Article by Christelle Mekoh
I was among many to be deeply touched by John Legend and Common performance of Glory from ‘’Selma’’ at the 2015 Oscars. In their acceptance speech, they made clear connections to riot movements around the world including Japan and France. For Legend: ‘’We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.” There he said it.
The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement and led to the passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. On March 7, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. was among those who marchers. 50 years later, Selma still carries traces of those fights for freedom and equality. Racism is still alive.
Now fast forward to 2015. Equal rights are something we are still striving for. Not only here in North America but also in every single African country. We celebrate International Women’s Day around the world but let’s not forget that women and men are still not equal. And it goes beyond gender. In the US it’s a constant reminder that African-American are still not equally treated. In Canada, Aboriginal people are facing stigmatism and lacking some of the basic human rights such has access to clean water. In Africa, tribalism is well entrenched. Even if we say that colonialism created more barriers among us, after over 50 years, African leaders still haven’t learn and conflicts are still erupting. From Rwanda, to Ivory Coast, and more recently Mali, Nigeria or Libya, now we see a new form of discrimination through religion. It makes me raise the question, what will the next 50 years have in store for Africa?
Selma is now! The struggle for freedom continues. I think that the future of Africa lies within its younger generations. I don’t know what the future has in store but I know that Africa’s population is projected to increase the most and make up a greater share of the global population by 2050. See the 10 projections for the global population in 2050. More specifically, Nigeria’s population is projected to nearly triple and to overtake the U.S. population by 2050. Kenya is expected to more than double its population from 2010 to 2050. Check the full report here.
Is that a coincidence that Nigeria became Africa’s biggest economy last year? The country is already Africa’s most populous, with more than 170 million people, yet a majority of the people subsist on less than $1.25 a day. About half are illiterate; most are very young (the country’s median age is 18.3). And 50% of rural Nigeria lacks access to clean drinking water. Nigeria consistently ranks in the bottom quarter of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International. Sounds too familiar? Well that’s because most African countries are struggling with the same issues.
It’s no surprise that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote is from Nigeria. Well against the odds, I strongly believe that Africa is an incredible land. Africans have been though slavery, colonialism, wars and much more. With unique resources, amazing and resilient people, one can only hope that the next 50 years will bring positive changes across the continent. Equal rights for all through education, work and opportunities. You can start by doing your part today, as Hubert Casson said “there is no Fate that plans men’s lives. Whatever comes to us, good or bad, is usually the result of our own action or lack of action.”
I truly believe that as a continent especially, we need to rid ourselves of unnecessary divisions and focus on reaching our potential. Africa is more than capable of being a global power to be reckoned with, but only when we put our differences, stigmas and cultural complexes aside to work for equality for everyone, men, women, black white, zulu, shangaan, everyone.