I was invited by Tallaght Library to speak to school children on the 25th May 2011, Africa Day and was delighted to accept the invitation.
Africa Day is is the annual commemoration on May 25 of the 1963 founding of the Organisation of African Unity – the OAU – which in 2002 was renamed the African Union. A union, like the EU, with the intention of promoting peace, security and stability on the continent. In 2009 the UN General Assembly declared 2011 to be International Year for People of African Descent.
The aim of Africa Day in Ireland, as stated by Irish Aid is: ‘.. to celebrate the diversity and potential of the African continent and increase awareness of Ireland’s many links with Africa. Africa Day also offers an opportunity to celebrate the heritage and identity of African communities living in Ireland.’ In my view, this is a good aim.
There are many who would say, ‘well what of the problems of Africa, of HIV/AIDS, poverty, war, famine, pillaging of resources. xenophobia …. what is there to celebrate?’ These problems exist, in different ways in different parts of Africa. I would not start denying this for one moment. And the problems are serious, life threatening, overwhelming. But that is not all there is to this astonishing continent.
If you were to say e.g. to people living in Ireland, ‘Don’t go celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day. Look at you, in the grip of a horrific recession, people losing their jobs, their houses, leaving the country – you have no right to celebrate under these circumstances,’ you may well get a less than polite answer.
For people living away from their homes a day like this creates an opportunity to celebrate their heritage and culture and all that entails – music, art, storytelling, food and dance. It is a chance to invite their host country to learn just a little more about things that they hold dear. I regard this as something positive.
Yes, it is not going to solve the problems of the Sudan, of Sierra Leone, of the Congo – just as July 4th in the US is not going to solve anything there, or Patrick’s Day here – but it is a day that can and should be celebrated.