Denmark Vesey's Notebook: Entry 4
'Free the Land,' A Critical Reading of Edward Onaci's Book on The Republic of New Africa, The Pursuit of a Black Nation-State.
Welcome to the Notebook. Today, New Black Nationalists [NBN] began a critical reading of 'Free the Land: The Republic of New Africa and the Pursuit of a Black Nation-State'  by Edward Onaci.
Free the Land's [FTL] is an historical account of the Republic of New Africa's [RNA] remarkable 53-year journey as the provisional government of a Black nation within America's settler state. It is the only comprehensive scholarly work dedicated to a critical analysis of the 'territorial' or 'nation-state' Black nationalist trend emerging out of the 1960s Black Power movement.
For New Black Nationalists engaged in renovating our theoretical house with a 5-G political configuration to supplant the Black Power era's aging analog architecture, 'Free the Land' hit the streets at a fortuitous moment.
The Trump-led Republican Party and its alliance with white nationalist militias has accelerated American Empire's decline and hastened the advent of existential crisis and civil war in the 2020s. The January 6 Capitol Coup validated NBN's Crisis Theory predictive model. Black nationalists urgently need to forge new theoretical arms to convert the impending crisis into a revolutionary struggle to create an independent, black-led polity.
Free The Land's publication coincides with NBN's current project to complete a Draft Program for a New Black Nation-State," that will outline its principles, aims, tasks and structure for a new government.
More importantly, FTL fills in previously unexplained political and ideological gaps in the RNA and New Afrikan Independence Movement [NAIM] experience. Accordingly, Onaci's work helps to build the roadmap to create a sovereign Black polity in the 2020s, when Black Nationalists are struggling to keep pace with the confluence of events leading to a governmental collapse and revolutionary possibilities.
'Free the Land' excavates the RNA's genealogy, cultivated by the fevered minds of Detroit's Black activists, Led by Gaidi and Amari Obadeli, along with Detroit's civil right leaders, Black Muslims, local politicians, ministers, socialists, and radical factory workers. This collaboration with national Black activists and artists elevated the 'nationalist ideal' to a call for a Black government convention in 1968.
Onaci's backgrounding of the RNA's genesis is pivotal to understanding the unique strand of nationalist source-coding which continues to ideologically drive the PG-RNA today, and the conceptual framework that guided the formation of a provisional government.
FTL's document production dissects the RNA's Declaration of Independence, New Afrikan Creed, New Afrikan Oath, and the RNA Constitutional and Organizational Structure of the PG-RNA. Onaci provides us with a clear window into the RNA's ideological constructs of Black identity, nationhood, citizenship, the centrality of land, and the Black Commons relationship to wave of nationalist revolutions sweeping the planet.
Over five hundred participants gathered in Detroit the last weekend in March 1968 for the Black government convention. The devastation and tension from Detroit's 1967 insurrection, the fiercest urban rising against the state in American history hung over the convention. Onaci's account notes that many participants called themselves New Afrikans--members of an oppressed internal colony searching for a strategy to secure a UN-monitored plebiscite for Blacks to exercise self-determination. When the three-day convention ended several dozen participants lead by "Queen Mother" Audley Moore, signed the RNA's Declaration of Independence.
The convention declared the existence of a new Black nation-state called the Republic of New Afrika, in the five southern states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina. They agreed to create a Provisional Government of the RNA.
Convention participants elected Robert Williams, Chair of the Revolutionary Action Movement [RAM] as the RNA President. Betty Shabazz was elected First-Vice President, and Gaidi Obadeli was elected as Second Vice President, Maulana 'Ron' Karenga of the US Organization and Amiri Baraka founding member of the Black Arts Movement were elected as Co-Ministers of Culture." Amari Obadeli was elected Minister of Information and served as the RNA's chief theorist.
Onaci also doesn't give short shrift to the RNA's originalist source-coding that hard wired them to think, act, organize, and function unlike any other organization in the Black Power era: as the provisional government of an oppressed colony. This is a distinction of paramount importance.
How the RNA envisaged its tasks and role as a provisional government ushering a Black nation into existence also lay at the heart of some of the schisms that would splinter the organization. Like a minesweeper, Onaci walks us through the field of Claymores, locating the devices that exploded into faction, and explains what set them off. Among those breakaway formations that still exist today are the New Afrikan People's Organization, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Cooperation Jackson.
Onaci's chronicling of the RNA's evolution and its breakaway splinter groups' advocating new organizing strategies would lead to Chokwe Lumumba being elected as Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. From the RNA's lobbying efforts at the United Nation to negotiations with Chinese leader Mao's Tse Tung during its Cultural Revolution to support Black self-determination, Free the Land bequeaths to Black Nationalists a treasure trove of theory and praxis to build on.
A common theme running through Edward Onaci's work is his focus on the role of lifestyle politics. Onaci thus explains.
"Free the Land tells the history of New Afrikan independence efforts, primarily as they have been carried out by the PG-RNA. While placing a spotlight on those who sought to exchange residence in the United States with self-determined citizenship, it examines the effects of this struggle on the lives and lifestyles of participants. I define lifestyle politics as the everyday lived enactment of political ideology and argue that New Afrikans consciously and actively made lifestyle politics central to their framework for understanding revolution and essential in their strategy for liberation."
Throughout Free the Land Onaci explores New African Independence Movement participants use of alternative naming practices, marriage ceremonies, employment choices, dress, and educational practices as intrinsic to its liberatory ethos. New Black Nationalists found Onaci's discussion of lifestyle politics fascinating on several levels, primarily its relationship to defining Black identity and nationalist consciousness.
These issues were addressed by New Black Nationalists in the Fanon Arguments when adopting Fanonism as our guiding philosophical system. We will explore these questions further during the critical reading. Our focus on Black identity and nationalist consciousness will start with Onaci's statement that, 'RNA leaders argued that African Americans should identify as New Afrikans, a people who, though racially Black or Afrikan, embodied a republic distinct from other African nations, and certainly different from the body politic constituted by their white American counterparts."
A final theme that Onaci devotes considerable attention to-and rightly so-is the RNA's emphasis on reparations as an essential component of the Black liberation struggle for nationhood. Speaking of the founding 1968 convention Onaci says "Equally important, they advocated for a reparations settlement as restitution for the United States' role in the international trafficking of African peoples, their enslavement in the United States, and the persistent violence, degradation, socioeconomic inequality, and consistent efforts to suppress Black self-determination. "
In 1989, Detroit Congressman John Conyers authored HR 40 to establish a Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans. But it was five decades of Black nationalist's advocacy led by the RNA and the NAIM that pushed reparations into the political mainstream and set the stage for several local and state settlements. Black nationalists are now fighting to continue shaping the reparations issue as part of the struggle to win national liberation, rather than a wish list of liberal give aways stuffed in congressional reconciliation bill.
From July to January 2023, New Black Nationalists will be posting monthly comments on Free the Land in Demark Vesey's Notebook and NBN's Blog: The Hand Grenade. We will try to work though one chapter per month. We welcome your comments and links posted to New Black Nationalists Twitter @VeseyRepublic
New Black Nationalists owe a great debt to Professor Edward Onaci and his stellar work on Free the Land. Within the academy today, intellectuals who could be remotely considered favorably disposed to nation-state Black Nationalism as a viable political force are few and far between.
We close with a quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates published in June 2014 in Atlantic Magazine, 'Making the Case for Reparations.'
"The popular mocking of reparations as a harebrained scheme authored by wild-eyed lefties and intellectually unserious black nationalists is fear masquerading as laughter. Black nationalists have always perceived something unmentionable about America that integrationists dare not acknowledge—that white supremacy is not merely the work of hotheaded demagogues, or a matter of false consciousness, but a force so fundamental to America that it is difficult to imagine the country without it."
A Black nation-state to many may still seem like a "harebrained scheme by intellectually unserious black nationalists." But really; who is being more realistic about the current state of play?
Even as American Empire crumbles, and women are placed on home confinement with the doors bolted and their bodily autonomy snatched away: even as Black people who only won provisional citizenship a half-century ago, have their voting rights nullified by state legislatures; even as white nationalists and a former American president assault on the U.S. capitol to install an America Apartheid regime; some people can't fathom American empires Collapse and a black nation-state emerging out of the chaos.
But like reparations, we are entering a period when forging a Black nation will be a live option, not a hairbrained scheme. Black Nationalists must be ready to meet that moment. Grappling with the lessons and implications of "Free the Land" moves us one critical step closer.