There's no question that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's hands are more than full these days with the war in Afghanistan, military tension between the two Koreas, relationship-building with China, and of course the revolution in Egypt. Nevertheless: Secretary Clinton took time out of her demanding schedule earlier this week to post a video message in support of the 2011 International Year for People of African Descent and Black History Month celebrations.
In her message, Clinton described this milestone event as "an opportunity for all of us around the globe to celebrate the diversity of our societies and to honor the contributions that our fellow citizens of African descent make every day to the economic, social and political fabrics of our communities."
As it apparently did many others, the United Nations and the Organization of American States' Resolution 64/169 proclaiming the year 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent caught me by surprise. Though in all fairness to the U.N. and Organization of the American States, they actually announced plans to observe 2011 in this manner all of two years ago.
So what happened? Or possibly more importantly, what is happening?
One answer to these questions may have to do with the fact that this is not only the International Year for People of African Descent. It also the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, the International Year of Forests, the International Year of Volunteers, and the International Year of Chemistry. That's a lot of expanded year-long consciousness to process, and since humans tend to be somewhat passion-driven those who care about such things will naturally devote more time and energy to whichever observance means the most to them.
Unlike the annual Chinese Year, there was no mainstream media fanfare to ring in the International Year for People of African Descent. That may have been simply because people were happy just to see 2010 end and eager to see what 2011 had to offer-- or at least many thought they were until the madness that occurred in Tucson on January 8 and a number of similar incidents that have occurred since then. And one of the criticisms of the year's observance is the apparent lack, thus far, of a logo to symbolize it.
The somewhat slow take-off may also be because people of both African and non-African descent have yet to realize the opportunities offered by an International Year for People of African Descent and to which Clinton alludes in her message. One of those opportunities is a chance to look at different models of how interaction has developed within different countries between those of African descent and those not of African descendant. They might examine those communities in which the concept of racial difference has become so outmoded that the people occupying them truly are defined more by their shared experiences as human beings than by their obsessed-over differences. And in contrast, they could also study those places where racial difference is still used as leverage to empower one group and dis-empower another, determine why, and offer solutions to help all involved move to a higher level of social and political equality.
If knowledge truly is power, then learning as much as one can about the cultural migrations and cross-cultural currents that have shaped the modern world may be just what humanity needs at this point in history to establish greater harmony both between various demographic groups and within individual groups. Since the U.N. and Organization of American States have already offered to host, so to speak, this grand party throughout the African Diaspora, might as well make it so excellent and unforgettable that ten years from now somebody will throw another one.
©Black History Month 2011
International Year for People of African Descent
Causes * Aberjhani Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: