No parent ever mentioned Bandung to me. No teacher ever mentioned Bandung to me. No religious leader has ever mentioned Bandung to me. No one has, unless one recalls the voice of Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader of the movement in the sixties.
Malcolm X in his recorded speeches speaks of how America’s attack against black life and black rights led to a black revolution around the world. And I think to inspire black people and to convince them that they were not alone, Malcolm spoke of countries from Asia and Africa, newly independent countries, getting together to create a separate non-aligned body to serve the needs of these newly emerging nations and their people’s cultural, economic, and technical affairs.
What a surprise to hear of Bandung, again, over 50 years later. In 1956, the black American expatriate Richard Wright publishes The Color Curtain, a deep examination of the Asian-African conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Here we see Wright’s allegiance to psychiatry and psychology as a way into one’s hidden drives and unspoken motivations.
In this adoption of the science of the mind, Wright seemingly dumps political analysis for psychic or psychological analysis—or the outside for the inside. Instead of analyzing classes, Wright looks to religion and race as keys to identity. And he saw the Bandung conference as a convocation of the world’s dispossessed peoples who turned from communism as well as capitalism to follow the road called non-alignment.
When Wright first learned of the Bandung Conference, he was stunned by the sheer size of the populations to be represented there: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Ethiopia, the Gold Coast, the Philippines, some 29 nations in all. He told his wife he had to go, and when she asked him why, he passed her the newspaper article. Upon reading it. She explained, “Why, that’s the human race!”
And so it was, but nations are nations, and they rarely yield the iron chains of sovereignty. Bandung, a dream, rarely reached its enormous potential. Can it do so now in this new century threatened by rapacious capitalism under the guise of neocolonialism? The west wants to change the world’s majority to its systems of repression and restriction. Can the world, the human race, raise again the banner of self-determination, liberation, and freedom? Can Bandung give rise to a new world power based on the overwhelming majority of the world’s people? Can Africa and Asia emerge as whole societies again? This, we shall find out—whether the dream of Malcolm and our dream can become a reality.
From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.