August 1 marked the first anniversary of the burial of Brother Bankie Forster Bankie. We laid him to rest in Windhoek, Namibia in 2017 after his tragic passing a month or so earlier.
At the request of the widow, Sister Rita, I had the honour to conduct the funeral service, in my capacity as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This memorial essay is not about the life of Brother Bankie per se, but it is rather about the Pan African cause, a cause he totally dedicated his whole life to.
I think there are people who were more close to him than I was and who are thus better qualified to write about his life. I would leave that assignment to them. However, what I can say in one short sentence is that, for the life of mine I have met very few people who are totally given to a cause the way this man was committed to Pan Africanism.
On the list of those who were lined up to pay tribute to Brother Bankie at the funeral was a certain Glenory Whatson, who spoke on behalf of Global Africa. Whatson is a UK-based trade unionist and a committed Pan Africanist in his own right. In paying tribute to Brother Bankie, Whatson, who was speaking off the cuff, said something that has stuck in my mind forever, namely: “I do not remember a day in my life when I was not a Pan Africanist.” That sounds so simple, yet it is very profound.
A few years back before I started to pay serious attention to the Pan African cause, I thought Pan Africanism was just some kind of pastime intellectual romanticism. In my younger days I regarded myself as a Marxist and as a result I was also not too keen to embrace Pan Africanism because I wrongly thought that it was a racist ideology. We were fighting against white racism and I did not want to reverse white racism with black racism, so I thought. When I started to reflect seriously on Pan Africanism, I came to the “sobering” realisation that this was about who we were as a people and what we have been experiencing. In short, we could cease to be many things, but we cannot cease to be African. As Professor Ali Mazrui would say, a white Marxist could cease to be a Marxist, but he cannot cease to be white.
The black race has gone through many dehumanising experiences, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism and all manner of discrimination and degradation. This, in turn, has led to inferiority complex and negative self-image because, for the most part, we have been defined by others – and not in the most positive of terms to say the least. This definition has mainly been in the shadows of others where we are defined as the “other” or “outsiders” who are “not good enough” according to Eurocentric standards. Sadly, most of our people have come to accept that ‘definition.’ The problem with mental slavery or race-based inferiority complex is that, for the most part, the victim does not seem to be aware that he/she is a victim.
About a year ago Professor Runoko from the United States delivered a public lecture on Pan Africanism in Windhoek. Brother Bankie was - typical of him, very much behind the scenes - instrumental in organising that public lecture where the late Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab and Nahas Angula also featured as co-discussants. In that public lecture, Professor Runoko cited a very interesting example when he made reference to a then recent study that had been conducted in the US among young female African-American children. The children were given a choice between a black doll and a white doll; and all of them chose a white doll. When they were asked why they did not want to choose a black doll, they said: “…because it is ugly…” Need I say that this is about negative self-conception?
The imagery representation that most black people have about themselves is negative. The Western knowledge and cultural structures dominate the world and therefore the “international imagery representation” is mainly Eurocentric and extra-African. As a result Eurocentric values and opinions have come to be accepted as ‘universal’ standards.
These Eurocentric structures of imagery representation can be counter-acted through music, poetry, literature, theatre, and film. For this to have a transformative impact, African people should feature in these modes of culture as musicians, poets, film directors and actors, and literary contributors. In other words, we should create our own space to tell our own story. For too long our story has been told by others. As someone has remarked “…as long as the antelope does not tell its own story, hunting will continue to be told from the hunter’s perspective.”
This in turn, should ignite a spark towards self-reflection and self-conceptualisation or self-definition. Positive imagery representation is very critical for a people who have been struggling with negative self-image. Pan Africanism is about the need for a conscious paradigm shift or transcendence from negative self-image to a positive one.
Civilisation is a collective historical process to which all peoples have equally contributed and continue to contribute. This is what Brother Bankie stood for and dedicated his whole life to. Brother Bankie’s involvement with the Namibian struggle for independence, specifically, started when he was serving as a Ghanaian diplomat in Luanda in the 1980s where SWAPO also had its provisional headquarters. After our independence in 1990, he continued to serve our country, and the Pan African cause at large, in various capacities.
I therefore submit that the City of Windhoek would do well to name a prominent street after him. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
2018-08-17 10:10:08 10 months ago