FACING FORWARD : At times we might think someone will give us the answer or make things perfect. In reality, there is rarely an instant and simple solution. One such critical situation requiring focus is the African community’s continuous struggle to fit in, to find ourselves fully integrated into Canadian society and to take full advantage of what our new home has to offer economically, politically and socially. Let us be clear on all these opportunities, ours to participate in; there is no short cut. We need a proper plan as individuals and as a community.
Observations in our community
o Community organisations struggle to better serve the needs of our people
o Good intentions abound but organizational leaders and members may lack training or vision
o Barriers have been created and it is not possible to build bridges of trust and solid long term relationships with community members
o Natural ambition to gain independent ground or get rich fast has lead to neglecting the fundamental purpose of service to our community
o Human nature being what it is, has allowed jealousy and in some cases even envy or strained relationships to stand between community members contributing their skill or intellect to a project
o Ignoring or hesitating to reach out to help and to share in the development of accountability, leadership and clear vision
o Immigrants feeling that they do not belong are being aggravated when refugees and conventional arrivals alike, fall into deep depression, or practical difficulties and so they stay on the side lines
Diversity of Afric community members is both a strength and a challenge to our new arrivals come from several continents. Africa alone has more than 55 countries and five territories. The Caribbean includes 30 plus countries, territories and sovereign overseas departments, and dependencies. We also count Afric-European citizens from different countries from E.U., Afric-Americans, Afric-Latino and Afric born Canadians. All of these groups of people need to work together and is a greater need today more than ever.
How can we bridge all these varieties of origins and backgrounds?
It might look complicated and seem impossible, but we can follow a simple model designed to bring success.
The proposal is thus:
o We all work together to develop an umbrella organization to lead and direct projects and programs for the community. To succeed at this now and to impact the next generations this organization needs to be recognised by our Provincial and Federal Leaders and they must work in collaboration with us to foster the needs of our community.
o Community organizations already providing service and those to come in the future have to work within this umbrella organization. This will create stronger responsible and accountable leadership roles.
o The umbrella organization maintains the vision and monitors the plan for the development and advancement of the community socially, economically and politically by providing information, training, man power and financial resources. Setting a true course and leading by example includes collaboration with community partners, organizations who are in turn accountable for their service and delivery.
Over the last 15 years the Afric community name has been used by various organizations to secure funds and attention, but most have fallen short on delivering services to the community well or consistently in areas of need. What resulted is called, a positive demoralization sentiment, and has added to the trouble in our development and better integration into our current community.
In reviewing our growing pains as a community, we are not here to blame anybody but we strive to adjust and to improve ourselves as a whole and fully accomplished community. The goal should always be to encourage review and to seek the ideas and ways to bring our community into better shape, to own our destiny and to lead confidently and with vision in the coming years.
A model to consider:
INTEGRATED SERVICE STRUCTURE FOR OUR FUTURE
How the Plan Works Together
As our resources, including time and money are ever more in demand. To cover the landscape of need and to fully integrate for the strength of each organization and the community as a whole, we need to work smarter. This requires the formulation of a concrete plan to advance the community and to allow organizations along the spokes from a central umbrella organization to interact with each other, the people they serve and to ensure efficiency and use of resources by returning the accountability to the central hub or community umbrella.
How People Drive the Plan
Active lobbying for an umbrella community organization has already been put into effect during the past 16 months to have these tangible ideas take root. To date, positive response has come from the Academic Community and Higher Education Institutions such as UBC and encouragement from all levels of government including active support from four Senators. Further interest and momentum is building and we must be open to receive the attention of possible contributors and true partners.
It therefore makes practical sense to gain the support of Intellectuals and the Academic Communities and for them to be involved in helping to lead and support better service and advancement in the community.
Naturally we must credit our many previous generations who stood individually or collectively to better our communities. From the earliest days of Canada’s history they included African explorers and then the trades’ people, teachers and community service people who were former slaves, their children and others who sought refuge from turbulent times and places right up until today. Now we also have Civil Servants, Mayors, MLA’s, MP’s, Governors, Senators, Instructors, Entrepreneurs and the many who have made names for themselves in their chosen fields who also reflected well on their communities, or helped them directly.
The truth, however, is that our politicians and government leaders will not give us the answers. We must plan and organize based on our inside and own understanding of need. In this way we can meet them half way and ask not for the answers, but the next steps so that we can blend the needs of our community and our contribution to the systems that are already in place. Our government representatives are the listeners and decision makers in our society, and we must draft a message that they can hear, understand and act on together with us for the greater good and future of our united and diversified community.
The Time Is Now and It Is Urgent
The need and opportunity are both present. Positive integration is crucial for our successes in a new country and future development. The experiences of our community members over the past 30 or so years in Canada and in particular in BC, shows that there is a big disorientation and disappointment around the community about lack of direction, focus and the banding together of and for the community. As a community we have failed in many aspects to unite ourselves in a way to help the growing difficulties of new immigrants and the growing numbers of young people that reside in our community.
At the forefront of community development, strategies vital to bring about positive and prosperous integration of citizens is a key focal point. If we turn our minds to history, we can see that every day citizens can drive change and organize a new direction for the community.
We must do this sooner rather than later and before our troubles go onto yet another generation.
Two powerful leaders of the world, UK Premier Minister, David Cameron and France President, Nicolas Sarkozy recently declared that ‘multiculturalism has failed in the UK and France’. Perhaps our lesson today from this is that as Canadians, we can capture the best of our own cultures and integrate, rather than live separate from opportunity to blend with community and to flourish. We can be at the heart of Canada’s economy, its future with our youth and skilled immigrants now, all benefiting now and helping to lead the next generation.
It means that time is now simply because the world is turning faster and citizens are hungry for change and a chance to participate in the building and shaping of our society. It means that our talented, educated and skilled people must come out of hiding and contribute their ideas and leadership. It also means we must make room and opportunity for youth to be productive parts of our growth as community. Individuals must reach out and share in the progress.
Much pain and trauma has been part of the Afric experience in the 21st century. Isn’t it our time yet? We must stop blaming each other and face reality. We must stop sending millions of dollars to Africa’s corrupt governments and focus on the steady development of the communities here in Canada to fully integrate.
In most cases, immigrants and even refugees came to Canada in search of a better opportunity for their life’s purpose; it’s time we fulfilled this dream. As African people we will never forget our home land and roots and we can serve as examples of success here in our new country and improve life for future African Canadian citizens as well as for the communities we left in our home lands.
Surely we don’t need to reach critical numbers before action is taken and neither do we need to reach a critical situation of unrest and disenchantment!
Local leadership can only help our immediate situation and that of Africa or our countries of origin. It can be done with the help of government and other partners, but the spark must come from inside our own community-one with a plan and a vision to work collaboratively.
We must not simply sit idly by and fail to use our Canadian peace and freedom and therefore fail to prepare for and support the flourishing future of Afric generations.
Examples of two successful Organizations bearing a wide service reach under the model of an Umbrella Organization
In 1910, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois USA, an intellectual leader, formed through Harvard University, the NAACP simply to help integrate and give new direction to the Afric community. As a result we have been witnesses of its successes after 100 years the 1st African American president elected in the USA today and before that, the community growing on a better path.
“There can be no perfect democracy curtailed by colo[u]r, race or poverty. But with all, we accomplish all, even peace.” by W.E.B. DuBois
In 1972, here in Vancouver BC, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., was formed with similar ideas and with the help of the intellectual community through UBC. It was created 39 years ago to assist and develop the organization to positively integrate the Chinese community. They have now become one of the most powerful voices in all aspects of development. They are integrated and experience consistent success and help advance other groups now.
These, amongst others, organized communities inspire integration and therefore enrichment of the group and ultimately its contribution to society.