It was 15th October 1945, and Manchester was at the forefront of the battle against European colonialism. For six days, the city gathered together and empowered Africans worldwide, organising the 5th Pan African Congress to tackle the consequences of colonisation. In recognition of this momentous occasion, Manchester will be holding a commemorative conference this October to mark the 70th Anniversary of the congress.
This commemoration could not come at a more appropriate time. Last week, the Prime Minister David Cameron declared that issues with historic injustices, recent wars, poverty or hardship were merely a ‘grievance justification’. In a keynote speech aimed at tackling extremism and promoting integration, the Prime Minister disregarded key issues that affect ethnic minorities in Britain today.
In contrast, the original Pan African Congresses were a series of meetings intended to address issues facing Africa as a result of the European colonisation of the continent, rather than dismiss them. The 5th Pan African Congress was significant. Taking place directly after WWII, at a time when people sought to come together in the so-called spirit of ‘45, delegates convened in efforts to end racial discrimination and colonial rule. They set out demands for better human rights and equal economic opportunity for Africans across the globe. The event was the first to be organised by Africans themselves, and delegates included the only US representative W.E. Dubois, a perennial feature of the congress and the British representative Amy Ashwood Garvin, who opened the ceremony. The revolutionary figures Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta were also in attendance, using this influential convention to lay out their plans to achieve independence for their respective countries.
Considering the issues still surrounding ethnic minorities today; institutionalised racism, racial discrimination, deaths in police custody and high unemployment to name a few, surely it’s time to reflect on the heritage and ‘grievances’ of neo-colonialism, rather than forget? Such attitudes have limited progress within Britain as well as across the global diaspora. It is also time to remember the efforts of those that preceded us, including those that organised and attended the 1945 Pan African Congress and persevere to continue with their work.
The 2015 commemorative conference promises to uphold the spirit of 1945 and explore the issues that affect Africans on a global basis; economically, politically and socially. Organised by a Manchester based Planning Committee, the event will take place on Friday 16th October – Sunday 18th October. International keynote speakers will open up the celebrations, discussing 1945 and beyond.
The meeting will also comprise of activities, rallies and a youth conference. A full list of speakers and activities will be available soon. For further information or if you would like to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TNT News Joanne Muigua