The red, black, and green is a true symbol of black nationalism and African liberation throughout the world, the pan-African colors are for every black and proud individual an emblem of the exaltation of Africana self-pride. It served as a model for many African or Caribbean countries such as Kenya, Malawi, Martinique independence flag, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, which through it certainly wanted to mark their adherence or proximity to the pan-African teachings of Marcus Garvey. The three colors (our colors), are inseparable from our struggles, and are regularly raised by various Afro-nationalist militant movements in the streets when we go out to defend our rights and our community.
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What is the Pan-African flag?
It is known as the banner represented in three equal horizontal bands with the colors Red, Black, and Green. It has had different names throughout time: the Pan-African flag, the African-American flag, or the flag of black liberation. It was adopted as a symbol by the pan-African movement and defender of civil rights in the United States known as UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League) in 1920 and led by the legendary Marcus Garvey, who proposed the flag to identify the idea of an African nation.
What is Pan-Africanism?
Pan-Africanism is a political, cultural, and social project and movement that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century, proposing the unification of all African peoples, on the continent and in the diaspora, into a single nation. This current of thought set out to join forces in a global action to liberate the African continent from European colonialism and offer a place where enslaved African peoples in America could return.
Likewise, Pan-Africanism is the exaltation of African nationality, understanding the concept of the nation not as a territorial space only, but as a way of connecting the peoples of African descent as a whole. This includes the African diaspora in America that gave rise to today’s African-American societies.
Marcus Garvey and the UNIA
The Universal Association for the Betterment of Black People and the League of African Communities (UNIA) was the most important African-American mass social movement at the time. Founded by Marcus Garvey in 1917, it had direct participation in 38 states of the country and brought together thousands of people with the intention of uniting the entire African-American society in a message of “Return to Africa” as a path to redemption and pride. You can check out more about the UNIA on Wikipedia as a reference here
Who is Marcus Garvey?
Garvey was born in 1887 in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. At age 14 he started working in a printing company. He quickly turned to journalism, African history, and political leadership, but had to leave Jamaica and ended up in the United States where he settled in Harlem, New York. Later, in 1914, he began to work in actions such as the organization of the UNIA and also the edition of the newspaper “ Negro World ”, a publication dedicated solely to the interests of black people, which was an instrument of communication for the transformation of minds and the souls of African-Americans who came through the diaspora.
Similarly, the UNIA was in charge of founding a line of steamships under the name of Black Star Line, in an attempt to achieve economic self-determination for black people, launching three maritime routes that traveled to various Caribbean countries and Central America with goods and merchandise also produced by factories and businesses of black people belonging to the UNIA.
How did the Red black Green flag originate?
On August 1, 1920, more than 25,000 people from nearly all of the United States and delegates from 25 countries gathered for a large assembly held at Madison Square Garden in New York throughout the month. Garvey called it the world’s first Great International Convention of Black People. During that great event loaded with much symbolism, the strength and greatness of the black peoples and Africa was proclaimed as a single great nation that should be independent.
As of August 13, the Declaration of the Rights of Black People of the World was made public, referring in its article 39 to the adoption of the red, black, and green flag as a representation of the Pan-African ideology and the project of a single African Nation. The document was published in the Negro World and was considered at the time as the first Constitution of Black Liberty in the United States.
During the 30 days of the convention, many parades were held where the “black pride” was displayed, wearing suits and military uniforms of the African Legion that marched through the streets of New York under the red, black, and green tricolor, also called the flag of the UNIA or flag of Marcus Garvey. Read more about the 1920 Convention
Later, Robert Hill, a scholarly historian on the subject, said that Garvey thought that the flag was a necessary symbol of political maturity for a movement, he also felt that black people suffered the consequences of not being united and organized.
” Show me a race or a nation without a flag, and I’ll show you a race of people without any pride. Yes! In song and mimicry, they have said, “Every race has a flag, except the black one.” It is true! Yes! But that was said about us four years ago. Now they can’t tell… »
Quote by Marcus garvey
What do the colors of the Pan-African flag mean?
According to the Universal Black Catechism, published by UNIA in 1291, the colors mean the following:
However, Garvey is said to have once claimed that the flag’s red color was due to his sympathy for the “reds” of the world; the green was in honor of Ireland in its fight for freedom and the black of course referred to the African peoples.
Variants of the Pan-African flag:
During the 20th century, the colors of the flag were adopted by different African countries after achieving independence. Likewise, different organizations put their contributions to the use of the colors red, black, and green as a badge of pride and black liberation:
List of Country with Red black Green flag (Pan-African color)
|Kenya||December 12 , 1963||Black represents Kenyan people. Red represents the fight for freedom. Green represents Kenya's agriculture and natural resources. The white represents unity and peace. The black, red, and white shield symbolize the defense of freedom. Read More|
|Malawi||6 July 1964||The flag officially represents the dawn of hope and freedom for the continent of Africa. The black color represents the indigenous people of the continent, the red color symbolizes the blood of their struggle for African freedom, and the green color represents nature. Read More|
|Libya||3 August 2011||According to Sir Omar Faiek Shennib, " the red color was selected for the blood sacrificed for the freedom of Libya, black to remember the dark days that Libyans lived under the occupation of the Italians and green to represent its primary wealth, agriculture, and the future prosperity of the country. Read More|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||19 September 1983||The colors and symbols of Saint Kitts and Nevis flag carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. The green alludes to the country's fertile land, while the red evokes the fight for freedom against slavery and colonialism. The yellow stripes represent the sunshine the islands enjoy all year round, and the black epitomizes the people's African origins. Read more|
The use of the Pan-African flag today
To this day, the flag has remained a symbol of pan-African ideology. Beyond being the emblem of the pride and liberation of black people around the world, it has been used by different African American organizations and movements since the 60s and 70s such as the Black Panther Party.
Currently, in the resurgence of the fight and resistance for the civil rights of African Americans in America and the world, the flag has once again flown under the slogan of: black lives matter, mainly after the murder of George Floyd that caused great indignation in society.
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