The African Union (AU) Diaspora Under Represented
Series: An Outsider Perspective (Perspective #1)
Written by Peter Rogina
I’m just a guy from New Jersey. I grew up in Jersey. I live in Jersey.
Parkchester, in the Bronx, was unknown to me until my first visit in late 2014 to meet Sheikh Musa Drammeh. Since then it has proven to be an unlikely and important nexus for many things. For me, notably, meeting people dedicated to peaceful endeavors. Ambassadors, politicians, musicians, ex-cons, artists, students, interfaith ministers, and many others. All seeking to make positive contributions to the world, both locally and globally. Many with impressive resumes and achievements to date and others working daily with little recognition. Some of these meetings have shifted the course of my life in interesting and potentially very impactful ways.
As part of a diverse population that includes the highest number of African immigrants of any county in the United States, Parkchester was also, until recently, home to an icon from the American Civil Rights Movement, Claudette Colvin (who will be the topic of the second installment of this series).
Parkchester became the focal point for the “peace-related” activities being fueled by the wide adoption and propagation of Peace Lights, an increasingly recognized international symbol of peace. It is where many introductions were made, plans developed and re-developed, and many new friendships nurtured. All while new stories and life altering adventures were unfolding at places like the United Nations, among many others, as a direct result.
This continuing journey has provided me - again, just a guy from New Jersey - with a certain unique perspective. In this series I will share a few of those perspectives and maybe even some calls to action. We’ll see together how this unfolds...
Let me start by saying that I have a fundamental optimism and belief in the human spirit. That gives me the inspiration and confidence to pursue some of the globally impactful initiatives that now share Parkchester, Bronx in their lineage.
Finally, I do not have the answers, perhaps just an overly opinionated or naive perspective as of the time of the writing of these pieces. I do not claim to even know all the facets or political implications of any particular situation, but I will try to organize the facts that I do think I know. In fact, more than likely, I’ll be missing pieces. Having said that, I tend to integrate new information quickly and I do my best to, as one friend puts it, “come from the light”. I hope that my own knowledge of these shortcomings allows for a humility when sharing my perspective. Also, I always endeavor to come from a place of respect, peace, and tolerance.
So, from my admittedly limited NJ perspective, here goes...
The African Union (AU) Diaspora – A Case for Representation
A few years ago, Sheikh Musa Drammeh introduced me to Djibril Diallo, who is now the President and CEO of the African Renaissance Diaspora Network (ARDN), one of the leading organizations representing the interests of the African Union Diaspora. To be clear, there are many Diaspora organizations worldwide. (Visit: www.ardn.ngo)
The AU Diaspora is a population double the size of the United States, or ~10% of the world. When combined with the 1.4 Billion people living on the continent, the AU as a whole represents almost 25% of humanity.
The Diaspora is one of the six regions of the African Union (North, South, East, West, Central & Diaspora) and has the same rights as the other five AU regions including the right to bring things to the AU for consideration and voting. The Diaspora includes all people who have ever left Africa and their families and, specifically, the descendants of slaves taken from the African Continent.
Unfortunately, the Diaspora, which does not appear to be organized other than into largely separate groups and NGO’s, does not have any formal presence at African Union General Assembly meetings and, therefore, is under-utilizing a historic opportunity to actively and positively participate in important matters facing the AU. It’s a weird spin on taxation without representation but in this case, the Diaspora rights are already established and defined, but none of the ~750 Million people have had representation as a body to formally participate. It’s an interesting conundrum.
It has been said by many prominent African leaders, Ambassadors, and statesmen (read “human”, not “man”) that the success of the AU going forward is inextricably linked to the involvement of the Diaspora. To be sure, as ARDN and other organizations regularly prove, this involvement will continue to bring benefit to the continent with or without a formal seat at AU HQ, but the equation does not appear to be optimized, nor is the diversity and resources of the Diaspora represented formally or in a way that best serves both parties. There appears to be a lot more organizational and political work that needs to occur on the world stage to establish that “seat at the table” for the Diaspora.
Which brings me back to Djibril Diallo. To be fair, formalizing Diaspora participation in the AU is not a stated goal of the ARDN, but my perspective is that the highly visible and focused activities of the ARDN and Mr. Diallo’s leadership and vision exemplify what is possible when resources and actions are aligned. A path to bring some Diaspora value back to the Continent is not only being paved, but goods are flowing. Efforts like this must be put on steroids and be complemented by representation at the highest levels.
Accomplishing anything on the world stage necessarily calls for vision, leadership, commitment, and an ability to align a large number of compasses while providing enough energy to start a shared resonance.
During a meeting in 2016, H.E. Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, AU Ambassador for Peace and Security to the UN, correctly pointed out to me that just getting Agenda 2063 signed represented an incredible political and humanitarian feat. Getting 54 nations to agree to anything of the scope of Agenda 2063 is, indeed, monumental! (And, yes, it was 54 nations in 2013. Morocco was out and now they are back in. Something political and not important in NJ. Just important that they are back in).
I have seen and felt the energy at ARDN-hosted events at the UN General Assembly and have followed the ongoing efforts to drive improvements to the long-term picture for the AU. One can only guess at the results if the resources of the Diaspora become better organized and even more effective in managing matters with and on behalf of their brothers and sisters on the Continent.
Case in point, Claudette Colvin (again, much more about her in the next installment).
Here is a woman that, through her actions, accelerated the American Civil Rights timeline, yet she is relatively unknown. It was her arrest that catalyzed and accelerated the timeline for Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and subsequent events. It was her lawsuit that changed the law. It was her courage that inspired and accelerated the timeline.
When viewed in this altogether historically correct light of accelerating the timeline, it needs to be realized that Claudette Colvin literally saved lives! I am woefully aware that it is not taught like this in schools and it is my sincere hope that this changes around the world.
Furthermore, since the Diaspora specifically includes the descendants of slaves, Claudette Colvin literally saved Diaspora lives!
Wouldn’t it be amazingly appropriate for the “AU Diaspora Region” to bring a Motion to the AU to honor this woman while she’s still alive? This can almost certainly be done through sponsorship by any member nation of the AU, but it is telling that, as of today, it would need to be done “on behalf” of the Diaspora instead of “by” the Diaspora. I would submit that it should be done one way or the other and that in this case, much like the case for defining and accelerating peace education in the AU (which is the 3rd installment of the series), time is truly and defensibly of the essence.
If, indeed, as I also believe, the involvement of the Diaspora is crucial to the “best case” scenario for the AU, then maybe more thought and effort needs to be focused on how to formalize the relationship with the African Union.
Now I’ll gracefully take that figurative trip over the GW Bridge and an hour and a half South. Until next time. Peace. Out.
Peter Rogina, founder of Project Peace Lights giving presentation about Peace Lights to United Nations Information personnel at UN Building in Manhattan
Peter R. Rogina
Co-creator of Peace Lights
Founder of Project Peace Lights
Tel: (732) 742-6001