Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Ireland offered timely support for Africa Day events in Limerick as part of its commitment to strengthen communities, break down cultural barriers and empower Africans and other diaspora communities.
Events in Limerick ran from the May 23-29, with opening ceremonies and a seminar series at the Strand Hotel in Limerick; African drumming, dance and song workshop with youths at the Limerick City Library; screening of a Nigerian movie at Mary Immaculate College; and a family fun day at the Milk Market in Limerick City to conclude the celebrations.
The Global Peace Foundation Ireland was a principal host of this year’s Africa Day events, which was organized by the Limerick City and County Council, Irish Aid and the migrant support network, Doras Luimni.
The opening day featured two seminar sessions to highlight issues about Africans in Limerick and Ireland. This year’s theme, Reflection, looked at the role of African migrants in Ireland and particularly the contributions of African migrants to the socio-economic development of Ireland. Motivational speaker, author and lecturer at University College, Dublin Dr. Ebun Joseph said Africans can be of great benefit to Ireland because they have the right skills, credentials and qualifications, yet they are often denied opportunities because of discrimination. “If allowed to excel and given the proper platforms, Africans can channel and fully utilize their skills and talents to ensure maximum impact on Irish economic growth,” she said.
Dr. Joseph added that the current market trends show that young people are educated and trained in Ireland but are not given sufficient opportunities to be employed. The situation is worse for African immigrants, she said, describing the bleeding the socio-economic landscape of Ireland as” brain drain” and “brain waste.”
Mrs. Bernie Henry, a teacher at Moate Business College, expressed support for the African migrant community. “I feel sincerely as an Irish person that Ireland will lose out if we do not embrace this community, share learning with them and in doing so enrich both our cultures,” she said, “However, if we reject their call for true integration and fail to accept their humanity, their qualifications and their enormous ability to contribute positively to Irish society on every level, we will run the risk of ghettoizing this community—the result of which can only be negative for all of our communities.”
Mrs. Henry also spoke specifically about certain barriers to education. “The power of teachers and lecturers as street level bureaucrats must never be underestimated,” she said, “and work needs to be done in this regard to break down barriers, fears and preconceived notions of Africans and Africa-based tales and images from primary school, reinforced by media images and aid programs.”
Irish Aid’s Vincent Maher defended the notion of “aid and not trade” with Africa, and the lack of diverse personnel or people of African ethnicity working at Irish Aid. “Even I had to go through a scrupulous interview process to get a job at Irish Aid,” he said, adding that job vacancies are always made public.
The seminar attracted people from diverse backgrounds, including, Africans, Americans, Jamaicans, Canadians and Irish.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Milk Market for “family fun day,” which highlighted African heritage from food to clothing. The free event featured performances of the Limerick Gospel Choir led by The Voice’s Ireland’s David Idioh, a Nigerian national, the Elikya band, fashion shows and solo performances.
Africa Day is unique in Ireland, not only because Africans celebrate their African heritage, but also because it offers a platform for children of African ancestry to identify with their countries of origin and with the hope that Africa and Africans would no longer be defined by stereotypes but rather by the wealth and the gifts that they offer the world.
GPF’s role during the community building event was hailed as effective, timely, and generous. One participant and Doras Luimni volunteer, Linda Kirwisa, said this year’s Africa Day celebrations in Limerick were different because “it was the first time that the African community in Limerick planned the program, and in conjunction with other bodies, including Global Peace Foundation.”
(Photos by Theirry Schumann)