Interestingly, a controversy and confusion stills reigns within the Black community (and within other progressive circles) over the annual celebration of African Liberation Day and its connection to more than just the anti-apartheid struggle and other forms of militant protest. I wrote an article during May 2010, that is repeated below in a slightly updated version to clarify the situation. Since that confusion still exists among too many of us, the article bears republishing.
Just to be clear, African Liberation Day–May 25–is the exact same holiday as All Africa Day, the only current continentwide (and even worldwide) holiday for all African people. Like January’s MLK Day, it is still growing in status, acceptance and influence.
In fact, each month in the Western calendar has several dates of importance to offer as proof of the month’s significance. Of course, January has New Year’s and Dr. King’s birthday celebration (as mentioned above) about which to stand tall. February not only has Valentine’s Day, it has Presidents’ Day and the birthday of Frederick Douglass, not to mention Black History Month. The roll call of important calendar days in each month would find not one four-week period lacking in distinction.
The big dog in political months, however, hands down is May. That month starts off on the first day with May Day–the seminal celebration of springtime rites and socialist activism. It ends on May 31, Memorial Day (originally, Decoration Day), the pre-eminent celebration of loyalty and courage in America’s Civil War.
In between, there is Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day (whoever doesn’t think Mother’s Day is political has been under a rock for a while), African Liberation Day and All Africa Day, just to name a few. In fact, May hosts more than 25 distinctive political observances, including the annual Malcolm X birthday gala and festival held in most major urban areas in America (There’s also another Malcolm X festival held annually in April).
The Kentucky Derby’s “run for the roses” occurs during the first weekend in May, with its largely unknown history of Black jockeys like Jimmy Winkfield and Isaac Murphy, who dominated the Derby for its first 30 years, only to be replaced by Irish and Anglo riders as the Derby became more commercial and popular.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is in May, along with National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day, Public Service Recognition Week, National Teacher’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Month, National Historic Preservation Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and American Armed Forces Day.
May is the birthday month of such luminaries as Socrates and Karl Marx, Willie Mays and Biggie Smalls, Ho Chi Minh and John F. Kennedy, the Ayatollah Khomeini, James Brown, John Wayne and Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Patti Labelle, plus Bob Dylan and Jim Jones, to name just a few.
In 1963, the newly formed Organization of African Unity established May 25 as African Freedom Day, to celebrate the recent independence of 32 former colonies. In the early 1970s, that formal name was changed by community activists to African Liberation Day, and is now celebrated globally under that sobriquet.
All Africa Day (aka, Africa Day) also on May 25, is the African Union’s new official holiday (the AU is the organization that replaced the OAU in 2001) to help to convince the African continent to become one federated country–the United States of Africa or Union of African States.
The old official name–African Freedom Day–has just evolved into the new formal name, All Africa Day, as designated by Africa’s singular official body. ALD is not only the same holiday, it is just the informal, unofficial nickname of All Africa Day.
May Day, originally celebrated by the Romans, Greeks and Celts (under various other names) is a huge party and love potion to the new springtime blossoms, warm weather and freedom.
However, socialists everywhere, and other labor activists speaking many different languages, annually thrust their fists in the air, sing militant songs of struggle and triumph, and march through streets, villages, shopping centers and universities in honor of working people everywhere. May Day is their Labor Day. It is not the only Janus-faced celebration in May.
The Malcolm X birthday holiday, for example, at once a reason to “speak truth to the people” in fiery speeches, barbecues and people-friendly celebrations by Black student unions around the country, and urban volunteers, used to be the start of the Garveyite Black nationalist celebrations that continued right through college university graduations, complete with kente cloth collars and red-black-and green arm bands. The Malcolm X May Festival in Los Angeles, handled for a very long and successful time by Torre Brannon and Shaka Satori, has now been turned over to the next generation of youth leadership, headed by Jimmy Lumoomba Lewis. This year’s event will be held at the Marcus Garvey School, Sixth Avenue and Slauson.
So, the next time May rolls around, remember the political legacy of this turgid month as you watch a little roundball (this year, without the Lakers) and taste a few mint juleps. You can bet the political campaigners getting ready for the tough 2012 election season know what month it is. This is cutoff and decision-making time–to be a viable candidate or not (So long, Mr. Trump).
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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