EVERY year, Africa Day is celebrated worldwide on May 25. There are many reasons for such a day. Originally, it was a day to remember Africa’s wonderful stories that are often omitted, the remarkable cultural folklore of the continent and of course the tide of independence from colonialism.
It was always a day characterised by voices of unity, one Africa at least in the poetic sense of that mission. But in years gone by it was not a day that was firmly inscribed into a calendar of nations. Fast forward 2021, something good is happening.
Many schools in the North have marked it as a special day for their children. Previously, officialdom in Northern Ireland shunned Africa Day completely. The old wisdom was something like: We did not have Africans here so we could not really do it. These days common sense, solidarity and the knack of the Irish to enjoy a good celebration, outfits, sing-song and lessons on Africa won the day.
Schoolchildren have enjoyed it through virtual events as well. Many children in Northern Ireland, their parents and teachers made a good start to this annual celebration. In Southern Ireland, Africa Day has had a steady annual commemoration since 2005. The government supports the events there in solidarity with the past colonial legacy.
George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Africa Day 2020. So, this is another important reason why Africa Day should be a bigger day than it is right now. In Belfast, some lunatic bigots went to the Falls Road and did the unthinkable. They splashed buckets of white paint over a mural of George Floyd.
It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen in the name of counter protests under the guise of freedom of speech. When this incident took place in June 2020, just weeks after it was painted, the police named it a hate crime and that’s the last we had of any action from the authorities.
A fresh artwork of Black Lives Matter was installed over a black background. I would say that there is actually immense solidarity for black people by white people in Northern Ireland. I can imagine the disgust and shame, the guilt they feel when their communities are left open to racist Nazi ideologues.
The Westminster Parliament through its Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has been collecting and examining the experiences of minority ethnic and migrant people in Northern Ireland. The public consultation ended last week and many individuals and groups were worried about this particular exercise had to be done at the House of Commons and not the Stormont Assembly.
After all, what is devolution if a fundamental component, a rights issue, is not coordinated by the devolved Assembly? Is there something the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland is not saying or are they going to respond with, ‘We have done many consultations like this before’? Many is not even the point if at all. How serious are their committees at the Northern Ireland Stormont Parliament about the problem.
They need to stop having a denial attitude towards what is happening to ethnic minorities here.