AMHERST – The International Decade for People of African Descent is not just about recognizing past wrongs against members of the black community, but it’s about supporting the push for equality for all people no matter the colour of their skin.
Speaking at Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association gala to celebrate African Heritage Month, Halifax activist and former head of Family and Children’s Services of Cumberland County Robert Wright said that as the world become more global in its thinking the pursuit of wealth should not be objective.
“In this global community in which we are increasingly recognizing that we are interconnected, will we support a globalism that is about sustaining our wealth in that global family, or will we promote a globalism that recognizes that we members of the same family and the pursuit of equality must be our highest value,” Wright said.
Globalism is good, he said, if people recognize how people are connected and the world is focused on bringing good news to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, to cry for freedom for those in bondage, sight to those who are in blind and to usher in a new era of peace and unity.
This, he said, is the goal behind the declaration behind the International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs from 2015 to 2024.
The United Nations is declaring a decade for people of African descent because it wishes to turn the world’s attention to the history, culture and global experience of those people and to acknowledge as a global community that here is a people that history has not treated right.
“Here is a people, who at home on their own continent, were brutalized, colonized and marginalized beginning in the 16th, 17th or 18th century. A people whose sons and daugthers were carried off as chattel in the tens of millions to support the colonial efforts of their oppressors on other continents,” Wright said. “It’s a people who after 400 such years of treatment are only in the last 60 years or so beginning to catch their breath globally and beginning to walk the long road to freedom.”
Wright said African people are not the only people to be poorly treated. He said there is almost a day every day acknowledging or collaborating attention on one initiative or another. The UN, he said, is working to keep the global family connected like that aunt in a family who calls all the cousins and remembers every birthday.
The world, he added, has just come through two decades of recognizing Indigenous peoples, while Canada is in the early stages of reconciling with its Indigenous population.
“I would suggest to you that all of the difficulties we experience as a culture are as a direct result of the original sins of the maltreatment of First Nations peoples and the colonization of places like Africa and the ill treatment of peoples of African descent,” he said. “You can trace all of our problems back to our original sins.”
For African Nova Scotians, Wright said, efforts are ongoing to stage a dialog with members of the black community through the Decade of Persons of African Descent Coalition to develop a consensus on a black agenda in the province. He said the office of African Affairs, created after the dissolution of the Black United Front, cannot be the voice of the black community because it the black ear of government. The coalition will organize the voice to speak to that ear, Wright said.
“The decade is meant for this dialog and to have these conversations,” he said. “The decade, while focused on people of African descent, it’s not just for people of African descent. It is for every person who acknowledges themselves as a member of the global human family. It is for everyone who wants to share in the analysis of our shared history so we can share together the roots of our collective challenges today. The decade is for everyone who wants to practice the values and skills or global and local cooperation that will enable us to get through today’s challenges and all future challenges together. It’s for everyone who believes in the possibility of solidarity and hope. It is for everybody who is willing to engage in righteous and courageous acts of family to forge a future characterized by forgiveness, reconciliation, mutuality, by equality, shared prosperity, peace, love and unity.”