Editorial: Back to Africa

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It was apropos – the wheel had come full circle. The great, great, great, grandchildren of Africa had returned to the land of their forebears to give back, in some small way, to the land that had given so much to them.
We are referring to the recently concluded trip to Malawi by AFRICA LIFT, a philanthropic group of Antiguans living primarily in the New York Diaspora. This group, comprising Franz de Freitas, Steven James and Melvin Myers, among others, is dedicated to addressing and alleviating the food and water shortages, the grinding poverty, the paucity of proper health care and many of the other chronic problems that plague the Motherland. And to a large extent, they have been successful.
We here at OBSERVER media applaud the unstinting efforts of AFRICA LIFT and look forward to assisting in whatever way we can in future projects. Yes, we were involved in this project, not in our usual role of reporting the news, but in making a monetary and T-shirt donation to this most worthy effort. Would that more local and New York-based businesses would step up to the plate, identify a need in sub-Saharan Africa, and contribute to meeting that need.
And believe us, the needs of Africa are myriad! They run the gamut from AIDS and other diseases, drought, famine, pestilence, ignorance (Thabo Mbeki), tribalism (The dastardly Hutu-Tutsi conflict), political corruption (Robert Mugabe) and exploitation by multi-national corporations, and so on and so forth. Sounds Biblical, eh? They are! And they need to be addressed post-haste in order to prevent cataclysms and other man-made disasters of, well, you guessed it – Biblical proportions!
To its credit, AFRICA LIFT has risen to the occasion. Under the inspired leadership of Mr Franz de Freitas, a contingent from that organisation (motivational speaker, Steven James and executive chef, Melvin Myers) recently travelled to remote villages in Malawi to, not only teach impoverished farmers new and improved farming techniques and methods, but crop diversification and proper business management. These are all programmes designed to reduce poverty and empower the Malawians. The fascinating aspect of this effort is that practically everything that our forefathers once taught, and practically all the food that they once bequeathed to us here in the Caribbean, we are now journeying back to Africa to teach and give back the same to their descendants. It is sweet irony! And quite a fulfilling way to return to the Motherland.
Consider. It was the Executive Chef, Melvin who showed the Malawians how to make ‘fry dumplin’ and banana, saltfish, potato and other ‘fritters.’ Needless to say, the Malawians had their version of these delicacies. Similarly, the Malawians showed us how to roast sweet potatoes, yam, eddoes and other roots in the ground, as did our forefathers. They also showed us their version of ‘fungi’ – a delightful concoction called ‘ensema.’ This was served with a moist, green, leafy vegetable puree similar to our pepperpot. The point is that the Malawians were just as comfortable with our gastronomical treats as we were with theirs. The proof of our common ancestry was certainly in the pudding!
Here’s hoping that the tremendous effort of AFRICA LIFT – a journey halfway around the world, and one that retraced the footsteps of our forefathers, will continue to bear much good fruit! And here’s further hoping that others will accept the call to volunteerism and philanthropy. After all, we subscribe to the notion that if we live unto ourselves; if we do nothing to enhance the lives of our fellowmen, what would have been the point of us being here?
In that spirit, we are willing to be a part of any effort to help our suffering kin in Africa. Especially the flood-ravaged African country of Sierra Leone. At last count, over 500 bodies have been pulled from the mudslides, and we can only imagine that the scars from that catastrophe will last for a generation. What is particularly painful for us is that Sierre Leone was one of the countries in Africa where freed slaves from America and the Caribbean were repatriated and resettled in towns such as Freetown. It is a tragedy that this country has not done more with the rich tradition of freedom and liberty that those freed slaves brought back to Africa. Again, here’s hoping that the sojourn of AFRICA LIFT, and all those who would’st answer the call back to the Motherland, will yield meaningful results!

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