Sullivan's Bridge To Africa

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With the first Leon H. Sullivan Biannual African Summit in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in May 1991, the bridges of cooperation between Africans in the United States and Africa ceased to be a mere concept. The summit, which to this day is guided by the objectives and the principles outlined by the late Sullivan, brought an end to the era of armchair speculation and rhetorical contemplation on the roles which Africans in Diaspora can play in Africa's economic, social and political development.

(Former president Bill Clinton speaks at the summit--seated left is President Obasanjo and right is Andrew Young).

The New World began with demographic gravitation of peoples from around the
world towards the Americas.

Each population group that migrated to the New World was propelled to depart their country of origin by unique circumstances which were often beyond their control. Some fled religious persecution and the eminence of politically motivated ethnic cleansing.

Others still fled protracted famine and the outbreak of pestilence to become a part of the New World while many more, due to accumulation of criminal records or other social delinquencies were committed to spend the rest days of their lives in the New World by a penitentiary system which regarded the banishment of its criminal elements to the New World as a maximum punishment.

Also in the case of Anglo Saxon immigrants, some were declared undesirable elements in their home country and, were dispatched to the New World following the dissolution of the monasteries in England and the English Reformation. On the other hand, pioneer African immigrants to the New World neither departed their homes of origin on their volition nor were they rejected and excommunicated from Africa and, given over to slavery to unknown distant lands. The falsification of Euro Centric renditions of modern history tends to perpetuate the opposite.

Yet, the incontrovertible fact is that there were expeditions of armed slave raids from the seashores of Africa into the hinterlands of the continent. The victims of those raids were not only men and women from the lowest echelons of the African social stratum who could have been the ripe targets for abduction had it been within the exclusive competence of the African nobility to make the determination of who should be sold into slavery. Revealing accounts which contradict European annals of transatlantic slavery are scarcely brought to the forefront of modern history. While it is a popular fallacy that African Kings were slave merchants per excellence, mention is only made in very few and obscure instances that King Jaja of Opobo, whose kingdom flourished in South Eastern part of present day Nigeria and, many more like him who dared oppose the escapades of the White man in pre-colonial Africa were also exiled into slavery. Indeed Africans were not the only pioneer settlers of the New World with the background of slavery.

The Irish proved to be troublesome slaves in Bermuda where a coup-plot by African and Irish slaves was allegedly uncovered. "The Proclamation of 1625 ordered that Irish political prisoners be transported overseas and sold as laborers to English planters, who were settling the islands of the West Indies, officially establishing a policy that was to continue for two centuries. In 1629 a large group of Irish men and women were sent to Guiana, and by 1632, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat in the West Indies. By 1637 a census showed that 69% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves, which records show was a cause of concern to the English planters. But there were not enough political prisoners to supply the demand, so every petty infraction carried a sentence of transporting, and slaver gangs combed the country sides to kidnap enough people to fill out their quotas" (Source: Irish slaves in the Caribbean, James F. Cavanaugh - Clann Chief Herald).

With the possible exceptions therefore of crown agents, merchants and, the nobility who came to the New World as plantation entrepreneurs, all other pioneer immigrants to the New World, regardless of their race, color or place of origin, arrived the shores of America with trepidation and sadness and very frequently, they did not have the slightest clue of what to anticipate in their adopted homeland. But the Africans knew that the indignities of being classified as slaves among their equals before God was inconsolable and, that it would be a stigma that would more likely preclude them from exposure to self determination and the opportunities which abound in America. Yet without prejudice to just demands for economic reparation and, the restitution of the slave labor that made America great, God in his infinite wisdom determined that it is by the medium of servitude that Africa should be a part of the amalgam of nationalities assembled in the New World.

With the passage of time, the United States emerged as the flagship nation of the New World in a steady aggrandizement that came with great wealth and power. Following the increasing prosperity of this nation, contemporary English, Irish, Italian, French, Polish , and other settlers of European extraction consigned the humiliating expulsion of their patriarchs from their European homelands to the pages of history and, began to build enduring bridges of solidarity which facilitate mutually beneficial economic, political and cultural cooperation between various countries of Europe and the United States. In a collective sense, they have also built bridges of cooperation which, through such multilateral alliances as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the OECD, reinforce the common destiny which unite North America and the ever expanding supranational state of European Union. Given Africa's strong cultural and sanguine affiliations with the New World and the imperishable contributions which pioneer African settlers have made to its economic, political and, cultural richness, Africans in the continent and in the Diaspora became equally endowed with plenipotentiary rights to share in the advantages which flow from their natural affiliation and, the great fortunes which cultural diversity and the economy of slavery have bestowed on the United States.

Like their European homologues who have built bridges of cooperation which connect Europe to the United States, Africans on opposite shores of the Atlantic ocean have always been aware of the imperatives for reconnecting themselves with similar bridges. However, due to dearth of resources and, the spectacular act of courage which uncle Leon H. Sullivan brought to the table, the conceptualization of these bridges was for long subconsciously stock in the positive idealism of such visionary exponents of strong reconnections with Africa as Marcus Gravy,  W.E.B. Dubois, etc.

With the first Leon H. Sullivan Biannual African Summit in  Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in May 1991, the bridges of cooperation between Africans in the United States and Africa ceased to be a mere concept. The summit, which to this day is guided by the objectives and the principles outlined by the late Sullivan, brought an end to the era of armchair speculation and rhetorical contemplation on the roles which Africans in Diaspora can play in Africa's economic, social and political development.

The inception of the biannual summit and the novelty of the multidimensional approach which it has embraced to create a forum of African heads of states and governments, technocrats from different fields of development endeavor, international financial institutions, distinguished entrepreneurs and industry managers and, the World Bank which engage in productive cross fertilization of ideas on the development challenges of Africa truly represents the first successful extra-multilateral-diplomatic initiative dedicated to finding durable solutions to these challenges. The recently concluded summit in Abuja, Nigeria was the seventh in the series of the Leon H. Sullivan African Biannual Summit. While each of these summits has been a tremendous success, the fifth held in Accra, Ghana and the sixth and seventh held successively in Abuja, Nigeria clearly built on the accomplishments of earlier summits to give a concise definition of the raison deter which underscores the Leon H. Sullivan's mission in Africa.

The advocacy which flows from this definition emerged as the theme of the seventh summit. The theme consistently resonated under the rubric of Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) and the Global Sullivan Principles (GSP) both of which emphasize greater and mutually beneficial partnerships between the African Diaspora and the continent in the ambiance of globalization and, the positive changes which are currently taking place in Africa. Consonant with this focus, the organizers of the summit, its co-chairmen Ambassador Andrew Young and Carlton A. Masters and, its keynote speaker, the charismatic sage and Ex President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States never ceased to appeal to more private sector business leaders, nations and NGOs to endorse the Global Sullivan Principles as their compass and, evidence of their commitment to promoting human and labor rights in Africa.

As Africa finds itself at the threshold of becoming a major international oil supplier, both President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and the Co-Chairmen of the summit also spoke of the imperatives of equitable and just distribution of energy resources from Africa in order that the continent could be transformed into social and economic prosperity. In the course of the summit, Mrs. Hope Masters, President and CEO of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation and, daughter of the late Leon H. Sullivan announced a donation of one million dollars worth of medical supplies and equipment to the Federal Republic of Nigeria which has hosted the summit twice since its inception.

This donation, made in the period of the foundation's gestation, is deeply appreciated as a token of the windfalls which Africa expects to reap in the plenitude of the summits' maturity.  Despite these noble beginnings, there have been mistaken and premature evaluation of the summits' endeavors by those who still fail to fully comprehend the multifarious benefits which lie in the future of the Summits. They are already ascribing quantitative values to the Summits' accomplishments and implicity  to those of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation and, those of the African governments which are working most assiduously to identify their countries with actualization of the ideals which Global Sullivan Principles espouse.

The fact which must not be ignored at any stage of this demarche is that not even an infinite volume of material or monetary grants from the Sullivan Foundation to African nations can override the self-awareness and the intrinsic
empowerment which the foundation, through each of these summits, creates to help crystallize the path to a prosperous Africa.

If therefore efforts at building the bridges of mutually beneficial economic, political and cultural cooperation between the United States and Africa are sustained under the conditions of symmetrical relationships, the cumulative impacts of the work which the Sullivan Foundation has begun in Africa would one day lead to an era of unparalleled economic, social and political revolution which fulfills the expectations of the Kimbanguist religious sect in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kimbanguists have long waited for the liberation of Africa by Africans in the Diaspora.

Africa is a vast continent with a UN projected demographic strength of 4,950,000,000 by 2030. In order therefore to reach its goal, the Sullivan Foundation must be mindful of this strategic index which it must factor into its long-term strategy to help bring Africa into the mainstream of the global economic dynamics. With this understanding at the back of its mind
the foundation could significantly and rapidly expand the horizon of its engagements in Africa by assuming the role of an apex organization over an international consortium of like-minded NGOs in the United States, Africa and Europe.

The government of Tanzania has graciously consented to host the 8TH Leon H. Sullivan African Summit at Arusha in 2008.

Black Star News Africa News editor F.C. Nwoko attended the
recently-concluded summit in Abuja, Nigeria.

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