An Introduction to the Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice
The Afrikan Reparations Transnational Community of Practice (ARTCoP) was officially launched in February 2014. A Community of Practice is commonly understood to be a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
The ARTCoP is inspired by the groundbreaking PhD study undertaken by Esther Stanford-Xosei on ‘The Role of Afrikan Contributions from the UK in Charting the Historical Trajectory of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR)’ as part of research in history at the University of Chichester. This research seeks to recover the marginalised histories and herstories of Afrikan and Afrikan Diaspora reparations thought, advocacy and activism in the UK. It is being conducted within the action research paradigm i.e. essentially research through action which uses research tools and methods which not only relevant to, but also promotes the empowerment of, the African reparations community of interest. Action research therefore seeks to change or improve a condition, system or practice and learn about this through changing or improving it. For the purposes of the research, ‘changing practice’ includes utilising the knowledge being co-produced for advancing reparations goals by improving and strengthening existing reparations campaigning and social movement-building initiatives and processes.
The aim of the ARTCoP is to provide a much-needed reparations movement supported space for critical reflection as a basis for taking more effective strategic action; by supporting members of the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR) and their allies to strengthen and improve their movement-building activities enabling them to learn from, compliment and collaborate with each other to achieve common reparations-related objectives. Rather than seeking to privilege what academics and those located within formal institutions of education ‘know’ and can ‘teach’ activists about how to wage successful reparations campaigns, the ARTCoP seeks to learn from and build upon the thought, lived experiences and activism of reparations workers, advocates, activists, campaigners, the ISMAR and Afrikan & Afrikan Diaspora communities at large, as co-producers of practical and theoretical knowledge relevant to effecting and securing reparatory justice.
Building on the intellectual tradition of scholar-activist and historian the late Walter Rodney, the ARTCoP advocates for an intellectual and political leadership of the ISMAR that is dedicated to the aspirations and empowerment of the masses; ‘grounds’ with the people on reparations; and that such ‘groundings’ will, as Rodney asserted, embrace the first and major struggle – the struggle over ‘ideas’ on reparations. One way in which ARTCoP seeks to achieve this is to harness and utilise the knowledge, expertise and researches of reparations focused grassroots intellectuals, academics and activist to challenge Eurocentric ideas, theories and visions of ‘repair’ in the process of advancing the goals of the ISMAR.
In addition, the ARTCoP seeks to bridge the divide between knowledge produced by establishment academics and policy-makers, which is more often than not, disconnected from realising the self-determined goals of the ISMAR, and the rich intellectual work and wisdom generated by those who have been involved in reparations social movement-building and organising processes at all levels. Despite the marginalisation of this knowledge and resultant prescriptions for action in educational institutions, such work has indeed laid an excellent political and intellectual foundation for the next phase of the movement for reparations.
This list of objectives and priorities are taken from the ARTCoP terms of reference:
Objectives of the ARTCoP are to:
• Enable participants in the ARTCoP to develop a shared understanding of the history of the ISMAR;
• Facilitate the learning and the sharing of ideas, collectivised knowledge, information, experiences, expertise, research, strategies and resources among participants in the ARTCoP pertaining to the history and heritage of reparations thought, advocacy and activism;
• Gain recognition in mainstream academia and amongst policy-makers of the knowledge and pedagogical practices being produced outside of formal educational institutions on reparations and to bridge the gap between these various knowledges;
• Stimulate dialogue among and between members about the ISMAR’s past, present and future;
• Support participants in the ARTCoP to develop various resources such as tools, documents, vocabulary and symbols that in some way carry the accumulated knowledge of the ISMAR.
The priority concerns of the ARTCoP are to:
1. Counter fragmentation amongst constituencies within the community of Afrikan reparations interest and reparations groups, networks and organisations by promoting understanding of the common grounds and shared goals between many reparations groups, organisations, campaigns and other social justice movements;
2. Promote open and honest discussions on the obstacles to integrating a reparations framework in the work of other social justice causes and movements;
3. Promote open and honest discussion of the obstacles to building a more inclusive ISMAR and existing reparations advocates, activists and allies working together more constructively.
ARTCoP has already built good links within other sites of knowledge production in academia by contributing to the University College London (UCL) ‘Preparation for Reparations’ Project led by Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias
Since the ARTCoP also operates a virtual network, participation is open to those who are outside of the UK. For further information about participating in and contributing to the development of the ARTCoP please email: E.Stanford-Xosei@chi.ac.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org
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“Black people are here in these institutions as a part of the development of Black struggle, but only as a concession designed to incorporate us within the structure. I use the term ‘guerrilla intellectual’ to come to grips with the initial imbalance of power in the context of academic learning. Going beyond the symbolism of the building, I’m thinking also of the books, the references, the theoretical assumptions, and the entire ideological underpinnings of what we have to learn in every single discipline. Once you understand the power that all this represents, then you have to recognise that your struggle must be based on an honest awareness of the initial disparity. And that’s how the guerrilla operates.”
Walter Rodney Speaks: The Making of an African Intellectual, 1990. pp. 111-112