From its founding in 2016, Africans Rising (africansrising.org) has endeavoured to raise the profile of Pan-African solidarity especially among the youth of the continent and its diaspora.
Its African Liberation Day commemoration brings thousands of Africans home and abroad on the same platform connected by the same desire to see a peaceful, just and dignified Africa.
Through a consultative, grassroots-led, innovative process, the movement has created a truly unique way to commemorate the historic moment when Africa almost became a country 6 decades ago. In this way, a strong connection is built between the struggles of the youth and the endearing past of their forebears, from which they must learn.
Each year, choosing a theme that resonates with the African masses, Africans Rising makes the effort to rally people from all walks of life encouraging them to take action.
The notion of African Liberation Day has its roots in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in May 1963 at a 3-day conference of then new independent countries.
That conference starting from 23rd May that year in the ancient African city of Addis Ababa was a decisive platform for the future of Africa. The discussions centred on many things but principally liberation and unity. It was to be decided whether African countries were to bind together to form one giant country or to move independently but with cooperation amongst themselves.
Those who advocated immediate unity became known as the “radicals” while those who advocated separate sovereignties were known as “gradualists”. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, two of the foremost theorists on African unity came to symbolise the opposing perspectives on that critical question.
The latter was later in 1997 to admit the correctness of the position of the “radicals”. Back then in 1963, in the tense debate between Africans who saw themselves as siblings divided by colonialists in an 1884 Berlin conference, the gradualists carried the day and the conference ended on 25th May with the formation of the Organisation of African Unity to work towards gradual unity.
While all that is history, African youth are taking inspiration from this historic moment. And Africans Rising is rallying and supporting them to do this in actionable and consequential ways.
History of Africans Rising’s African Liberation Day Mobilisations
On May 25, 2017, 2000 volunteers, partners, supporters and friends organised a total of 300 actions and events in 42 countries on the African continent and the Diaspora to march the launch of Africans Rising. On May 25, 2018, the mobilisation was even more massive as hundreds of individual actions and events were carried out in 54 countries including 6 in the African Diaspora. In 2019, activities spanned from film screenings, media engagements, public symposia, to panel discussions and several other activities on modern day slavery. In 2020 and 2021, Africans Rising focused on the health and wellbeing of Africans and African communities, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its disastrous consequences across all aspects of life, through our#Rise4OurLives campaign.
African Liberation Week; #AfricaforAfricans
This year, the mobilisation has been expanded to include a whole week of activities. The uniqueness of African Rising’s approach is in its emphasis on supporting grassroot movements and activists in organising and taking action rather than duplicating their action. This is buoyed by the understanding that the grassroot movements are best placed to carry out meaningful actions and spread the fervour of African Liberation among the people. Unlike, other commemorations which hold grand events at the continental level, the focus on grassroots brings the conversation on African liberation to the people where it truly belongs.
Under the theme, #AfricaforAfricans, the African Liberation Week spanning the entire week of 25th May (i.e 23rd May to 29th May 2022), promises to galvanize the youth for African liberation way beyond the May and perhaps even far beyond 2022. The theme itself highlights the hope and ambition of the African youth.
#AfricaforAfricans draws inspiration from Marcus Garvey’s Pan-African rhetoric of the early 20th Century meant to rally people of African descent to embrace their land – Africa. In its contemporary rendition, Africa for Africans connotes the need for Africans to take ownership and control of the destiny of their continent.
This means a commitment to ensure that the wealth of the continent benefits the people, not external forces and not a small clique of African elites, but the people – all the people.
It also underscores the burning imperative to protect the land from destruction as the sub-theme climate and environmental justice highlights. People protect what they own. Within a neo-colonial context, Africa has been extracted from the African.
In other words, when the great wealth that is extracted from the belly of the continent is juxtaposed with the mass poverty and other iniquities afflicting the people, Africa can hardly be said to be present in the lives of the masses of African people. It is time to restore hope to African youth to realise their potential within an Africa that is peaceful, just and dignified.
Africa for Africans goes with specific sub-themes that speak to specific contemporary issues – Decolonisation rallies those Africans both within the continent and in the diaspora who are working on decolonising educational curriculum, financial systems, economic, social and cultural institutions many of which continue to perpetuate exploitation; Gender justice seeks to mainstream the idea of a gender equal society in creating the #AfricaWeWant; Health as a sub-theme continues the conversation on COVID-19 within the African context especially as regards equitable access to healthcare, vaccines, investment in health expertise and equipment as have become even more imperative given the COVID reality; and Climate and environmental justice meant to capture the important and urgent issue of climate change and the need to protect the environment.
African youth in various fields of endeavour are making strides, trying whatever they can to leave their mark. All they need is an environment that values and harnesses their potential, the systems that support and enable them rather than curtail their growth and the platforms that unify their actions towards the #AfricaWeWant.
Africans Rising has started a process and together with partners who are doing invaluable work, a peaceful, just and dignified Africa is achievable in our lifetime, even if it at present looks too distant.