Why History matters to us and to you
By Soumanou Salifou
It’s Black History Month again, and we are happy to bring you a series of original features about the relations between Africans and African Americans dating back to the slave trade and looking into the future, as we have covered them first-hand in virtually every issue of this magazine for the past 19 years. The story is told in action and in words by Africans and African Americans of diverse socio-political backgrounds, including former South Africa’s president Nelson Mandela; former Benin president Nicéphore Soglo; Oprah Winfrey; Bishop David T. P. Perrin, pastor of the church of the Great Commission in Camp Spring, MD, U.S.A; Dr. Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al-Mansour, an African American scholar, banker and business consultant; mega entertainer Akon; businessmen, diplomats, etc.
Despite the official end of slavery almost 150 years ago in the United States, some Blacks in the Diaspora still hold grudges against continental Africans for selling their ancestors to the white man, while others simply don’t want to be associated with Africa that they view just as a faraway, backward place.
But there is a flipside to the coin.
Even before the late Alex Haley’s series Roots was shown on American television in the seventies, which boosted African Americans’ interest and pride in Africa, black visionaries such as W.E. Dubois and Marcus Garvey were leaders in the Pan-African movement. Some black intellectuals and activists in the 19th century even called for a return to Africa. As one outcome of the movement, freed American slaves settled in what became in 1847 the first Republic in Africa, Liberia.
The African-African American summits initiated in 1991 by yet another visionary, the late Baptist minister Leon Sullivan, in an effort to get African Americans and the world to contribute to Africa’s economic development (see article on page 48), grew out of proportion, bringing hundreds of Blacks in the Diaspora to Africa every two years to bond with African brothers and sisters. It was an African American, Kevin Callwood, who, in 1993, convened the first meeting of a handful of business leaders that led to the foundation of The Corporate Council on Africa, today a thriving business organization that includes Fortune 500 companies among its members, serving the interests of Africans and Americans beyond the racial boundary.
Today, as in the past, Blacks in the Diaspora demonstrate an unbelievable thirst to bond with Africa, never missing an opportunity to reunite with African brothers and sisters in Africa or in America on important occasions such as Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 (see article on page 26) or Africare’s award ceremony in honor of former South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela, on October 6, 1994 (see article on page 20), the very day this magazine hit newsstands across America, armed with the mission “to fuel the laudable on-going efforts to reconnect Africans and African Americans.”
We are proud to share with you some of the best stories we have put out in 19 years about the complex, yet exciting, relations between the two arms of the black family driven apart by the wheels of history. In today’s global village where we are interconnected and many boundaries among people are being pushed off, this is everybody’s story. Happy Black History Month.