As the people of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe struggle to rebuild their communities in the aftermath of one of the deadliest cyclones to hit southwest Africa, a group of District-based organizers has led the call for a mass movement to demonstrate the African diaspora’s collective strength.
In April and May, people of African descent across the United States and other parts of the Western hemisphere, along with their counterparts in Europe, will host fundraisers and benefits for the victims of Cyclone Idai. Proceeds will fund efforts to rebuild the affected nations’ environmental infrastructures.
“The ultimate goal for Africans in the diaspora is to wrestle away the mantle from the humanitarian aid industrial complex — including UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, and Red Cross — and end poverty in Africa,” said Obi Egbuna Jr., founder of the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theater Company and lead organizer of the effort.
Egbuna collaborated with Sinclair Skinner of Bitmari and Dr. Kelechi Egwim of APPEAL, Inc. for the project, themed “A Month of Unity, Solidarity, and Good Will with the peoples of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.”
The fundraiser launched Tuesday night at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast. Performing acts included the youth of the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theater Company, Ayanna Gregory, The Proverbs Reggae Band, Ka’Ba SoulSinger, and Sitali Siyolwe.
The philanthropic efforts will wrap up on the weekend of May 25, also known as African Liberation Day. Other partners include the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the government and people of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
“This is the first aggressive step taken for us in organizing and the best investment we can make at this moment,” said Egbuna, who is also external relations officer of the Zimbabwe/Cuba Friendship Association. “This is rooted in our genuine resistance and can change the political, economic, cultural, and social climate in Africa.”
Cyclone Idai ravaged Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe throughout much of March, killing at least 1,000 people and causing severe flooding.
In the wake of the storm, 4,000 cases of cholera had been reported. Infrastructural damage has also surpassed $1 billion, making Cyclone Idai the costliest tropical storm in the South-West Indian Ocean basin.
The natural disaster follows a 2016 drought that significantly reduced crop production and sent Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland into a state of emergency.
Natural disasters, second to civil conflict and legislative barriers, often threaten crop production. Each storm and drought increases the likelihood of seed depletion, especially for the most sought-after crops. The southern region of Africa, where most of the activity took place earlier this year, produces a significant portion of crops on the continent.
In the past, SADC has responded to this dilemma with a Seed Security Network, a tool to meet the needs of small-scale farmers facing similar situations.
The relief fundraiser, and the movement in its entirety, followed meetings between organizers and diplomatic leaders and grassroots actors in the southern region of Africa.
“There were people of the same mind who said that something needs to be done,” Egwim told Ka’Ba SoulSinger on April 15 during the “Jazz and Justice: African Deep Thought” program on WPFW-FM (89.3). “We got together and made phone calls with ambassadors and other folks on the ground.
“It’s important to note that this event is a kickoff to a month of solidarity with our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We’re encouraging people to do their own fundraisers, however big or small, so we can pool these resources for our people in need in Southern region of Africa.”