It seems pan-Africanism is getting a revival of sorts in Western Black culture. Not a full revival but a sort of revival. There’s the natural hair movement, the extended (but sometimes very lop-sided) discussion of history and faiths that fall outside of Abrahamic beliefs and more media that reflects Blackness a bit more than usual (movies such as Black Panther (The superhero, not the political party) come to mind.) This is great for a host of reasons but also could potentially be another as identity movements such as these come and go in hills and valleys.

Pan-Africanism refers to all things Black: the history, the people, the culture. When done well, it’s very self-confidence boosting and creates solid ground to build a stable identity upon, inclusive of all Black people, not just a thin slice of an intersection (which is usually male, usually straight, usually cis, usually Western and usually 1D in ideas and beliefs). It decenters Whiteness, which is both inaccurately used and determined as the yardstick of “what is a human? What is human?” and allows people, Black people, to simply be themselves. When done poorly, it just subtly supports White supremacist thinking, theories and ideologies, creates discord and only benefits one thin slice of an intersection (which, again, is usually male, usually straight, usually cis, usually Western and usually 1D in ideas and beliefs). Then there’s the middle where things just swing between the two because Blackness is understood and expressed differently by different Black people and people, in general, are pretty complex. What bothers someone from Zimbabwe is probably not going to bother someone from America, which may or may not irk someone from Germany. All Black but all different for a myriad of reasons.

And with Paganism, this is no different. It’s been said many times already, Paganism – particularly Western Paganism – has a severe and vastly ignored issue (there’s lip service but still usually ignored at the end of the day) of painting itself as overly White. Paganism encompasses all indigenous faiths throughout the world but is usually streamlined to Euro-centric practices, with some token practices that get commonly Whitewashed, such as yoga, chakras, feng shui, Voodun and, as a whole, Buddhism.

Black people in the West seem to want to get more back in their cultures but it’s difficult because there are many more things in play besides just race alone. For one, there’s the different Black cultures. What someone from Nairobi feels is important to them is going to be different from someone from Atlanta because the differences of where they come from, which sometimes is commonly forgotten when Black people, particularly Westerners, want to have a cultural revival and reconnection but may still adopt Western imperialist attitudes about those who are not similar to them, even if they look like them. Rave about being from the “motherland” but shame those who are still there simply because of difference of opinion or complete misunderstanding. I saw this a lot from those who were happy to see Black Panther because of its Black representation (which did indeed pain Marvel at the start, which not just a Marvel problem but a Whiteness-in-comics general problem) but would still make light or underhanded jabs about the state of various African places. Or still referred to Africa as a country and not a continent. Or about the manner of traditional African dress and style referenced or featured in Black Panther.

With other ideas and practices, such as natural hair and the modernized concept of being “woke” (aware of institutional injustices that is primarily driven by White supremacist & imperialism-focused racism but strongly targets with a vein of anti-Blackness (but can also get kicked into selfish and blind overdrive that ignores intersectionalism when not balanced)), it helps Black folks relate to their histories and look more into whatever scraps of their family tree and past they may find but it still is difficult. From the Black cultural side, there’s a lot of misinformation because most Western books on Black culture and identity were generally written or gatekept by White editors and writers and explorers so what facts and info is more widely available is pretty much poisoned with “those subhuman savages with bones in their noses” beliefs from National Geographic to a good sum of academic books. That can further poison more minds and reinforce Western imperialist ideas (“Life sucks as an American but at least I don’t live in a mud hut”) as well as confuse in Black minds.

From the Pagan cultural side, it works pretty hard to keep Paganism, and all its diverse practices, very White. Either on purpose or through subconscious accident. Many Black folks just looking at the Pagan side of their pan-cultural history already have problems of encountering expressions of identity that should be for them being Whitewashed and torn apart. Or they run into the same gatekeeping of Whiteness that is already common just about everywhere else.  What is discovered is that modern Pagan practice tends to choke out diverse perspectives in favor of tokenized ones that preferably has price tags attached to them.

It’s nice that there’s a new wave of Black identity where now we’re more in control than prior but still there are walls present. If it isn’t self-perception of pan-African cultural identity, it’s outer forces that could reinforce negative self-perception of pan-African cultural identity.