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Persist Until Something Happens (P.U.S.H) – A Clarion call for Africa the 2014 CUNY YAL Symposium, New York by Sophia Bekele

2014 yalsThemed “Standing on The Shoulders of Giants: Our History. Our Legacy. Our Destiny.”, The 2014 CUNY Young African Leadership Symposium (YALS) brought together 200+ African youth in the diaspora to collectively think about the following questions the lessons that could be learned from Africa’s giants and how they guide our journey to moving Africa forward, role of our generation to ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated and how to use gifts, talents, and ideas, to contribute to the continuous development of Africa.
  KeyNote at CUNY John Jay Collage of Criminal Justice
Sophia Bekele

While giving a key note speech the Founder of DotConnectAfrica Trust and Yes2DotAfrica Campaign  Ms. Sophia Bekele conversed with the students behind what she says are of priority to Africa. Her rallying call “The operative word for what would move Africa is CHANGE.  So we all need to PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens)

Bekele said that “Our generation has the power to promote freedom of ideas, innovate and be accountable, ethical and transparent, to forge leadership that is keen on every small detail. It is really in building lasting foundations that we can prepare for a better future. It is your chance to chart a new path, without reinventing the wheel so that future generations can appreciate your input”.

She recalled “Our great Pan-African Leaders like Mandela, Mwalimu Nyerere, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta  saw a future in creating opportunities though self governance, economic development  through education to drive a change.

She also reminded that we can also learn from our modern day Giants that were close to us, our own fathers, mothers, uncles and village Chieftains. “My Giant is my own Father” she said and noted his staying power under three varying government regimes with successful business undertakings.  She named such leading African business figures as Tony Elumelu, also calling him “her Modern day Giant. His advocacy for private sector leadership in economic development and PanAfrican vision under his AfriCapitalism and mirrors mine, she said.

She urged the students to develop a “staying power” saying, I was educated in America like yourself, so I can’t help but also learn from some of the Giants right here in the US, and quoted US President Theodore Roosevelt on staying in the Arena. Given what we were enduring at our organization at DCA, I was inspired to write an entire commentary from his single quote for our Company’s 2014 New Year’s Newsletter and titled it “The ARENA Issue”, she said. We need to learn to stay in the course like our celebrated Giants did, but what would help us move into our journey to the future is to continuously PUSH the envelop – (Persist, Until Something Happens).

Not forgetting women in the equation, she said the following – Women represent over 50% of the African continent and they have many gifts and talent and not utilizing them is also missing over 50% of the population’s talent.  Without examining the contributions made by African women throughout the ages, the full story of the African experience and struggle cannot be told.  So for those women in this room, have hope and use your talents and when the going gets tough and or the men want to treat you like you should only be seen and not heard, pin your ears to these two songs – a must have in your play list – “Can’t hold US down” – by Christina Aguilera and “Girls Run the World ” – by Beyonce: These two ladies have your back.

In her concluding remarks Bekele stressed consistent with your mission and vision at The Council of Young African Leaders, which is to “inspire the next generation of African leaders to cultivate awareness and action, and call to lead the continent of Africa to its greatest era yet”, I call upon you to do just that.  Fight for your identity as an African – Let no one define you but you. You are the next generation Leaders, Game Changers, and Change Agents – go and do something for Africa.
“There were so many ways to have answered the questions you posed for today’s symposium, but I spoke to you on what is of priority for Africa – use your talents, do it the right way, practice good governance, no short cuts, stay the course, use the power of hindsight, and PUSH -Persist Until Something Happens. Otherwise, your leadership will also suffer and you will be “Swinging from the Chandelier” and I let you search whose song is that.    Read the rest of her speech here