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The Black Pacific: Oceania & Black Internationalism

March 6, 2019

Quito Swan, Professor of History, Howard University
Moderated by Chiedo Nwankwor, Visiting Research Associate and Lecturer, Johns Hopkins SAIS

The African Studies program hosted Professor Quito Swan from Howard University to discuss his book “Black Power in Bermuda and the Struggle for Decolonization.” His book analyzes how 20th century black freedom struggles in Oceania engage Africana political struggles such as black power, civil rights and black women’s diasporic feminisms.

His book draws on the successes of Pauulu Kamarakafego, a political activist, civil rights leader and renowned expert in ecological and environmental engineering. He highlights Kamarakafego’s work in growing black power in the Caribbean and the U.S. and leading the First Regional International Black Power Conference (BPC) in Bermuda in 1969. The pan-African unity exhibited by the conference addressed the concerns for Bermuda’s colonization and white violence. 

He displayed photos of mass demonstrations that took place in the Oceanian country of Vanuatu in the 1970s for independence from British and French colonial rule. He spoke at length about the political movement in Vanuatu, emphasizing that the broader narrative of black power would not be complete without discussing how people were able to galvanize and make a difference in even the smallest of countries. He expressed the need to engage Oceania in the conversation, otherwise, a major part of the story would be left out.

His remarks were followed by several questions from the audience. Professor Swan addressed the complicity in African subjugation particularly within the economic and social space. He urged people to continue challenging the status quo since leaders of the Pan-African movement have not achieved the impact they aimed for in changing the way Africans are perceived in the United States today. He also spoke to the challenge of getting different people to understand that their efforts and ideas are all part of one broad narrative.

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