The African National Women’s Organization (ANWO) will hold our first international convention on March 24-25, 2018 at Nyumburu Cultural Center. The center is located on the University of Maryland College Park campus. The theme of the convention is Building the Revolutionary Capacity of African Women. This convention will bring together our membership from around the world, our supporters and the general population.

Since our founding conferences in 2015, which were held in Washington, D.C. and London, England, the African National Women’s Organization has been redefining what liberation for African women looks like in the struggle to be free of colonial oppression. Unlike many women-centered social movements, ANWO does not determine that freedom for African women comes with the destruction of patriarchy. Instead we say that it is only by joining an organization fighting against colonial oppression—generated by parasitic capitalism—that we can find freedom as African women and as African people, as a whole.

Parasitic capitalism is the center of our oppression

Parasitic capitalism robs most of the world’s peoples by manufacturing violence in order to maintain control of the stolen wealth and the people. It was the European attack on Africa that gave birth to the current capitalist system of oppression, exploitation and violence that displaced millions of African people and keeps our communities besieged in violence, poverty and without political power in our own interest.

These conditions manifest themselves most sharply in the lives of poor working class Africans; some of whom, as a result of this exploitation, have resorted to doing the most demeaning and oppressive things in order to survive; such as sex work or selling drugs. These actions almost guarantee constant interaction with the State.

Even when we follow the so called “straight and narrow” path paved for us under colonialism, the threat of State intervention is never too far from our doorsteps.

The policy of police containment in African communities around the world guarantees the constant clash between the people and the State. Most often, we see this play out violently on our streets, leaving loved ones maimed, imprisoned or dead. Whereas the attacks against African men are highly visible and apparent in the forms of police shootings, mass incarceration and horizontal violence [black on black], the attacks against African women aren’t always discernible from the daily “struggle” that African women are often misguidedly admired for overcoming.

African women experience colonial violence daily

We are clear that the white oppressor nation is the colonizer, and as such carries out violence against the colonized in the form of political, economic, social and judicial policies. We therefore understand that the following is colonial violence; Welfare, State-Sponsored kidnapping of children, police brutality and murder,  domestic abuse, sex work, underemployment, homelessness is colonial violence, poverty,  poor or inadequate healthcare, mis-education, gentrification, drugs and police in schools.

It is on these battlefields that African women are fighting daily just to be able to live. Under colonialism, African people as a whole, but specifically African women, have been conditioned to internalize and accept direct violence from the oppressor. After all, it was this direct violence that brought forth the children of our oppressors. Our bodies were constantly invaded for their pleasure and economic gain.

African mothers in particular are the most vulnerable, as they are constantly in fear of being separated from their children.

We have come to understand, however, that no matter what we do, it is difficult to protect ourselves in a system where we do not have power. Many of us have learned that any struggle we make in defense of ourselves or our children will be met with silence, indifference, or worse, antagonism or violence, from both the oppressor nation as well as from within the oppressed African nation.

This is called the “special” or “double” oppression faced by African women within a system of colonial domination and exploitation.

The romanticized weight of oppression

The struggle of poor working class African women is romanticized and attributed to “strength,” while the weight and responsibility of caring for ourselves or others, crushes our will to fight beyond the daily struggle of putting food on the table or paying the bills.

When we get fed up and become bold, the cold noose of colonialism is tightened around our necks, pulling us back into the depths of the disparity synonymous with the African poor and working class.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that when African women confront our oppression, there is implicit bias that assumes that we are unfit, unstable, undeserving, guilty or indefensible.

Characterizations like these were used to describe Korryn Gaines, an African mother who videotaped herself boldly challenging the police. There were some people who thought she should have done what she was told. However, she boldly stood her ground and became an example of strength to all other African women, and especially for African mothers whose children are used as ammunition against them.

Women such as Kundé Mwamvita, mother of five, who worked long hours at a menial fast food job just to make ends meet, was characterized as a bad mother because she had to work. Her daughter, Dominique Battle, is one of the three girls who were chased by into a Florida pond by Pinellas county police, who watched on as the girls drowned in a sinking car. Kundé was belittled for the way she spoke and for her working class appearance when she demanded justice for the death of her daughter and her daughter’s two friends, LaNiya Miller and Ashaunti Butler.

Women like Maisha, Tamara, and Nina have been struggling for years to regain custody of their children after the State kidnapped them under the guise of child protection. These women and children have been isolated by the State and from the community because of the illegitimate charges, which in many cases, targets, shames, and criminalizes the mothers. These sorts of characterizations have a detrimental effect on the confidence of African women who struggle to find their power in the daily onslaught being waged against them.

ANWO building our ranks one woman at a time

ANWO has built our organization from the ranks of the African poor and working class. Our mission is rooted in redefining the role of African women in the struggle for freedom. We explain what is happening to us and develop strategy to put an end to the oppressive exploitative conditions that are inherent under colonialism. Through ANWO, the invisible can become visible as we take up our rightful place, organizing out of the obscurity and fear that comes from being attacked from all angles.

Our convention will lift up the voices and genius of poor working class African women, who are in the trenches everyday. It will provide training and strategy forged from the experiences of African women and from the 45 years of organizational practice of the Uhuru Movement—the movement led by the African poor and working class.

We will have panel discussions, cultural performances, in-depth analysis, childcare and opportunities to network.

All sectors of our community are welcome to attend and participate in building the power of African women.