Penny Von Eschen’s Race Against Empire had my mind racing. Von Eschen’s descriptions of both the 1955 Asian-African Conference at Bandung and the 1956 Congress of Colored Writers and Artists in Paris were eye-opening and the aftermath entirely startling.
The ’55 Bandung Conference was organized by mostly newly liberated countries in order to begin to imagine and exist in a world outside of the shackles of colonialism as well as the hegemonic Cold War ideologies of the time. In essence, these countries wanted to move on from their colonial past and wanted no part in the beef between the United States and the Soviet Union and so the countries self-assembled and united under the auspices of the Bandung Conference and termed themselves “neutral, “nonaligned” states” and formed “their own Third World” (168).
At the same time, however, the Council of African Affairs (CAA) – an anti-colonial and Pan-African organization begun and led by the likes of Paul Robeson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Max Yergan, and Alphaeus Hunton Jr – had disbanded. Max Yergan, having become disillusioned by communism, was now preaching apartheid in South Africa. The CAA was not holding and this was in many ways emblematic of the United States government’s ability to disarm any anti-American sentiments.
This reading had me wondering if there is a tangible way in which we can safeguard our radical futures? In other words, for the briefest (or longest depending on the scale of time) we (the Third World oppressed) were imagining and creating and living in a radical future outside of the grasp of Western and Soviet and other hegemonic powers of the time and I feel like we can do it again, if only we make sure to protect our futures. The phrase “cautionary tale” rings loud in this context. Though this is not to say that radical creation and existence is not occurring and has not been occurring.
Pertinent to our class are the occupations of known “black sites” in the United States. I think of Freedom Square, an occupation of the Homan Square police black site, “where suspects are… interrogated and detained for hours without legal representation” (link). When the story first broke, The Guardian described the “suspects” as having been “disappeared” and of course, to no surprise, 82.2% of those held and disappeared were black (link). After the story broke, groups like Black Lives Matter, the Let Us Breathe collective, and Black Youth Project 100 joined together and chained themselves in front of the site and not soon after did Freedom Square pop up. Freedom Square, however short lived, was an attempt to make known the absented presence of blackness in the black site of Homan Square. While not perfect, the 47-day occupation of the space was a beacon of hope and resistance to an otherwise unjust and cruel system.
Further reading: https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/freedom-square-homan-square-occupation-ferguson/Content?oid=23089791