Challenging Misrepresentations of
An Interview with Local Pan African Activists Part III

Interview by Aly Wane and Christiana Kaiser

This demonstration against debt took place at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, January 2007. Photo: Jubilee USA Network

On November 11 the PNL sat down with members of the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY) for a discussion about the stereotypes and misrepresentations of Africa that exist in our community. This is the final segment of our three-part conversation.

Kwame Otieku (KO), Micere Githae Migo (MGM) and Emmanuel Awuah (EA) are members of the local non-profit organization, PACCNY, which seeks, among other goals, to foster unity among people of African descent. Refer to the January and February 2007 issues of the PNL for more information on PACCNY and the participants and to read their comments from Parts I and II of this interview on the impact of misrepresentations of Africa.

PNL: The media often represent the future of African countries as hopeless. What is your vision for Africa's future?

MGM: I am one of those people who has never and will never lose hope for Africa. The reason is that our continent has survived. We have survived the pillage of the slave trade and so many years of colonialism, and what those years have done to destroy and to siphon out natural resources and the wealth of the countries, and beyond that, to maim people psychologically through dominating ideas through education, through religion, through so many things - to have survived this shows that we are dealing with a site that can endure and not just endure but resist.

I think that the liberation movements and the independence struggles and what they have left as a lesson historically show us that all this can be overcome because who would have thought that apartheid South Africa would go? But, here we are in a new era. It's a difficult time. In terms of global experiences it's a tough time not just for Africa but for other countries that are affected by systems such as structural adjustment programs, the World Bank, IMF and the so called global economy which is very corporate. Yes, we will be affected by that for many years.

I really have a lot of hope and I see it from time to time when, for instance, I attend a conference in Africa and I see what scholars in Africa have produced in a situation where there are no libraries, no books, no facilities for research, nothing. And it's top-notch scholarship. I see it when I see members of the youth and their determination, especially in some of the programs that they have at home. I see it in the big strides that women have made to change the way we look at gender and society. I believe that it is a question of time. It will take a long time. It may not even happen in our lifetime, but Africa will rise.

KO: I echo that. There is always hope. Someone once said that if you get up in the morning, look up in the sky and you see the sun rising from the east, that means there is hope. If it rises from the west, you're dead. You never live to see that. Civilization started in Africa, and truly, if it did start in Africa, I believe in the cycle of human revolution. We were on top. We've been tramped on and walked on, but there is hope. I look at some of the leaders, especially the leadership of women coming in Africa. I was at SU when Nobel Prize laureate Wangari Maathai came to speak - very articulate. People are out there doing things. I think the hope comes from those people working, sweating and making sure that we come back on top. I'm certainly sure that we will come back on top!

EA: I think the future of Africa is more than a hope. It has more to do with the resilience of African people. This is evident in the fact that historically they have resisted oppression. Now they're overcoming underdevelopment, colonialism and the exploitation that has taken place. Also, the future of Africa will depend upon Africa's relationship with the rest of the world. If the world continues to treat Africa as a repository of all the ills and all the fears that we have as humans, then Africa will never change and Africa will not develop. But, if the world begins to see Africa in terms of the assets that it contributes to the rest of the world, if it looks at all the minerals, if it looks at the natural resources that are in Africa, Africa shouldn't be in such a situation. So Africa's relationship to the global system has to be re-examined in terms of the fact that Africans don't get their due share of the resources that they contribute to the global system.

Africa is asking for justice. It's asking for fair trade. It's asking for a better understanding of the past contributions of Africans and Africans' role in the new global community that we want to create in the 21st century. If that recognition is not given, and taken seriously, then just hoping that Africa will change and become better than it is today might not materialize. There are some structural issues. There are some historical issues that have to be addressed as to the rightful place of Africa within the community of nations. I believe that within the United Nations, within the global bodies that we have, a serious discussion is necessary so that Africa will be recognized and respected the way it's due. Otherwise, I think the world might continue to trample on Africa as the last place for human civilization, and that will not be consistent with what Africans hope for. Our thought patterns and our approach towards Africa have to change.

MGM: We really do want to express our appreciation for this conversation. It is very important. It's going to the Peace Council, and I know that this is an organization that really believes in fighting for justice. It is very important for us to acknowledge that in all these struggles right through history, each struggling entity, like Africa right now - and this goes way back to the times of the independence struggle - each struggler, each person who is fighting for justice will always require solidarity from other people who have a sense of justice, who have a sense that humanity and human rights should be protected. So, we appreciate this solidarity from the Peace Council and from other progressive organizations. In Africa, those people who are working for a change are working together in solidarity with other groups from all over the world, groups who understand a sense of justice, in order to move forward.

One of the other reasons that I have so much hope is to think that today people are already seeing Ubuntu and the notion of peace and reconciliation as a way forward. For Africa to have spearheaded that from way back (right through to Mandela with whom it is now associated, but it's a notion and a concept that we have always had), that really speaks to a people who have a sense of humanity that has been shared with the rest of the world. I really hope in the 21st century we are moving toward that recognition of each other as human beings, as a part of humanity.

Aly, a native of Senegal, is an SPC intern. Christiana studied International Relations at the University of Ghana at Legon and Syracuse University.