty that the one thing that this and any society responds to is voice. Of course, the voice has to be strong and collective. A few people, like me, crying in the wilderness, as it were, will not get it. We are easily brushed off as people who are trying to start trouble when, in fact, we are merely trying to prevent trouble, prevent the pot from boiling over. So, we need a strong collective voice, the kind that can come only from embracing the notion of an African Diaspora.
There has been tentative talk about creating a kind of summit for the elected, as well as the unofficial, leaders of the respective African descendants of South Florida. That would be an initial step toward creating the much needed diaspora. I firmly believe that an African Diaspora is not only possible but it is sine qua non to the survival of African people in South Florida.
Gilbert L. Raiford is semi-retired after a career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He lives in Miami where he volunteers at homeless facilities, the Opera House in Miami and after-care school programs as a fund-raiser. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.