Krystel Nozier & Kofi Adjei
The Centre of Pan African Thought has set itself the important task to protect the human rights of African and African Caribbean people in Britain. The latest endeavour from the Centre is the Pan African Pantheon lecture series. The series highlights the thirty-seven academics who contributed to a collection of essays of the same name.
Edited by Adekeye Adebajo, The Pan African Pantheon includes a myriad of essays on Pan-Africanism. The supporting lecture series is an opportunity to reflect on the contributions intellectuals of the past and present have made to the Pan-African Movement.
In a conversation with the Founder of the Centre, Nigel Stewart, he expressed the importance of the series, stressing that he hopes all participants takeaway one thing: “The main takeaway is always the same, Pan-Africanism or perish”. In the interview we also discussed the significance of the series, the challenges the Centre faced when planning such an event, and his hopes for more series in the future.
African History Project: What is the motivating factor for the Centre in running this series?
Nigel Stewart: In running the Pan African Pantheon lecture series, we hope to give our members the opportunity to reflect, renew and reassert their commitment to Pan Africanism. The series is one of those rare opportunities where you are in a space with the leading African scholars from around the world discussing various Pan African icons, philosophies, and ideologies. These moments don’t come around often.
Also, the series has been the perfect way to re-launch the Centre after a sabbatical during lockdown. The series is also a celebration – a celebration of the Pan African Pantheon Book. There is a dearth of literature on Pan Africanism anyway, but we believe the book is such an important canon for all African studies curricula going forward. We are championing that belief.
AHP: A number of amazing Pan-African leaders are being profiled in this series, which one, in particular, are you interested in hearing more about?
NS: I think everyone is excited about the popular figures like Garvey and Malcolm et al, but we also hope people are excited to hear about the lesser known or celebrated Pan Africanists like Dudley Thompson and Amy Ashwood Garvey. It’s important that we reflect on the names and contributions that don’t get celebrated because we need today’s generation to understand that revolution and change is work, work that is often in the shadows and unheralded.
AHP: We notice that there are not many women profiled in the series. How do you think we can encourage academics to invest time in unearthing and writing on the work of women in the Pan-African movement?
NS: I think educators and teachers have a responsibility to push students to look for diverse narratives, and when they do, support them with the resources and platforms to share them. It is a question of being mindful and intentional about the questions we ask of the histories we read. Reinserting their voices is a big part of the work and why the Pantheon Book is so key – with the stories of Ruth First and others they have managed to achieve that very well.
The series is one of those rare opportunities where you are in a space with the leading African scholars from around the world … These moments don’t come around often.– Nigel Stewart, Director of the Centre of Pan African Thought
AHP: What have been some of the challenges in putting together this series?
NS: The main challenge is communicating the value and importance of the series to people. In the age of endless online events and meetings you have to compete against a lot of noise to let people know the magnitude and gravity of the space. We are creating room for conversations that do not normally happen outside of the academy. We really want people to see that.
AHP: Will there be additional or follow-up campaigns after the series to ensure that the lectures materialise into action on the part of intellectuals and participants?
NS: This has been one of the surprises of the last two lectures. Connections and conversations have been initiated around some exciting transnational partnerships. The series is linking the Centre to organisations and movements across the world, and we hope to play our role in mobilising people around the crucial issues facing the diaspora. We seem to have attracted a diverse range of attendees, from students to ministers, from laymen to lecturers – and the message around reinvigorated Pan Africanism from the ground up, through a strong civil society has resonated strongly. The challenge will be to organise and channel that sentiment into a unified voice for political engagement. We all feel repurposed and re-energised to make that happen.
For more on the series and information on becoming a member of the Centre of Pan African Thought please visit the following webpage: The Pan-African Pantheon – Lecture Series
The next lecture in the series is el Hajj Malik El-Shabazz – Malcolm X as A Pan African Prophet and will be on Wednesday 14 July 2021, with Lee Daniels as the featured Speaker.
The African History Project will also be chairing the first in the Centre’s Conversations on African Cosmology with Dr Kiatezua Luyaluka taking place on Thursday 15 July 2021