“Africa is finally on the move. We invite all of you, all our partners, all our young people, the train has left the station, but it is beginning to speed up. Get on board…” H.E. Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, African Union, Deputy Chairperson.
Monday May 25th 2020 is the 57th anniversary of Africa Day, originally meant to mark Africa’s gains towards the termination of colonial rule. On April 15 1958 President Kwame Nkrumah convened a conference of independent African states in Ghana under the banner African Freedom Day aka African Liberation Day; where Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia with representatives from several African freedom fronts began building the collective vision for African sovereignty. This was considered the first Pan African Conference on the continent. By May 25th 1963, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I launched the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ethiopia with focus on erasing the remnants of imperialism and apartheid, whilst promoting African unity. On July 9, 2002 the OAU morphed into the AU, branding May 25th Africa Day, with subsequent focus on Agenda 2063, a broad-spectrum strategy to advance Africa. Names, dates, places and priorities have changed over the decades yet converging interests remain the celebration of a shared vision for a not so distant future Africa; free, prosperous and flourishing.
On the occasion of Africa Day 2020 and based on Ethiopia’s contributions to Pan Africanism from the 1896 Victory at Adowa to the 1963 OAU launch and beyond; Addis Abeba University (AAU) Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES) Museum has embarked on the creation of a Pan African Wing. This effort, consistent with Agenda 2063, calls for an African cultural renaissance, crucial to inculcating the spirit of Pan Africanism. According to IES Director, Dr. Takele Merid, “IES AAU…was established in 1963 when the OAU laid the foundation of institutional framework in Addis Ababa. It is to be recalled that the first display of the IES Museum was launched deliberately on this day to commemorate the grand continental event… . It is with this spirit that IES Museum has decided to open permanent Pan African wing as part of its expansion endeavor.” I am honored to be appointed Facilitator and Co-curator of the project and look forward to working with the exceptional IES Museum Team led by Chief Curator, Dr. Hassen Said again. Pledging support for this laudable initiative are Pan African academicians, artists, activists and even the AU’s Deputy Chairperson, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, known widely as the 21st century “Pilot of Pan Africanism at the AU”.
Africa Day weekend will also be extra special for me this year as my family and friends will celebrate, safely from home, the graduations of two of my children, Shema-Miriam from Georgia State University and Ziha- Gebre from Morehouse College. Thanks to technology, kith and kin will gather on zoom to recognize Shema and Ziha who spent part of their childhood right here in Addis Abeba, the diplomatic capital of Africa. Messages from Ghana’s Diaspora African Forum’s Ambassador Erieka Bennett and Keynote from renowned African American actor and activist, Baba Lou Gossett Jr. with blessings from Elders, siblings and well-wishers will be showered on the Rastafari Pan African youth committed to pursuing studies and activism in water access and sustainability and equity in environmental policies, areas affecting Africans considerably. They join a cadre of African youth at home and abroad focused on fixing what was captured, colonialized, sold, bartered or otherwise compromised outside of African’s best interest. We salute ALL our 2020 graduates who though didn’t walk across the stage, did complete the journey. INIKWANI DESI ALACHU!
It gets better. Africa Day, perceived as reserved for tried and true Rastafari, old Pan Africanists or diplomatic core congregants, may see a change in 2020. Though destroying lives and livelihoods, Covid19 has propelled a response of African solidarity through song. Nope, not gonna quote Bob Marley’s Africa Unite, though tempted. Instead I refer to those inspired by the reggae icon, including my girl Angelique Kidjo, unapologetic fire brand for Africa; my Naija son, Burna “Tell ’em Africa we don dire” Boy; Sho Madzoji, young South African songtress, rapper and culture queen and Kenya’s Sauti Sol and more. On Monday May 25th the “Africa Day Concert At Home”, hosted by Idris Alba, will be streamed live with appearances from Trevor Noah and reggae rapper, Sean Paul amongst a host of other artists joining those named above. The two hour jam session will raise funds for those affected by covid-19 on the continent while giving us a reason to dance, sing in celebration of African unity. I close with a quote from Pan African champion, H.E. Ambassador Kwesi Quartey, “Africa is finally on the move. We invite all of you, all our partners, all our young people, the train has left the station, but it is beginning to speed up. Get on board, and let us all build this proud continent. We are creating and integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”
Happy Africa Day!
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.