A high power African American delegation arrives in Senegal Friday where they will join other dignitaries, including heads of state, to participate in three days of festivities marking Senegal’s 50th independence anniversary this weekend.
Melvin Foote, president of the Constituency for Africa and the African American Unity Caucus said 50 years of independence bring to mind all those who struggled and died for Africa to gain its independence.
“It’s good to go to Senegal any time, but I think on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, it’s extraordinarily special when you think about all those who have fought for Africa over the years – from Kwame Nkrumah to George Padmore to Marcus Garvey. So when you see a country that has reached 50 years of independence, I’m happy to be part of that,” he said.
The delegation includes the Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition, Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States and Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey.
Foote said the makeup of the delegation indicates to him that Africa’s struggle includes a role for the Diaspora.
“Looking at the roster of people who are going to be part of the delegation, the range of perspectives and outlooks and dichotomy that we have, I think that means that the struggle is more than just Africa; it includes the African Diaspora. So for the first time all of us see ourselves as Africans,” Foote said.
Under the auspices of Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade, the Independence Day events will focus on the future of Africa.
Foote said today’s crop of African American leaders are driving U.S. policy toward Africa.
“Here we are in 2010 and a president of the United States fits the description of an American of African descent. When you look around and you see Daniel Yohannes, the head of the Millennium Development Corporation an Ethiopian American, Aaron Williams, the director of Peace Corps, an African American. And so really in a short period of time I think Americans of African descent are now driving the policy toward Africa,” he said.
But Foote said there is much more that needs to be done for Africa, including reducing the impact of HIV/ AIDS, universal education and gender equality and protecting the environment.
“We know we have a long to go. There are so many frontiers that have to be addressed. I think it would be naïve to think that we’re going to solve all these in our life time. But I do think that we have a chance now to make sure that Western governments deal with Africa more fairly; we can make sure that this be a century of Africa,” Foote said.
As part of the festivities, a colloquium of African writers and intellectuals will Saturday examine and debate the enormous promise of the African Renaissance.
On Saturday, the African Renaissance Monument will be inaugurated in an event focusing on the theme a United States of Africa, according to a news release from the Constituency for Africa.
The African American delegation will April 2nd pay a visit to Goree Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its historic link to the slave trade.
Foote said each time he visits Goree it brings back memories of slavery. But he said the question now is what would be the role of African Diaspora in reshaping Africa’s future.
“It’s always a heart-wrenching thing to see the door of no return because we’re talking about 500 years or more of history. But the world is what it is and we are where we are. But it is very important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that Africa has its Diaspora and the question now is what is the role of the Diaspora in re-shaping Africa’s policy, Africa’s future,” Foote said.