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From Southern California to Southern Africa: Translocal Black Internationalism in Los Angeles and San Diego from Civil Rights to Antiapartheid, 1960 to 1994

  • Author(s): Odom, Mychal Matsemela-Ali
  • Advisor(s): Widener, Daniel
  • Alvarez, Luis
  • et al.

A translocal study, “From Southern California to Southern Africa” examines the significance of local African American events to the global study of African liberation. Analyzing what I have termed the Black global spatial imaginary and solidarity-plus, this project examines the impact of major moments in the history of African liberation on African American activism and consciousness. Examining the rise solidarity-plus the first chapter, “Why Not the Same Concern?” is a case study of San Diego’s Congress of Racial Equality branch and the Afro-American Association cadres in San Diego and Los Angeles. Through direct action, revolutionary study, education, and expressive culture, African Americans and others in Southern California abandoned Cold War liberal ideologies and embraced Black Internationalism in theory and practice.

The growth of Black global spatial imaginary is dependent on African American identification with Africa but also African recognition of Black American struggles. In the second chapter, “Crisis of the African Intellectual: The Racial Encounters of African Students in the Cold War University,” higher education and migration became other ways in which solidarity-plus was practiced and the Black global spatial imaginary was expanded. I argue that the same conditions that brought African Americans into solidarity with African struggles influenced the embrace of African American liberation movements by African migrants to Southern California.

In my third chapter, “Towards the Black International,” I argue that the events following the Watts Rebellion of August 1965 was paradigm shifting moment for African American politics as well as international African liberation. Following the Watts Rebellion, youth and development becomes another practice of solidarity-plus. In Southern California, radicals of color battled the state for the minds and loyalty of Black youth in Southern California. War on Poverty programming was one place this struggle took place. Another place this struggle took place was in the Peace Corps.

Chapter four, titled “Ufahamu na Kuumba,” examines the work of two different types of radical collectives, the African Activists Association (AAA2), a radical African Studies group at UCLA, and the Nia Cultural Organization, a cadre of the Congress of African People in San Diego. For Nia and the AAA2, the study and practice of African revolutionary theory served as forms of solidarity-plus. With the African Activist Association’s journal Ufahamu and the grassroots activism of Nia’s community agency the Kuumba Foundation, these organizations continued the work of the Black Power movement and strengthened the antiapartheid movement in Southern California.

Chapter five, “Free South Africa, You Dumb SOB” I argue that the antiapartheid movement in Southern California was the accumulation of three decades of solidarity-plus. As the racial liberal era of American foreign and domestic policy receded it gave way to the rise in neoliberal economic policy and neoconservative social policy. As antiapartheid activists struggled against economic inequality, mass incarceration, police abuse, the neoliberal American university, and the cultural industry throughout Southern California, the movement accelerated. Reviving many of the campaigns of the 1960s, students and community organizations identified the links between the erosion of educational equity with the financing of apartheid and white-rule in Southern Africa by American colleges, cities, and corporations.

I end the dissertation with an examination of the black global spatial imaginary and solidarity-plus in the post-apartheid years in Southern California.

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