Black is universal. African American, and all the other combinations and permutations are limiting (plus have mad syllables), and do not designate race, but national and cultural specificity.
as a writer, i'll switch up and use AA every once in awhile, but as has been pointed out, even the word "African" can confuse matters. its cool to the extent that it makes us think about Africa when we otherwise wouldn't, but in a lot of cases, it promotes the whole "continent as country" bullshit that trivializes the tremendous diversity of culture and shared experience that exists among non-white people.
y'all can tell the difference between and Englishman, a Scot, a German, a Spaniard, an Italian and a Frenchman no doubt. but can you do the same for a Senagalese, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Ugandan, etc.?
when African American first came into "vogue", the proponents were pointing out that previous terms, like colored, negro and Black, didn't tie us to a landmass, an origin (and Africa was as specific as we could get). based on that reasoning, i used to think it was aight as a synonym, at the least, and could be useful in awakening some type of pan-african consciousness. but what quickly ensued is that you had folks loving it because it allowed them to affirm and emphasize the "American" part (after 400 years, if muhfuckas haven't caught on to the fact that we're 'american', they really ain't gonna get it no matter what we call ourselves). others of us quickly coopted the symbols and trappings of africana, without any deeper analysis or understanding -- so it is that we got preachers that drape a little kente cloth around the same ol' king james shit they been talking for years.
besides, like the race names of many other non-white peoples, the term African is not indigenous. we never called ourselves Africans in antiquity (i've read in several places that as far as historians can tell, the word originated centuries ago with a slave named Leo Africanus...). its akin to the folks we call American Indians. even though they were almost completely wiped out, and were "named" by a cat with a fucked up sense of direction, its ironic that a lot of their true languages and names survive on maps as names of rivers and towns, etc.
"Black", a name derived from an exaggerated physical description of skin color, actually has deeper roots then most of us realize. some of the ancient names from indigenous "africans" referred to themselves as "people or children of the sun". place-names like "AlKeBuLan" and "Kemet" actually translate to "land of the blacks" (Kemet, of course, being the name the so-called Egyptians gave their own civilization before the Greeks gave us "Egypt" or Aeigyptos, which means land of the sun burnt people, by the way). unlike the appellations, "colored", "negro", and "nigger", we actually gave ourselves "Black", and it turns out to be the most historically appropriate way to address each other without excluding huge sections of our extended family tree from the discourse.
so, if i need to be specific, i'll go there. when discussing Roy Hargrove's (or Dizzy Gillespie's) musical influence, the designation Afro-Cuban is significant. but if i'm building with somebody on global politics and economics, we Black.
hope this is helpful.
"do i love you cause you drive me crazy/ or do i love you for the Africa in you" Get Set V.O.P
"...picked me up around 10/ an i was going to see my favorite speaker -- Dr. Ben/ Kwabinah didn't riff, he just gave me a lift/ so we took a short drive to 125th" Kundalini - Get Set V.O.P
" i be the sandalwood-smellin, no drug sellin/ never even seen a misdemeanor or a felon-/ -y see, the p o e t, the x is/ rhymin for my brothers givin others complexes" poetx '93
========================================= I'm an advocate for working smarter, not harder. If you just focus on working hard you end up making someone else rich and not having much to show for it. (c) mad