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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

Lessons in Leadership from Africa for young African Americans in North America

act, dont interrupt

Session Purpose:

By the end of the session, we will have;

1)   Reflected on the examples of leadership provided by Professor Wangari Maathai, President Kwame Nkrumah and President Julius Nyerere

2)   Discussed the relevance of achievement (all), Resilience (Maathai), Vision (Nkrumah) and Humility (Nyerere) for the contexts in which the participants come from

Facts about Africa[1]

  1. One of the oldest civilizations flourished in Egypt

  2. Second fastest growing continental economy second only to Asia, faster than Europe and North Americas

  3. At 30 million hectares, Africa is the world’s second largest continent, 54 countries

  4. 1/ of the world live in Africa

  5. 30% of the world’s mineral resources, 40% gold, 60% cobalt

  6. Place of history, plenty and promise

Resilience, humility and vision

Resilience: Wangari Muta Maathai (passed on 2011)

Born on slopes of Mt kenya, first class student, flew as part of the 1960 Kennedy airlifts to study at University of Pittsburgh. Organised against air pollution in Pittsburgh. First Kenyan woman to get a PHD doctorate in Botany. She struggled for equal pay for women lecturers, to be an elected leader, to stop the ruling party from grabbing public land and planted 47 million trees through her organisation The Green Belt Movement. She was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, first African woman in history. She was known to say all just and stable societies live on three legs like a traditional African stool; “The first leg stands for democratic space, where rights are respected, the second represents sustainable and equitable management and resources and the third stands for cultures of peace. You need all three to be of the same length”

Vision: Kwame Nkrumah (passed on 1972)

First President of Ghana and founder of the Organisation of African Unity, left to study at the University of Lincoln, Pennsylvania, cleaned toilets and other jobs in Harlem in the 1950s, was described as a student who whatever paper he was given to write he always used the opportunity to write about the freedom of the African people. Attended the 5th Pan African Congress and returned to his country Ghana to unify the four territories of the Gold Coast and learn how to govern. In 1966, he was overthrown by the Ghanaian army with the help of the CIA. He left behind industries and the Volta River Dam that today continues to provide energy for Ghana.  He was known to have said, revolutions occur when people think as people of action, and people act as people of thought.

Humility: Julius Nyerere (passed on 1999)

First President of Tanzania, teacher “Mwalimu” formed the party that was to kick the British out of Tanzania. Conceptualised African socialism or Ujamaa, called for leadership in service, equal opportunities and raising living standards over private wealth and consumption. Was the backbone of opposition to the system of apartheid, racialism that kept the majority of black Africans slaves in their own land.  Always self-critical, self-challenging, brought personal integrity to the level of service above self.  Was known to have said; “leadership has a duty not just to the present but to our ancestors and descendants”. In 2015, the Vatican is considering calls for him o be beatified as a Saint within the Catholic Order

Implications for you and I

USA in crisis and change no different than the most important times in history including the 1960s. Protests at the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. ¼ out of school or out of work. ¾ have a different vision for their lives, want to get ahead. 6.7 million black boys and men

  1. How could sacrifice, humility and vision give you more power to be somebody in your home and community?

  2. What would you have to stop doing, start doing to be a person of action based on thought?

  3. What would the examples of these great Africans look like in your community? What would they do?


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