ROAPE’s Peter Dwyer introduces new members of the journal’s editorial working group. He welcomes a new generation, Leona Vaughn, Chinedu Chukwudinma and Njuki Githethwa, who are activists from the African diaspora and those implanted in Africa. In a personal, political and scholarly sense, Dwyer argues, they will irrevocably change ROAPE.
We know that on reading these short biographies from the first of our six new editors to the Editorial Working Group (EWG) of the journal, you will immediately understand the excitement that they have generated by agreeing to join us.
Leona Vaughn writes of how her research and activism is grounded in her local region of Merseyside in the UK, yet she also works on global projects in which Africa features strongly. As a black woman from a city built on the profits from slavery she gives ROAPE a connection to research and campaigns in the Liverpool region and across Africa and so helps us develop the lived political connections between parts of the African diaspora in the UK and activists and scholar-activists in Africa.
Chinedu Chukwudinma centres his writings in his struggles as an activist against racism and imperialism. Drawing on his experiences of racism as a schoolboy in Switzerland, he talks of how his research and his commitment to ROAPE, is rooted in his Marxist politics in which words are weapons to be brandished as part of building anti-racist and anti-capitalist movements. Together with Leona he also brings new connections from the African diaspora in the UK (London) to help build on the foundations laid by longer-standing EWG colleagues such as Tunde Zack-Williams and Reg Cline-Cole.
Njuki Githethwa brings a deeply held belief and practice based on the intimate relationship between the cultural and the political in his struggles for revolutionary change across East Africa. His creativity and energy typifies the new Pan-African networks of activists and scholar-activists the journal has been building working relationships with over the last five years. Leona and Chin come to us from our activist connections in the UK and Njuki is one of the many new outstanding activists we met as part of our connections project.
It is fitting that they are the first of the new generation of colleagues introducing themselves as this is as much about uniting activists from the African diaspora with those implanted in Africa. In a personal, political and scholarly sense, they, and others, will irrevocably change the EWG and ROAPE.
Speaking of disruption – Leona Vaughn
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” Angela Davis
Professor Angela Davis is often quoted in these times, and not just by political activists. By those wanting to distinguish themselves as progressive anti-racists as opposed to ‘non-racist’. Those who have a desire and a hope for equity, justice and revolutionary change in our world. Because what Professor Davis is talking about here is the need for people to have a consistently radical vision and to behave in a way that reflects this constantly in all parts of our life. She is speaking of disruption. Of transformation of society. Of hope. All the time and everywhere. Even when doing so troubles our personal comfort, power and privilege.
I have worked in equality and social justice for over 25 years in the UK and internationally. From youth work, to social work, to work on racism and hate crime in Merseyside in the North West of England. From working on equalities issues within the criminal justice system nationally, to doing work to support addressing poverty and exclusion internationally. I have always tried to ‘act local think global’. There is no greater urgency to me than to live up to this age-old adage, especially in our calls for Black Lives to Matter. The transnational interconnectedness and interdependency of racism, colonialism and racial capitalism cannot be ignored if we academics and activists are to truly expose and dismantle structural racism in all its forms.
This is part of the reason why I am working to advance the principles of anti-colonial research praxis as the norm for academic research. Working with research teams in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Ghana and Dominican Republic to explore the impact of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 on cocoa and garment workers in these countries and then with antislavery projects in East, West and Central Africa, really made me question how the notion of ‘risk’, within the way ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ and ‘modern slavery’ are conceptualised, is deeply racialised, western-centric and imagined in service of global capitalism. Now as a Derby Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool, working on the research theme ‘Slavery and Unfree Labour’, I am developing anti-colonial research methodologies which centre minoritised groups in knowledge production on risk, harm and racialisation within this field.
I began my post in the pandemic, so my first research project, coproduced and delivered with African scholars and activists, was about the racialisation of risk narratives for COVID-19 prevention in Ghana, Kenya & South Africa. It specifically considered how the ‘Black immunity’ myth which emerged in China, the UK and USA, impacted risk prevention narratives in these African countries. One indication which came through this research so strongly, was that the mythical notion of biological race remains extremely powerful and influential at this time, as much in these Black majority countries as within those where Black people are minoritised.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with colleagues and activists from around the world on the EWG. I am passionate on a personal, political and professional level about the African diaspora and believe that when we share our experiences, our activism and address our collective struggles together we will see radical, revolutionary change.
As a revolutionary socialist – Chinedu Chukwudinma
Growing up in the Swiss school system, I was never taught about African history. I learnt about Europe’s industrial revolution but nothing about the horrors of colonisation, which Europe’s bourgeoisie shamelessly inflicted upon Africans. As someone of African heritage, I felt I did not belong in a schooling system that showed no interest in topics that concerned its black students. And the prejudices from my teachers made that feeling worse. My history teacher told me that colonialism bought civilisation to Africans. Meanwhile, the largest party in Switzerland reminded me of my inferiority in society when I walked past their campaign billboards, which displayed three white sheep standing on a Swiss flag kicking away a black one.
Because I was sickened by racism, I joined anti-racist movements and read the works of radical black thinkers, such as Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis. Today, I continue to fight racism in London, the birthplace of my parents, through my involvement with the national based Stand Up To Racism movement. I now understand that racism is not about prejudice, but it is systemic. It is a product of capitalism and a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie to divide and rule the multiracial working class.
So, I define myself above all else as a revolutionary socialist in the tradition of Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky because I am committed to fighting the 1%. There’s no such thing as a lonesome socialist without organisation because nobody can change the world on their own. For my part, I’m a member of the Socialist Workers Party (UK) because it’s unapologetically committed to international socialism from below by organising in the streets and the workplaces where lays the real power of the working class.
My engagement with Marxist theory and practice has deepened my interest in the socio-economic and political issues that concern the African people on the continent and abroad. As a member to the Editorial Working Group, I will contribute to debates surrounding the legacy of my hero, the Guyanese Marxist historian Dr Walter Rodney. I hope to also honour Rodney’s legacy by applying historical materialism to analyse the struggles of the working class and the oppressed in Africa and the Americas and draw lessons in struggle from their defeats and victories. In doing so, I aim to support the attempts of the current and next generation of African revolutionaries and movements to overthrow imperialism and their ruling class.
As a member of the African diaspora, I will strive to get more black radical activists in Europe to write articles, opinion pieces and book reviews for the journal and website on areas as wide as Black Lives Matter, fighting border controls and police brutality. I believe the Review of African Political Economy is the perfect place for me to achieve such a goal because it is more than a progressive journal. At its core, ROAPE is an activist orientated publication that is determined to fight the reactionary ideas of the ruling class by including the most radical and creative left-wing thinkers and fighters in its ranks.
Taking revolutionary ambitions forward – Njuki Githethwa
I am grateful for the honour of being appointed as an editor of ROAPE. I am a Kenyan writer and activist scholar. I am an activist who dabbles in scholarship, not the reverse. I am also the Managing Editor of Ukombozi Review, a publication based in Kenya that tries to connect people’s struggles in Kenya and elsewhere. I am also an adjunct lecturer at the Institute for Social Transformation at Tangaza University in Nairobi and a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Social Change, at the University of Johannesburg. As an activist, I am linked to organisations such as Kenya Left Forum, Ukombozi Library, Ujamaaa Collective, and Pan-African Movement.
I have been reading lots of insightful articles in ROAPE, especially its online version for many years, but my physical association with the journal began at the Connections workshop held by the journal in April 2018 at the University of Dar Es Salaam. My second meeting was in another Connections Workshop in November 2018 in Johannesburg.
Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, reportedly scolded the Chilean armed forces during a search in his house: “Look around – there’s only one thing of danger for you here – poetry.” This brings to mind the title of a book, Barrel of a Pen, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. ROAPE is encased in words in pursuit of the African revolution. This is the where our interests converge. The pursuit of this revolution should not be viewed as either being cultural or state centric. It should be both. The cultural struggle is focused on capturing and influencing minds.
State-centric approaches to revolution concern themselves with ‘seizing’ or ‘smashing’ state power. This approach views revolution as only being attainable at the political level, not at economic, social or cultural fronts. On the other hand, cultural approaches to revolution argue that only when objective and subjective conditions are framed as unjust and changeable by means of cultural repertoires and discourses can the revolution be viewed by the masses as urgent and possible. Revolutions need to consider cultural repertoires for them to process the radical transformation of society in ways that are easily understood and attainable by the masses. The pursuit of revolution then becomes not only the attainment of state-centric struggles but the liberation of sites and spaces of people’s struggles through small steps and gains.
ROAPE will continue to collectively liberate minds, sites and spaces of people’s struggles towards an egalitarian and just social order and it is this project that inspires and prods me on as a member of ROAPE. This should be done by having more of popular and accessible writings alongside the heavy, didactic and academic writings, or as Chinua Achebe put it, “Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too.” I am delighted to be involved in helping to drive ROAPE’s projects and revolutionary ambitions forward.
In the coming weeks, Peter Dwyer will be introducing other new members to our editorial collective. These members are part of our efforts to further radicalise the journal and our activism in the context of the multiple crises that face us globally.
Featured Photograph: Angela Davis addresses a crowd on 19 June – Juneteenth – rally at the Port of Oakland, which was shut down to mark the day (Beth LaBerge/KQED).