Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Celebrate Africa

It's Africa Day today!

We've been celebrating all weekend! In Jo'burg we've enjoyed a feast of Africa-related activities and events which has nourished our souls and fed our minds.
It was on this day 45 years ago that the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) articulated a commitment to building Africa as a continent that was united, independent of colonial powers and economically stable.

Judging by the literature available, the notion of the unity in African diaspora was a key dimension of the vision. So, in a nutshell, Africa Day is for those at 'home' and abroad!
I wonder how many of Africa's sons and daughters in the diaspora see Africa Day as an opportunity to reflect on their heritage and tighten the umbilical connection to the Motherland.

From where I sit, I don't have to look too far to encounter richly diverse African diaspora communities who have settled in Jo'burg. Known as the 'cross-roads of the continent', Jo'burg city boasts African communities and cultures from all over the continent and the world.

Jo'burg's diversity
Jo'burg's heart beats to the rhythm of its diversity. Historians proudly tell of the city's migrant history which dates back to almost a century ago. This was just before the Gold Rush in 1886. People from all over the world literally rushed to cash in on her precious bounty.
Even today, the majority of newcomers to Jo'burg are people who come to cash in on the dynamic economic activity of the city.

From a Diaspora perspective, some would say it's an exciting time to be in Jo'burg. However, I've seen those who skate by on the periphery, heads low and minding their own business.
It begs the question: How significant is Africa Day for the melting-pot city of Gold? A year on from the 'xenophobic attacks' that mired many South African cities, attempts to engage communities in social cohesion come from the highest office in the land.

Important celebration
Closer to my backyard, I hear the Director for Arts, Culture and Heritage of the City of Jo'burg, Steven Sack, speak of Africa Day as a key event for the city. He and a number of partners sit at the helm of the diverse Africa Day activity programme.

He believes Africa Day is an important celebration and an opportunity to spread Africa's good news stories, profile wonderful arts and celebrate Africa's diversity in the city where all cultures meet. His ultimate vision speaks of an Africa Day programme that is able to catalyse action.
Action indeed! Clearly, there's a call for diaspora communities from Jo'burg to Jamaica to pick up the baton set out by the founding fathers of the OAU which finds itself at our feet today.
If we are able to move collectively from being sideline spectators to taking ownership and contributing to the process, that will be a good step! If we don't lift up our own voices, then who will?

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