In Defence of Home: A Pan-African Conversation on Land and Liberation

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December 14, 2020

Guest post by Zahra Dalilah, former African Diaspora Partnerships Manager

Last night, January 27, Africans in the Diaspora (AiD) hosted its first event of the 2021 Chop It Up series. The first public AiD event for almost three years. It’s official. AiD is back.

To ground us in who and what AiD is and does, three speakers were invited to share their ideas and experiences in relation to the idea of ‘home’. Home as housing, as territory, as land, home as a foundation to our beings and our being well. In the course of only one hour we witnessed Africans in the diaspora and the continent express their visions for African liberation as it looks in their contexts.

S’bu Zikode opened with an illumination of the South African situation in which words like radical democracy, member-led movements and, above all, dignity were centered. S’bu’s experiences of organizing with Abahlali baseMjondolo are a reminder of the power of organizing with your neighbors, at the grassroots. His calls for dignity and autonomy spoke to the intimacy between the struggle for land and the struggle for freedom, bringing to mind the words of Malcolm X: “Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.”

Through the course of the conversation it became clear that histories of displacement and landless-ness form a part of the lineage of so many Africans in the diaspora and on the continent. The struggle for home, for land can spring up anywhere whether migrating to hostile context or fighting settler colonialists.Yet, wherever we go and wherever we are, movements and communities of Africans in the diaspora and on the continent are unwavering on our rights to a home. Our resistance constructs, reconstructs and defends our homes, our lands, and our territories. As London Renters Union organizer, Amina Gichinga, highlighted, this resistance is also important because it pushes us to question the exploitative colonial and capitalist systems which have violently apportioned these lands and territories. Part of our resistance is to call out ‘why?’ and lay bear the false authority of landlords and land-‘owners’.

We must of course hold the reality that for many Africans in the diaspora, home is not always a place you may  live, or intend to return to, but is still one you may find yourself defending, defensive of or fighting for. A conversation on home for AiD, a project seeking to bring Africans together in dialogue and in solidarity – wherever home is to them – certainly felt a fitting place to start. With speakers based in three different continents and the homes they were defending being seas apart, the diversity of African experiences lay on display. This alongside a cohering of our disparate stories was an illustration of how we are geographically separated but that nonetheless we all move in similar struggles. The words of the speakers reminded us that we can still move together, connect the dots of those struggles, and act in solidarity with one another despite these geographic distances.

Afro-Colombian activist Sofia Garzon Valencia captured it perfectly when she spoke of the need to organize locally, whilst grounding in an internationalist pan-African lens. She spoke of her “irrevocable decision to love of Black people” as a driving force in her work, a sentiment that received deep resonance in the space as a grounding reminder of why the fight continues and why we must prioritize and insist upon being connected across the borders and colonial languages which seek to divide us.

Similar to In Defence of Home, the remainder of the Chop It Up series dives into the foundational and essential tenets of life – food, water and land. This opening to the series grounded us in the reality that in so many of our contexts we are fighting for foundational needs. This feels an important anchor for the work of AiD as we focus on building solidarity with our Africa program partners and the work of our comrades across our communities struggling for the liberation of African peoples.

In Defence of Home offered a pan-African space for Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to come together, to be seen, bear witness and be connected. It was a step toward the fulfillment of AiD’s purpose to foster alignment and unity across African visions for liberation from the diaspora and the continent. To those that joined, we thank you for coming home with us and to those that missed it – the journey has only just begun.

Catch up with the full conversation here.