Looking Beyond Their Troubles

July 11, 1995

African-Americans have always had a keen interest in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan countries of their ancestors. But the degree of their involvement is greater now, which may be PTC another sign of progress in African-Americans' quality of life. It's easier to see beyond their own troubles.

As an example, take the May conference that brought 1,000 African-Americans to Senegal to meet with 4,000 African officials and discuss what American blacks can do for Africa. The event was the idea of the Rev. Leon Sullivan, the Philadelphia minister who in the 1960s created a successful national jobs training program called Opportunities Industrialization Centers.

Mr. Sullivan organized a similar summit in 1993 in Gabon. This time the meeting concluded with Mr. Sullivan urging African-Americans to seek dual citizenship in African nations to retain ties with their ancestral homes.

The work of the human rights organization TransAfrica since the end of apartheid in South Africa is another example of African-Americans' increasing interest in the problems of other black people. TransAfrica had a powerful voice in the debate concerning U.S. policy toward Haiti while President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was in exile. The organization's latest project is aimed at ridding Nigeria of its despotic leader, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Even Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has joined the anti-Abacha campaign, saying he was asked to participate by TransAfrica executive director Randall Robinson. "I don't get involved in a whole lot of these issues. But where I see clear and flagrant violations in international standings as I understand it, issues that do have an impact on the African-American community here, I try to voice my support," said Mr. Schmoke.

That African-Americans seem more interested in the plight of black people in African and Caribbean nations does not mean there is satisfaction with their own situation. Forty-six percent of all African-American children live in poverty, compared to 17 percent of white children. The annual median income for African-American families is $18,000 less than that of white families.

No, the playing field isn't level yet in this nation. But African-Americans today are in better position to see not only how far they have come and have to go, but where other African peoples are and how they can be helped.

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