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The politics of progress in recognizing the talents of women


For those already used to hard work, long practices and ‘burning the midnight and twilight hours’ oil,’ it is no revelation when someone says, as Frederick Douglass famously did, “there is no progress without struggle … power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will.”

Africa, in its inexorable movement forward, is proving that daily. Yes, there are still dictators and coups d’etats there. Yes, there is still way too much poverty, malnutrition, disease, and lack of clean water there. Yes, too many other countries still use Africa as a toxic dumping ground on the one hand, and a resource-rich territory of easy exploitation and mineral extraction on the other.

But things are getting better for Africa and Africans daily, sometimes grudgingly, but still tangibly.

We must remember to celebrate our small and large victories in Africa and in the African Diaspora whenever we see them. Putting them off for another day risks losing the momentum of the triumph, and since we need many, many more of them, any inspiration we earn, we should e-blast everywhere.

By the way, for those who did not get the memo, as Africa goes, so goes African Americans (whether we get that yet or not does not change that reality).

One such victory is the continuing success of women in achieving policy-making positions in Africa’s movement forward. The African Union–the continental body whose raison d’etre is to establish a United States of Africa/Union of African States within the next 30 years–has repeatedly said that women must be loosed to soar upwards and outwards, along with youth, in order for Africa to even come close to achieving that unification objective.

Regarding youth, not much progress has been seen, but among women, it has become clear that, ‘the talent, wisdom and resolve necessary to get to African unification cannot be confined to the male gender, to one or two African ethnicities, or to particular African territories.

Women must not be confined to some backward, traditional role of submissive supplicant waiting to be told what to do.

So, it is with great pride that this column announces the ascension of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, M.D., (pronounced Dee-la-mini Zuma) as the new African Union Commission chair, newly elected July 15, in Ethiopia. This particular officer stands as the virtual “prime minister” of Africa, since the AUC chair runs the AU Secretariat and the daily activities of the AU. It is essentially the face and voice of the African Union, and is more of a reliable spokesperson than the annually rotating African heads of state chair.

Congratulations, Madam Zuma! From you, Africa and the African Diaspora expect great and substantive things, given your long history of expertise and solid service in governmental affairs.

Without going into a long resume history, let it be said that this sister is bad. She’s the former minister of foreign affairs in the South African government, and she is the current minister of home affairs. She had to get votes from two-thirds of the African countries’ representatives, and by the end of the third round of voting, she had them. She has a reputation of quiet efficiency and strategic diplomacy. She simply gets stuff done. She’ll need all of that and more to get the AU back into balance, but she is the right leader for this particular time, and in her, the African Diaspora has a friend.

With Madam Joyce Banda of Malawi already the second African head of state (along with Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf), there seems a strong move afoot for the AU to practice what it preaches in terms of advancing smart African women. Add to that the AU’s ambassador to the U.S., Amina S. Ali, who made a triumphant visit to Los Angeles, Compton and Long Beach last May, and Israel’s newly appointed first Ethiopian Hebrew as the Israeli ambassador to the AU, Beylanesh Zevadia. It seems a pattern of growth, development and talent recognition is well in place.

When we look around at our own talented public servants in California–Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, Congresswomen Maxine Waters; Karen Bass, Barbara Lee and Laura Richardson; Attorney General Kamala Harris, and soon-to-be L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, just to name a few–we too seem to get it. Our future depends on recognizing that talent, expertise, strength, knowledge and erudition have nothing whatsoever to do with gender, sexual orientation, or skin tone.

Maybe things are not so bad after all.

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 stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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