The Nigerian American Public Affairs Committee (NAPAC), New Jersey Chapter, Monday, January 16, 2023, celebrated the legendary Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr with a special Webinar that had distinguished African and African American personalities speaking on the way forward for blacks in the United States of America (USA), in Africa and elsewhere in the world.
The programme, with the theme: “The African American Struggle! The Role of the African Diaspora,” had as key speakers, Pastor (Dr.) Toyin Laoye, Regional Pastor, Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Dominion Cathedral, Orange, New Jersey, Dr. Akil Khalfani, Professor of Sociology and Director, Africana Institute, Essex College, Newark, New Jersey and William Michael Barbee, a celebrated Author and Movie Producer.
Others who featured as key speakers were Dr. Nelson Aluya, the National President of NAPAC and an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dr. Uchenna Ekwo, an Author as well as a Communication and Media Expert, and Dr. Kazeem Bello, a Financial Expert and former Chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), New Jersey chapter.
The Webinar, which was well attended by people from different states of the US and beyond, was perfectly moderated by the Chairman of the New Jersey Chapter of NAPAC, Dr. Uchenna Onyeani and the Vice Chair of the trendsetting organisation, Esther Nelson.
The need to continue with the as yet unfinished struggle of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was emphasised by all the speakers, with Pastor (Dr.) Laoye stressing that today’s Clergy must become more activist, in the spirit of MLK, who was not only an activist but also a Clergyman.
She insisted that the Clergy must step out of the pulpit into the community and begin to speak out more forcefully against injustices, tyranny, terrorism, corruption and bad governance wherever they manifest, especially in Africa, in the US and elsewhere in the world.
William Michael Barbee, a black American, who produced the iconic and must watch documentary, Hear My Voice: Born Black in America (https:/vimeo.com/669043135), spoke of the need for mutual understanding of the experiences of both African Americans and African immigrants so as to eliminate distrust, noting that African Americans who made the sacrifices in the past to get blacks where they are today must be well acknowledged and celebrated not misunderstood.
He also spoke of the need for people of African descent to be in control of their own narrative, insisting, however, that we must first understand who we are and what the narrative is. The award-winning Chairman/CEO of Prestige Media Productions/ Barbee Group Films/ Barbee Group Publishing also insisted that we must be intentional and change the way we think and must support each other.
Dr. Khalfani pointed out the need to understand the histories behind the experiences of both African Americans and African immigrants, urging that we must not emphasis what separates us but must recognise and highlight the many things that bind us together, in the spirit of Ubuntu.
The political and social activist, who acknowledged that the struggle is still on, noted that there are challenges with the quality and content of Africana studies programs, warning against miseducation and the divide and conquer tactics of the oppressors. Khalfani, who contested the last US Congress election insisted on unity, stressing that success must be collective, and that mental slavery must be eliminated not diminished.
Dr. Aluya, who was last year appointed Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Newark Community Health Centers (NCHC), Newark, New Jersey, pointed out that there is a reawakening of black consciousness across the US and the world as a whole.
Noting that the struggle, which has been going on for several decades has recorded several major achievements, he, however, pointed out that there are still injustices and brutalities against blacks.
Defining Diasporans to include African Americans and all peoples of African descent, he stressed that to move ahead as a race, we must move together, understand the shared pains of African Americans and African immigrants and pool resources – time, money, intellect – to be able to advance the Black Race.
Using statistics to explain the current health challenges of the black and brown community in the US and beyond, the Physician passionately explained that there are critical deficits in healthcare personnel needed to cover the community, which, he said, can only be redressed if there is a conscious effort to identify and sponsor people from the community to study the medical sciences.
Dr. Bello, in his contribution, noted that over the years, opportunities have been offered the black race in the form of a black American President, Vice President, Defence Chiefs etc, wondering why these opportunities are not being sufficiently exploited. He concluded that platforms for collaboration must be evolved to overcome the many decades of struggles.
He said that such platforms or collaborative institutions needed to harness the opportunities offered must include platforms like a black Wall Street that black businesspeople can leverage to be more economically empowered to get into the mainstream financial system of the US and the world.
Dr. Ekwo, speaking from the point of view of a media practitioner, stressed the need for blacks to begin to tell their own stories, using different platforms to create a more positive image of Africa. To achieve this goal, he urged that all should become citizen journalists, using the different platforms presently available to correct the negative narratives being put forward by the western media.
The webinar was highly educative and challenged all that attended to wake up to the reality that there are still many more rivers to cross before arrival at the promised land of racial equality and justice for all, and that the battles can only won if African Americans and African immigrants unity.