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  • Australian Blackness, the African Diaspora and Afro/Indigenous Connections in the Global South
  • Kaiya Aboagye (bio)

The continent of Australia remains the ancestral homeland for one of the world's oldest living and continuing black civilizations, with lines of connection that spread out to the rest of the global black world. There are long histories of African/Indigenous relationships both within and outside of Australia. The black bi-cultural landscape of Australia is a rich confetti of many black embodied/identifying people; including first and second generation continental Africans, African Americans, Black Brits, Haitians, people of Afro-Caribbean and Aboriginal descent, Pacific and Pasifika Islanders. Blackness in the global south is also embodied across the black Pacific Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, all of whom are our relations from neighboring islands such as the Torres Straits, Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji, Tokelauan's, South Sea Islanders, Papuan and Maori to name a few. Each of their experiences of blackness have shared spheres of influence, and often a historical connection to the African diaspora and Aboriginal Australia.

There are many black Australians who embody this global connection. As an example, I am the daughter of a Ghanaian father from the Adansi tribe of the Ashanti Nation, in Ghana. It was during my father's visit to Sydney, Australia in the late 1970s that he met and fell in love with my mother, an Indigenous woman from Queensland living in the Aboriginal center of Redfern in Sydney at the time. My mother, a proud woman from the Kukuyalanj Nation of far north Queensland, was the daughter of an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander mother and Torres Strait Islander father from Darnley Island (Erub).

It is also through my Torres Strait Islander heritage that I hold bloodlines to Jamaica as a descendant of the freed slave, Douglas Pitt, one of the most notorious figures of Jamaican history in the Torres Straits. Douglas Pitt arrived at Murray Island as a skipper in the bechede-mer trade with a crew of Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders. Pitt incorporated himself into Island life, marrying and fathering around [End Page 72]

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Vincent Namatjira, First Contact, 2016.

Acrylic on canvas, 51 x 36 cm. Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery.

eight children, all whom married into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, as well as Pacific, Asian and Malaysian families.

Today many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can trace their lineage back several generations to African descendants. As oftentimes these people were initiated or adopted into communities, [End Page 73] changing the nature of Aboriginal family formation, genealogies and systems of kinship. The legacy of Douglas Pitt and his Indigenous descendants is but one example of this and a testament to the Jamaican legacy in Indigenous Australia. Generations later the same Jamaican influence infiltrating black Australia would impact my parents also, bringing them together through their love of reggae music. My parents met in the only reggae club in Sydney, Power Cuts, where many young Blacks, Africans, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders convened during the late 70s and 80s.

The late 1960s and early 1970s was an important period of social and political resistance. Many political factions united in protest against the Vietnam War, demanding a change in the geopolitical standards of world justice. The stirrings of Pan-Africanism and decolonial praxis were bubbling away as the black international climate of formerly colonised African countries like Ghana received their independence. In Australia this era heralded the rise of bright, young, Indigenous, activist intellectuals, who formed radical groups and coalitions throughout Australia, marking the start of Australia's own "Black Power movement." These young, gifted and black activists came together to build a radical new vision for Aboriginal Australia.

In his 2001 essay titled, "Black Power in Redfern (1968–1972)," Aboriginal (Gumbainggir) professor Gary Foley explains that defining the "Australian version of Black Power, like its American counterpart … [was about] the necessity for black people to define the world in their own terms, and to seek self-determination without white interference." Australia's Black Power era would witness the birth of its own chapter of the Black Panther Party...