As I tore through Dr Kehinde Andrew’s new book, Back to Black, scribbling in the margins and highlighting passage after passage, I felt within me the fire I first felt reading Malcolm X and James Baldwin. In Back to Black, Dr Andrews calls us to revisit and reimagine the Black radicalism of yesteryear -- a Black radicalism that is too often conflated with cultural nationalism.
My main question after reading the book was this: how do queer Black people adopt a Black radicalism that was historically exclusive and patriarchal? Indeed, after reading Back to Back, I immediately picked up bell hooks’ Ain’t I A Woman. In it she says this:
“From their writings and speeches it is clear that most Black political activists of the 60s saw the Black liberation movement as a move to gain recognition and support for an emerging Black patriarchy.”
But Dr Andrews reminds us that many of the leaders we lionise weren’t actually Black radicals and asks us to ask ourselves and each other whether the ideology is flawed or the men who led the movements?
Back to Black covers everything from Pan-Africanism to Liberal Radicalism, and so whether he’s denying the Black radicalism of Beyonce or calling Black Panther a movie for white people, he does so to ensure we keep casting a critical eye and that we continually examine and interrogate ourselves and this movement so we don’t become complacent. We can’t just put on a beret and raise our fists, we have to actually roll up our sleeves and do something.
Through this book, Dr Andrews reminds those of us with the fire of radicalism in our bellies, that the future we imagine is very, very possible.
Dr Kehinde Andrews is an associate professor of Sociology, the director of the Centre for Critical Social Research, founder of the Organisation of Black Unity and co-chair of the Black Studies Association. He's also the UK's first professor of Black Studies.
This episode of Busy Being Black contains snippets from preeminent Black activists:
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