above: Charlene Macharian for Afrikan Black Coalition — Black students at the 2016 Afrikan Black Coalition Conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara
What ABC2K16 Showed Me About Black Unity
by Delency Parham
Growing up, I was convinced that there was a strict divide among black people. That for some reason we just couldn’t quite all just get along. I was constantly being told by the media that this divide was a means to justify the many forms of oppression that we as Black people have been forced to deal with. Take police brutality for example: when white cops execute young Black men and women in the streets, it’s often justified within the sensationalized construct of Black on Black crime. They feel that since we harm ourselves it gives them the right to do the same. I know you’ve all heard someone say, “How can you expect whites to value the Black life, when Black people don’t respect it themselves?” As if one senseless killing makes it ok for another — and another and another. But who was it that determined that Black people don’t respect each other? Who sold us this false vision of division?
It has been said that to divide and conquer is the art of war. Divide a group and conquer them one at a time. Because we all know that individuals are never as strong as a group. Look back at our history, when white slave traders made it a point to separate us from our kin way before we hit American soil. They knew if they kept enslaved africans amongst friends and family, the chances of revolt would increase by the second. So they did the “smart” thing. Separating us from anyone and anything that looked familiar. Now look at where we are now. They would like for us to believe that we are still a divided people. That we will never be one, that we could never come together long enough to see meaningful change.
— Eze (@hiiiezzz) February 14, 2016
But on the second weekend of February, I found out that this is all a lie. At my first Afrikan Black Coalition conference, I realized that we might be more united now than ever before, and it truly was beautiful sight. Black Student Union’s, African Student Unions, and independent delegations from 15 official ABC UCs and CSUs and visiting private and community colleges flocked to UC Santa Barbara to stand together for the progression of Black people. It was like nothing I had ever seen. I went to a predominately white institute, where the Black Student Union consisted of four to seven Black athletes having lunch and discussing how much we regretted not going to a more diverse university. Attending the ABC conference made me feel like those years in the mountains of Idaho were all worth it.
The conference had speakers such as Umi Selah, founder of the Dream Defenders, and Sister Melina Abdullah, Chair of Pan-African Studies at CSU Los Angeles and an instrumental part of the work Black Lives Matter has done for the movement. These people, along with many others, confirmed my true belief that our future as Black people might be brighter now than it’s ever been. For one weekend, I was surrounded by almost 700 educated Black people who aren’t just satisfied with academic pursuits. They want to see real tangible change. And change is coming. Whether it’s divestment from Wells Fargo’s $1.2 billion investment in private prisons, or UCSB’s 1968 Black Student Takeover mural, this new group of leaders is operating with a clear vision to make incremental changes in the system. Seeing this type of effort was moving. I felt as if I was in the center of this new age fight for change.
In a year where we will see the first Black President’s term come to an end, ABC showed why this is still just the beginning. The future looks bright for this organization and I’m grateful to be apart of the process.
Delency Parham is a staff writer at Afrikan Black Coalition. He covers sports, culture, and anything else pertaining to BLACK people. You can follow him on Twitter @SevenBaldwin