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The Digital Head Nod

On my first day of orientation in law school, I was walking down the hallway when I saw a fellow Black student walking toward me. I gave him the traditional head nod. He did not nod back. Later that day, I approached him and asked why he hadn't acknowledged my greeting. He explained that he didn't know if we were cool. I said, my brother in Christ; there aren't enough of us here for you to ignore head nods. At the time, there were only eight black students out of four hundred in my law school class.

At this point, I am sure you're asking yourself an important question - Why is the head nod significant?

Origin of the Head Nod

Since slavery, Black people have traditionally used the head nod to communicate safety. According to Anthony Courtney, "When Black people were planning rebellions, the men on the plantations knew what would take place, but they wouldn't talk. When it was going to go down, they simply [head nod]. They wanted to clarify when it was going down so they would [head nod] and go about their business until they were ready to take care of it." In recent times, the head nod has represented a simple way of communicating, "I see you, and all is well.”

Why should Black people need the head nod in the first place? What would make a group so anxious that they would be forced to communicate via a gesture to represent safety? The answer to this question plays like a broken record. It goes like this. The Black Wall Street Massacre. The Congolese genocide. Modern-day police brutality in the West. Coup d'etats in Africa.

With all the atrocities that Black people face, is there anywhere in the world where we can truly be safe?

blue lemon sliced into two halves
“The internet might well be the only place a Black person can be safe.” Photo by davisuko on Unsplash

The Internet

The internet might well be the only place a Black person can be safe. Here, we have the agency to thrive beyond our wildest dreams. We can carry our culture, music, movies, art, and social media without having to identify with the burden of our forced past. The internet has allowed Africans to transcend the limitations and roadblocks built into our way. It represents our best path to freedom, which is why we must double down on it. We must bring the head nod online.

We must unlock the digital head nod.

Strategy: How Do You Build a Digital Head Nod?

When combined with the idea of the network state, the digital head nod allows us to aggregate leverage at scale. Instead of one head nod in a law school hallway in San Francisco, imagine the impact a million+ digital head nods can make.

But first, what is a Network State?

Humans are social creatures. Everything good and noble in us stems from our need to communicate with each other. In the most basic sense, building a new country is a process of scaling a social network around shared goals and principles. Social networks are formed online and tend to stay there in our lifetime. But what would it look like if we built a new network and migrated it into the real world via a city (or network of cities)?

Renowned crypto-philosopher Balaji Srinivasan highlighted this as the most viable strategy to build such a country in the 21st century. He calls this the Network State. The Network State is a digital nation launched first as an online community before materializing physically on land after reaching critical mass.

photography of astronaut standing beside rock formation during daytime
“The Network State is a digital nation launched first as an online community before materializing physically on land.” Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

The internet enables people to organize around shared values at a scale that would have been unthinkable in previous decades. If it were a country, Facebook would be the largest global network state. With the advent of cryptocurrency, the next Facebook will not be a social network with a passive online community but rather a full-blown digital republic coordinated by its native currency and a unifying mission.

What, then, could Afropolitan be? Viewed as one, the 150 million-strong African diaspora would be the 10th largest country in the world. Not to speak of the 1.2 billion people in Africa.

The diaspora is our North Star.

Master Plan

The best way to reform an obsolete system is to build a new one. Afropolitan's objective is to solve the Crisis of Legitimacy experienced by Africans worldwide by establishing a new source of legitimacy embodied in our Digital Nation.

We plan to do this in four phases:

Phase 1: Network

In Phase 1, we will seed our Network by communicating a clear and energetic vision for the world we plan to build. We will drop an NFT campaign outlining the mythology of our new nation. Afropolitan NFTs will also grant members a digital passport, alongside access to events and future value-added services.

Phase 2: Come for the Network, Stay for the Tool

Speaking of value-added services: Beyond the diaspora, scaling the Afropolitan Network requires us to provide maximum utility to our members. In Phase 2, we will launch the Afropolitan Super App to consolidate all the utilities within the Afropolitan ecosystem under one roof. Members can monitor their holdings, send money to associates, business partners, and family across borders, earn digital currency by contributing to the DAO, and buy goods and services. Most importantly, thanks to a native media feed, they will be able to watch the Network extend itself around the world. It has the potential to be one of the most significant proposition movements of our time.

Phase 3: Minimum Viable State

Our focus for Phase 3 will be preparing our transition from the digital to the virtual. Our goal at this stage is to build up legitimacy through state capacity. We will create a network of seed institutions to govern our Network, including subsidiary funds, organizations, and a developing internal economy.

Phase 4: Foundation

Finally, in Phase 4, we will leverage the Network, capital, and legitimacy accrued over the previous Phases to acquire land in negotiation with partner governments. The "Afropolitan Town" land piece will mirror existing communities like Chinatown, where our members can establish a physical presence and create economic opportunities. At this stage, the Network State will serve as the "digital capital" which governs our physical Districts. Over time, we plan to build a more extensive network of Charter Cities akin to Singapore and Hong Kong.

gray steel building frame
“We plan to build a more extensive network of Charter Cities akin to Singapore and Hong Kong.” Photo by Ramin Khatibi on Unsplash

I'm in. What's next?

The journey we are embarking on will be a long and arduous one. Our destination may be clear, but the path is uncertain. As we launch Phase 1, Afropolitan is looking to onboard the most dedicated and ambitious people to join our fledgling Network. We care less about what you've done. Tell us who you aspire to become and how we can all be better together.

To get involved, join our mailing list to get a sense of our community.

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