I was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), and then moved to the United States when I was one. In the summer of 1989, my family and I moved back to Kinshasa, DRC, from Tucson, Arizona, after my father completed his doctorate in the United States as a Humphrey scholar. My father could have remained in the United States for his career, but instead chose to go back to the Motherland and apply his years of education to the development of our continent.

I remember that as a 7-year-old I had a lot of questions for my parents about what Africa would be like. I had many misconceptions; I wondered if we would live in the jungle, if people wore clothing I was used to, etc. I was a bit scared to embark on this new journey, leaving all of the friends I made in Arizona behind, not realizing that this was going to be the most pivotal moment of my life. I did not go to live in the jungle or among wildlife, but to a continent so rich in culture, diversity, languages, tribes, and ethnicities. At the same instance, I moved back to a continent challenged by conflict, poverty, sickness, failed institutions and corruption, to name a few. My move back to Africa was the best thing that could have ever occurred to me: I got to experience the good and the bad of the Motherland. As an African again living in the United States, it is an honor to celebrate Africa today, May 25.

In order to better comprehend Africa Day, it is important to provide details on its historical context. On May 25, 1963, the leaders of 32 independent African states signed the founding charter of the Organization of the African Union (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. May 25 – Africa Day – has, ever since, been the day marking African Unity. In 1991, the OAU established the African Economic Community and, in 2002, the African Union succeeded the OAU. However, the name – Africa Day – and the date – May 25 – have remained as a celebration of African unity.

One cannot talk about Africa Day without mentioning Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Patrice Emery Lumumba (Democratic Republic of Congo), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) and Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal), who led the struggles for the independence of their countries from colonial power. Their role was crucial because, without independence, these nations would not have the opportunity to exercise power of the people, for the people and by the people. Thanks to these honorable figures, Africans were able to exercise their civil rights through elections and obtain life, liberty, and the pursuit of their own destinies.

I strongly believe that we should all celebrate Africa Day with pride and a sense of remembrance for the struggles that African nations endured during the colonial period. It is especially important to reflect on the successful achievements obtained, past failures, and look at all the obstacles as an opportunity to improve the continent as a whole. I love Winston Churchill’s quote which states: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”. Let’s all be optimistic about Africa’s future and all work together to make Africa great. Wishing all of you a Happy Africa Day 2016!

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