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African Americans walking the talk and talking the walk


During this 21st century, particularly during this Decade of the African Diaspora, and the 2011 International Year of African Descendants, there are still those who do, and those who keep saying what they’re going to do; those who bring it and deserve to be praised, and those who just want to be praised yet bring nothing beyond hot air. We know that it takes all kinds, but the real evaluation is whether anything positive actually gets done and how sustainable it is.

We also know that there are so many things that need doing just to get through the day sane, let alone taking a little or a lot of time to help somebody else along. The tasks, and other people’s problems thrown in, can be enormous. In fact, when we think about what help Africa needs–even before the Libya ‘no-fly zone’ and Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo incident–or the assistance Central America asks for, and what aid many islands in the Caribbean can use, or even just helping the neighbors down the street, we often feel crushed and defeated before trying to do anything.

But we should all know by now that none of us, alone, can do it all; nor should we try. Instead, we should concentrate on the good that we can do, and do that well, do that consistently, and do it sincerely.

That will not only relieve some stress among those of us who actually would like to help somebody, it will also calm us down enough to see all of our real possibilities–what can and cannot be done and how to get it done efficiently?

There are several 21st century NGOs [Non Governmental (non-profit) organizations] that say what they are going to do, who then do it repeatedly. One such NGO is the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC), a rather large USA-based coalition group with affiliations in Canada, six countries in Central America, Martinique and Guadeloupe, Cuba, Brazil, Israel (African Hebrews), and 10 countries in Europe.

Its primary mission is to help organize and prepare African descendants to join the African Union and to help Africa become the Union of African States or United States of Africa. It was founded in Los Angeles in 2006 subsequent to the Pan African Roundtable held in the city. SRDC has successfully motivated local African Diasporan activists in eight states to organize Community Councils of Elders and elected and diplomatically trained representatives to engage the African Union, and it is currently working on 20 more.

It has an effective constitution, utilizes African consensus mutual respect for its meetings, and conducts annual conferences in different parts of the country. This year, the SRDC will meet in Baltimore.

Another group, AFRICARE, is the oldest, largest and most consistently successful non-profit organization that is founded and run by African Americans exclusively to assist Africa. It is one American group that has limited its range, focused its targets, and accomplished a tremendous amount of philanthropic activity in a relatively short time. Little known among African Americans in most parts of the country, AFRICARE does projects well and well deserves the accolades it receives. It should be a role model for the genre.

Founded in 1970 by C. Payne Lucas and several other African Americans who were distraught over the need to help over 25 million Africans survive the gigantic drought which was then devastating Western and Eastern Africa, AFRICARE has gone from a home basement operation to an organization than now has more than 150 current projects and programs operating in more than 25 African countries. AFRICARE can rightfully claim to have implemented and operated more than 2,000 assistance projects in Africa in its 39-year history, and to have raised and provided nearly $600 million in funding for African relief.

AFRICARE focuses on providing clean drinking water in rural African areas, medicines to fight TB, malaria, HIV and other diseases, food security and sustainability, improved sanitation, and emergency assistance. It currently has a worldwide staff of more than 1,000 and an operating budget in excess of $40 million, with a high credibility and reputation for spending an average of 93 percent of every dollar raised on the African projects and programs at hand.

Its headquarters is in a renovated elementary school in inner city Washington, D.C. While it clearly could have afforded a high-rise office on ambassador row or some other swanky part of D.C., Mr. Lucas said the location chosen was deliberately symbolic. Part of AFRICARE’s mission is to bridge the cultural and knowledge gaps between African Americans and continental Africans, and AFRICARE House has become a center for such engagements and interactions.

Currently, AFRICARE is delving into using a customized African ipod to both raise more awareness of Africa’s needs and its successes, and Africa’s brightened future. AFRICARE is a 21st century Pan African entity that says what it will do, then does it. We should all take note, study its lessons, and utilize it to help us move forward.

The future of Africa–most likely as the United States of Africa when all 54 countries merge into one–is really the future of African Americans and other African descendants in the Diaspora. In AFRICARE, we have a jewel we can be proud of and that gives us more clout in our discussions with the African Union about bringing the Diaspora into the organization as voting members.

Well done, SRDC and AFRICARE. Keep walking the talk and talking the walk.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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