America for the Americans (Part 1)

by Miguel Balbuena

James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, proclaimed on Dec. 2, 1823, his doctrine, which is oftentimes summarized by the catchphrase “America for the Americans,” although this slogan is not found anywhere in the text of the document spelling out the Monroe Doctrine.

An issue worth exploring is whether a symmetrical policy such as “Latin America for the Latin Americans” is feasible now, in this era of globalization. To this effect, it might be useful to consider the impact of Monroe’s announcement in other continents. For instance, has there been movements seeking an “Europe for the Europeans,” “Asia for the Asians” or “Antarctica for the Antarcticans?”

After attending the Eastern Region Conference of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) on Oct. 21 and 22, 2016, at Believers’ Chapel City in Syracuse, it seems to me that its implicit push for “Africa for the Africans” is something that Latin Americans might want to contemplate whether it is a valid reference for themselves.

ASCAC was created in 1984 by six scholars, all of them holding a Ph.D.: Asa Hilliard III, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Jake Carruthers, John Henrik Clark, Leonard Jeffries, and Maulana Karenga, initiator of the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa.

Both Latin America and Africa were colonized by European powers, and a historical trajectory of the African continent was laid out at the Syracuse event, covering the time between two important assemblages: the Berlin Conference of 1884 and 1885, and the 5th Pan-African Congress of 1945 in Manchester, England.

The Berlin Conference divided Africa among seven countries of the Old World: France, Germany, Italy, England, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. The Pan-African Congress intended to rectify this situation. One of its organizers was Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah, who went to pen the books “Africa Must Unite,” in 1963, and “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,” two years later.

Mfundishi Salim, speaking at one of the local event’s four plenaries, said that Africa is still confronting the legacy of the Berlin Conference. He said, “African leaders educated in Europe and the United States control our educational system and perpetuate domination.” The remedy, he added, was to promote a “Pan-African educational system as a tool for restoring and transmitting” traditional knowledge.

Jeffries said that setting up study groups would help in “the obligation to put together the African global plan, the global agenda for the African family.” “Get into the books, forget about the looks,” he added. “We are not just resisting, we are resisting with knowledge. This means that victory is at hand.” Jeffries told the audience that he was against considering “integrating (Africans) into the white society, not even the White House” before not having Africans integrated among themselves first.

Modell Gault, president of the eastern region, added, “What we are saying is not being portrayed in the mass media, in the history books. We have to become critical thinkers, our knowledge has to be confirmed.” He then disputed the view that Malcolm X, a former Nation of Islam minister slain in 1965, was an integrationist with the predominant white community, as Gault claimed some unnamed characters were saying nowadays.

On the topic of study and knowledge, Kaba Hiawatha Kamene, the final plenary presenter, suggested that study “leads to intuitive instinct” as study fires up the neurons in the brain by filling the synapses with neurotransmitters. A synapse is the junction between the dendrite of a neuron and the axon of a contiguous one. Dendrites process input of signals; the axons process output of signals. He concluded, “We need to distinguish between content and intent (of study). Content is what you teach; intent is how you teach.”

I, for one, can empathize with Kamene’s perspective as I tend to gravitate towards activities that tickle my neurons and try to stay away from those that dumb them. For example, watching films of the French La Nouvelle Vague such as Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour” (1959), Francois Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451” (1966), and Jean-Luc Godard’s “Weekend” (1967) stimulated my neurons; viewing Hollywood franchises “Despicable Me” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” tortured my neurons to the point of leading them to premature apoptosis.

About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).