Monday, December 20, 2010
Report Back- Mobilizing, Empowering and Action- US Launching of the African Women Decade
The Decade is off!!! What better way to share this experience with you than to share the words of the day that will bring you into the space and allow you to feel the energy that embraced us all.
We thought it was important that all participants leave with the information that was shared throughout the day so I gathered points made by all the presenters.
I share with you some of my closing and words from the strong, passionate and energizing presenters of the day.
The energy in the room is that of true Sisterhood and Community.It is with the guidance and the whispers of my ancestors that I stand here with you. What an amazing day!!!
Today we kickoff the African Woman’s Decade yet, it is more than that, today we stand to say, We are here!!! Estamos Presente!!! We remove “I” to say “We”.
Today we say we will create our own agenda, moving from our own reality.
The reality of our health, our community, our family and our future.
We are tired of being ignored. We will not wait for others to arrive. We will take care of our self and of each other.
It has been a wonderful personal experience to be at the table with these amazing women. I have to share that I now know I have a sister in Chioma. Thank you for inviting me to the table. To the Women of the Soil, Thanks.
The flyer spoke to how important this is to all of us. You could not tell who was from where. Our faces, the grace, the kindness, the depth spoke to oneness as women of African descent.
This is our journey of discovery it is our time to heal all that has made us say” You are a different kind of black.” Today we ask all of you present to stand with us, join us as we move towards a better future of a stronger unified black community.
My international work with the Red de Mujeres Afro has showed me that success in Senegal is success in Ecuador, success in Haiti, success in New Orleans.
The Beijing conference marked an international women’s movement. It brought women together and allowed them to share and create a clear gender rights agenda.
The principal themes were the advancement and empowerment of women in relation to women’s rights, women and poverty, women and decision making, the girl-child, violence against women and other areas of concern. This theme continued into the Durban conference on Racism and Beijing +5.
The conference signaled a clear commitment to international norms and standards of equality between men and women that protects and promotes our human rights.
Launching this decade also falls into the UN declaring 2011 as the year of people of African descent.
It is time to rename our priorities to community and self and reclaim self meeting at our root.
Let’s MOBILIZE and build a strong community that includes all aspects of our life. WE ask that our men join us, bring your children along and honor your grandmothers. The Decade highlights the following;
To create awareness and mobilize continental support and
political will in implementing the agreed international, regional
and sub regional decisions and gender commitments.
• To re-invigorate commitment to accelerate implementation on
agreed global and regional commitments on the human rights
perspective focusing on priorities such as education, health,
agriculture, women’s economic and political empowerment,
gender based violence etc
In preparing for today I looked back at some of my presentations throughout the years asking the following question. What has brought me to this place? What words do I carry with me? What words can you leave with today.
I see you!!! I see you Trina, Chuck, Jemadari and Ester. That sounds simple yet when you arrive at that point in your life, the light within shines brighter.
I walk with the words of Assata Shakur as I learn more about myself and my role in the mending of our community. She wrote in her autobiography,” Our desire to be free has got to manifest itself in everything we are and do.”
Today we feel a unity and a love, yes love, for each other. That cannot change when you walk out this space. When someone says something negative about Haiti, Nigeria, stop and say, you are speaking about my sister, you are speaking about me.
As Audre Lorde said, divide and conquer, in our world, must become define and empower.
Let us love each other in the light. Empowerment for this decade should mean a cleansing of self denial and self hatred. Audre lorde wrote in Eye to Eye Sister Outsider- “We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from us, the love of black women for each other.”
Be tender with self. Take the time for your spiritual and physical health.
It is our right to determine our future, we will do so empowered today walking with our heads held high never looking down for anyone.
Today we heard from a group of wonderful women and men.
The MC for the day was Elizabeth Siwo-Okundi. She was amazing. Elizabeth kept everything flowing and did it with such grace.
The Chancellor of UMASS Boston, Keith Motley welcomed all to campus and to the event. He shared that women are agents of change and that he knew that this group of women will be leading this movement, making the world save for women and children. His voice was filled with pride, joy and true partnership.
We also heard from our highest ranking official in the space, State Representative Gloria Fox who in her soul sister, elder grace spoke of the importance of Massachusetts launching this decade. Rep. Fox was followed by the President of the Shalupe Foundation, Jeanne Kasango l. Ngondo and the President of the African Student Union at UMASS, Wlede Stemn.
Our opening Keynote speaker was Ms. Liz Walker. She would answer the question, Why are we here? Why now? Ms. Walker is an award winning television journalist who is currently working in war torn Sudan. She is also an ordained minister. All that said, Ms Walker took it to the pulpit, she truly set the tone for the day.
Ms. Walker spoke of lessons learned from her trip to Sudan. She heard stories about rape and torture. She got there and in addition to addressing those issues, her job became more important. As she said, she had to “walk across the lot”.
She realized that you cannot “Save a people who have been here longer than us.” This was a time to go into the world and learn something from the world. In Sudan she saw relationships, tribalism, clanship and sisterhood. It was time to look beyond material wealth and felt that the world was “Saving her”.
There was a spirit of reciprocity a power shift in this experience for her. Ms. Walker was moving around, lifting her hands with such believe and peace.
She closed by sharing this reflection, which brought on a chorus of Amen, Ase, speak Sister, in the space. “This problem will be solved, heart to heart. We will move on heart. The balance of the world is off. This is a time of great opportunity. We are not here to save each other but to learn from each other. We are caught in a single garment of destiny and we cannot disconnect.”
Ambassador Amina Salum Ali shared the importance of our role in politics and owning our own business. Ms. Ali is the first women to be the Permanent Representative of the African Union in the US.
We then had a powerful performance, Voices of Women of African Descent. that was directed by our own Women of soil Sisters, Akiba and U-Meleni. This group of young women shared their first painful experience with racism. Many cried while listening to these stories.
They closed the performance by saying out loud, “If we speak it, it will become a Decade for African Women.” Everyone joined in, clapping, signing, dancing, to the rhythm of our soul.
The Talk Back was just as powerful as participants spoke openly about the issue of rape and the need to support each other.
After lunch we had the panel, Women of the African Diaspora in the 21st Century. Many felt it was refreshing to see us, women from the Continent, Latin America, the Caribbean and the US engaging in a dialogue on identity, commonality, resiliency, conflict and strategies.
I then came back to my presentation, Mobilizing, Empowering and Action. After listening to what has been shared in this space today, how will you join us? What does it mean to join us? If you want to focus on one area, what will it be?
I went into the crowd and they shared the following;
-Acceptance of all
-Inclusion of young women. Holding hands with young women a treasure/learn process.
-Learning more about the issues that are affecting us in our individual Regions
What will be our testament to each other to our community?
I pointed out two that I feel are very important for our true unity.
-Afro descendents Immigrants- We need to acknowledge, not dismiss the struggle of African Americans that allows us to march down the street today.
-Black men- We love you, we welcome you. We need to change the tone in our exchange.
Hold each other with a bit more care.
What are some of our challenges and what are our hopes for this decade? These are the 10 areas of focus.
1. Fighting Poverty and Promoting Economic Empowerment of
Women and Entrepreneurship,
2. Agriculture and Food Security
3. Health Maternal Mortality and HIV/AIDS
4. Education, Science and Technology
5. Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development
6. Peace and Security and Violence against Women
7. Governance and Legal Protection
8. Finance and Gender Budgeting
9. Women in Decision Making
10. Young Women Movement
We handed out commitment cards. Many took the time to make a commitment to the African Woman’s Decade.
I went into the crowd and many shared some Action Steps.
-Development of a loving dialogue between black men and women
-Protect what we make
-Making our own media
Say I see you, I am here, Presente, Venceremos!!!
As we leave here today, move with the words, My AFRICAN is,
My African is,
The gentleness in your eyes as you see my real beauty.
The kindness in your voice as you call me Queen.
My African is
I will keep my head up high and fight for my right to be free.
We will not be silent.
We will speak out against the system that fails us, excludes us and minimizes us.
My African will extend my hand out, we will walk together for this decade saying I am you, you are me.
What is your African?
Thank you all for coming, thank you for your support. Thank you, Gracias Merci.
Celebrate you, celebrate your Africanness.