New York, NY (PRWEB) August 9, 2004
The Celebrate Africa Foundation today brought together African Ambassadors representing the 53 African countries accredited to the United Nations, political leaders in the New York region, labor and civil rights leaders, religious leaders, as well as representatives of the Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade down into the center of Wall Street, at the Bowling Green Park, to celebrate Africa in a way the continent has never been celebrated before.
It was the first time that political leaders in the New York region joined together to recognize the great continent of Africa. From Governor James McGreevey of New Jersey to Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, to Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields to New York City Council, they all issued Proclamations recognizing Friday, July 30th, as "Wall Street Welcomes Africa and Flag Raising Day of the African Union."
The "Wall Street Welcomes Africa and Flag Raising Ceremony" is the first event of its kind that has attempted to bring African leaders and the financial titans in Wall Street to partner with Africa in its march towards economic development and prosperity for the African continent.
The theme of the event is "Africa Wants Equal Partnership with Wall Street." Planned and executed by the Celebrate Africa Foundation, under its Chairman and Chief Executive, Dr. Chika Onyeani, who is also the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the African Sun Times, the Wall Street Project, according to Onyeani, "is a recognition that Africa cannot continually be treated as and beggar continent, and neither should Africa continue to be portrayed negatively as is routine now in the Western media without challenge. It is better for Africa to partner with Wall Street than to continually go to the G8 countries, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for handouts of loans which continue to drain the meager revenues that African countries generate. For instance," continued Onyeani, " Africa owes the world $315 billion, yet Africa produces only one percent of the world's GDP (grossdomestic product), and uses almost 40 percent of its revenue to service these loans. We want these loans forgiven because that's what are dragging Africa back."
Representing President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and current Chairman of the African Union was Ambassador Aminu Wali, Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Speaking at the event, Ambassador Wali said the event afforded African Ambassadors "the opportunity to educate people about the positive things happening in Africa as opposed to the negative things that are usually said. Our intention," he continued, "is to use the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), to regroup, rebuild, and progress. We want to form equal partnerships with Wall Street. We are not asking for handouts. We want to identify avenues that can flow investment between Africa and America. And I commend the organizers of this event for making it possible for us to be here today."
Prof. Omotayo Olaniyan, Acting Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, also echoed the same sentiment as Ambassador Wali.
In his welcoming address, Dr. Onyeani thanked the throng of Africans and friends of Africa, the Muslim community and political leaders for responding to the invitation. Speaking with great emotion, Onyeani said "Let's take back our continent from those who continue to destroy us through always accentuating only the negative things coming from Africa. They continue to portray Africa as a beggar continent. We are tired of all of our achievements not being acknowledged in the media."
"When anything happens in any part of Africa," Onyeani reminded the audience, "it is not that it happened in Nigeria, Egypt or Zimbabwe, it is always that it happened in Africa. They portray Africa as a country. There are so many good things happening in Africa. There are more African countries turning to democracy, the launching of the new African Union, the creation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)."
To a great applause, Onyeani urged that "we have to celebrate Africa. We have to celebrate ourselves, otherwise nobody is going to celebrate us. We have to remind ourselves and be proud that Africa is the cradle of humanity and the birth of civilization. We have the largest percentage of the world's natural resources. In terms of landmass, Africa is the second largest continent in the world, and the third largest in population behind China and India."
"Just last month," Onyeani continued, "our presidents went to the G8 meeting where they were regarded as mendicants, according to Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. They wanted the G8 nations to see African leaders as equal partners, but these other leaders did everything to show our leaders that they did not belong on the same table. We did not get any debts forgiven which as advocated by Prof. Sachs of Columbia University and Adviser to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, African nations should default if the G8 countries would not forgive the loans."
In presenting their Proclamation, both Councilmembers Bill Perkins and Kendall Stewart strongly applauded the event and its organizers. Said Hon. Council member Bill Perkins, "I represent Harlem - the Mecca of the African Diaspora. All people from Africa feel at home in Harlem. This event is especially important as it reinforces the importance that we connect in a Pan-African way.
It is a tradition that we can easily continue. It is urgent that we recognize what we have here. It is in the spirit of unity and cooperation, we interact with faith, and entrepreneurial and cultural exchange. In Harlem, for example, we see the Senegalese every day in their cultural attire, and they are assimilating without melting, without loosing their culture. It is good to see the sense of pride and beauty. Like this event, it is pleasing to the eye. But more importantly, it suggests that a political giant is about to manifest itself in this city."
Continuing in the same vein as his colleague, Council member Kendal Stewart said, "This is a wonderful day to bring people of the African continent and the African Diaspora together, at the site of financial power. I represent a large portion of the Caribgbean community in this city and I think that it is great that we can come and celebrate together. We have the same goals, the same aims. If we come together in unity we can send a messae that is powerful and political."
Speaking on behalf of the Senegalese Muslim community, Sheikh Mourtada Mbacke took the opportunity to remind the listeners of the peacefulness of the Muslim region, and commended the Celebrate Africa Foundation for having the foresight to create the opportunity for such a major event which would impact Africa's economic development. He wished the organizers more success.
The Chairman of the Murid Islamic Community in America, Sheikh Balozi Harvey, echoed the sentiments of Sheikh Mbacke. He reminded the audience that "African Americans are just as Africans as anybody else." "We need to work together, but we also need to remind our brothers and sisters from the continent of the sacrifices that African-Americans have made, are making and will continue to make on behalf of Africa. African leaders need to sit down with real African-Americans to discuss our future together."
The "Wall Street Welcomes Africa Project and Flag Raising Ceremony" was coordinated by Ms. Lawanda Kamara of Celebrate Africa Foundation as well as president KIA International, a public relations firm. She was assisted by Mr. Abdoulaye Thiam. Other members include Mr. Alassane Diop and Mr. Mohammed Baro.
Apart from the African Ambassadors, other dignitaries who attended the "Wall Street Welcomes Africa Project and Flag Raising Ceremony," included Mr. Ted H. Jacobsen, Secretary of the powerful 1.6 million member New York Central Labor Council of the AFL-CIO and Dr. Annie B. Martin, President of the New York Chapter of the NAACP. Councilmen Bill Perkins and Kendall Stewart represented the New York City Council as well as present the Council's Proclamation.
Mayor Bloomberg was represented by his Chief of Staff, Ms. Lark-Marie Anton; Manhattan Borough C. Virginia Fields was represented by the Economic Development and Outreach Liaison of her office, Mr. Alassane Diop, while Ms.Maria Khury, President of Khury Tours and Travel represented Governor James McGreevey.
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal sent his Minister of State, Mr. Landing Savane, to represent him, who spoke of the seriousness with which the President considered the event.The Muslim community was powerfully represented by Sheikh Mourtada Mbacke, leader of the 8 million plus member of the Murid Islamic community of Senegal, as well as its American Chairman, Sheikh Balozi Harvey.
The Chairman of the African Group of Ambassadors, Ambassador Michel Kafando, who could not attend due to health issues, was represented by his Deputy Mr. Francois Oubida. Unfortunately, I could not gather the names of the numerous Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives who were there before most of them had to dash off to the mosque or other pressing United Nations matters. But some of those I was able to gather their cards, as no attendance was taken, included the Niger's Ambassador Ousmane Moutari, Guinea's Ambassador Alpha Ibrahima, Mali's Ambassador Cheick Sidi Diarra, Gambia's Ambassador Crispin Grey-Johnson, Tunisia's Ambassador Ali Hachani, Nigeria's Deputy Permanent Representative Ambassador Simeon Adekanye, Mr. Alfred Moungara Moussotsi of the Gabonese Mission, and many others who unfortunately the organizers could not get their names.
The event was sponsored in partnership with the African Group of Consuls-General most of who attended, the African Sun Times and the MoneyGram International - the Travelers Express Company, through which Africans send money to Africa. MoneyGram was represented by Territory Manager Wilfredo Borrero and Territory Account Manager, Mr. Carlos Vizcarra. Onyeani particularly praised the efforts of the Chairperson of the African Group of Consuls-General, the Honorable Dra. Julia Machado, the Consul-General of Angola, rallying her colleagues to come on board, and as well as provide some financial support to the event.
Onyeani noted that members of the Angolan Consulate-General attended the event in full force, led by their Vice-Consul the Hon. Francisco Leandro DeAlmedia. Other Consuls included the Hon. Yvonne Walker-Borobo of Gabon, Mr. Victor Bosah of Nigeria and Mr. Amadou Koite of Senegal.
Others included Mr. Edouardo Juarez, President of the International Immigrants Foundation, Mr. Ibiyinka Alao, Special Adviser on Africa to the World Culture Open 2004 Event Organizing Committee, and former famous Nigerian actress Ms. Ene Oloja.
"Of course," said Dr. Onyeani, "we are deeply indebted to the Chairman of the Bowling Green Association, Mr. Arthur Piccolo, without whom the success of the event could not have been assured. He offered invaluable advice to us, as well as made sure that the flags were on the poles, and arranged the children to carry the flags in alphabetical order."
"We must especially thank Ms. Laura Dural of The Renaissance University for Community Education (TRUCE) for bringing the children who made such a significant contribution in comporting themselves responsibly and jubiously carrying the flags around the park," said Onyeani.
The Celebrate Africa Foundation is the continental and Diasporan wide organization devoted to the promotion of all things positive about the African continent and its people, while recognizing the problems still facing the continent.
Celebrate Africa Foundation believes that until Africa begins to celebrate itself and its achievements, no one else would do it. Africa is endowed with great history and great people, and it is incumbent upon all those who love Africa to do their best in promoting this great continent.
For more information, please contact:
Dr. Chika Onyeani or Ms. Lawanda Kamara
Celebrate Africa Foundation
44 East 32nd Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10016
# # #