Congo Women To Be Honored In Harlem

February 23, 2010

International Women’s Day will be celebrated in many ways, but none more sincerely than the commemoration in Harlem on Sunday, March 7. The day is dedicated to the women of the Congo and features a day-long lineup of important events and inspiring performances.

11:00 AM Morning Church Service
Riverside Church, Clermont Ave. (between 120th & 122nd Streets)

2:00 PM Procession & Rally at Ndunga Public Art Project
Plaza of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, 163 W 125th Street

3:00 PM Conflict Resolution Workshops for youth and adults
Black River Studio, 345 Lenox Ave. (between 127th & 128th Streets)

6:30 PM Screening of “Lumo” the documentary film
Maysles Cinema, 343 Lenox Ave. (between 127th & 128th Streets)

8:00 PM Panel Discussion and Dialogue
Recording of Personal Statements and Testimonials

There will also be performances by LaBurga, Global Kids, Jumping For Justice Double Dutch Social Initiative, Kim Weston Moran, Linda H. Humes, Gloria Lowery Tyrrell, Garifuna Day Woen’s Coalition, Drummers, and others.

The events are hosted by a long list of prominent organizations including Friends of the Congo and Ndunga Public Art Project. Space is limited, so please rsvp NPAP (718) 855-8616.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Chinua Achebe – Essays To Treasure

February 21, 2010

“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” should be repeated every hour on the hour by every school child all over the world until it becomes the mantra of all societies. It is Bantu for “A human is human because of other humans.”

The simple but profound adage is the theme of Chinua Achebe’s collection of essays, The Education of a British-Protected Child: Essays.It may also be the theme of his life’s work, judging by the simple message it conveys about the importance of the communal aspirations of the peoples of Africa. He uses it several times in various essays in the book, but really drives the point home in the concluding paragraph of the last one, titled “Africa Is People.”

“Our humanity is contingent on the humanity of our fellows. No person or group can be human alone. We rise above the animal together, or not at all. If we learned that lesson even this late in the day, we would have taken a truly millennial step forward.”

Achebe, winner of the Man Booker International Prize and best known as the author of Things Fall Apart,one of the seminal works of African fiction, has a subtle, dry voice that makes each of these seventeen essays something to savor and linger over. He makes his points about racial stereotypes, African development, history, and politics, and the African-American diaspora, sometimes with humor, sometimes with biting directness, but always graciously and without rancor. You sense Achebe knows that to rail against injustice is futile; change must come through education achieved one cogent argument at a time.

While Achebe is a scholar, he is also a master storyteller. More often than not, he makes his points not with dry logical argument but with an exegetical tale about someone he’s met or something that’s happened to him. Those little narratives are much more illustrative than pure cant. In “Spelling Our Proper Name,” he tells the story of Dom Afonso of Bukongo, for example, who negotiated with King John III of Portugal in 1526 as an equal. He then writes:

“Such stories as Dom Alfonso’s encounter with Europe are not found in the history books we read in schools. If we knew them….young James Baldwin would not have felt a necessity to compare himself so adversely with peasants in a Swiss village. He would have known that his African ancestors did not sit through the millennia idly gazing into the horizon, waiting for European slavers to come and get them.”

I found his exploration of the complex politics and history of Africa in “Africa’s Tarnished Name” to be particularly thought-provoking. He also talks frequently about Joseph Conrad’s racism, which has become an important theme in the deconstruction of Heart of Darkness. Some of these essays have been presented elsewhere, although they have been revised and updated since they were first published. Nothing in them is dated, however, and Achebe’s insightful discussions with Langston Hughes and James Baldwin ring as true as his observations about the potent symbolism of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Heart Of Diamonds eBook Editions

February 17, 2010

Heart Of Diamonds, a novel of scandal, love, and death in the CongoWhat’s your preferred reading device? You can now put the new edition of Heart of Diamonds on your Kindle, Sony Reader, Stanza, Palm, or just about any other e-Book reader with just a couple of clicks.

Check your favorite online bookseller, or go to Smashwords.com for a comprehensive listing of available versions. For the Kindle edition, visit Amazon.com.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Model Of New Congo School To Be Unveiled

February 15, 2010

Mark your calendar now for a special event March 1. That’s when Studio MDA unveils the architectural model of the new school being built by the Georges Malaika Foundation in the village of Kalebuka in Katanga Province. The school is a big step forward for the foundation spearheaded by international model Noella Coursaris Musunka, who broke ground for it just last year.

The school is the first of many the foundation hopes to build to give Congolese girls a solid educational experience. Their dedication and “can-do” attitude has produced results, not just press releases, which is one big reason I support GMF.

Students of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation conducted extensive research to develop a model for educational institutions when they visited the school site last year. Their plan holds great promise for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Education has suffered greatly in the nation as ongoing conflict in many regions drains the country’s resources.

In addition to the unveiling of the school’s model, attendees will hear Matthew Bishop, NY Bureau Chief for the Economist and Khaliah Ali, dedicated humanitarian and daughter of boxer Muhammad Ali.

The event will be Monday, March 1, from 6 to 8 pm at the James Cohan Gallery, 533 West 26th Street in Manhattan. For more information, contact GMF at rsvp@gmfafrica.org.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


Heart Of Diamonds Dedicated To Congo Cause

February 14, 2010

Heart Of Diamonds, a novel of scandal, love, and death in the CongoI happily started the new year with the release of the second edition of Heart of Diamonds. The revised edition corrects a few typos and slightly updates the text.

Most significantly, perhaps, the new edition recognizes four organizations whose work helps the people of the Congo. A couple of these organizations are large, the other two are small, but the work they all do contributes to the well-being of the citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

HEAL Africa

Women For Women International

Georges Malaika Foundation

Doctors Without Borders

The new edition of Heart of Diamonds is available from the publisher or Amazon.com. You can also find (or order it) from your favorite local bookseller. If in doubt, use the ISBN 9781449919924.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the


More On The AFRICOM Debate

February 3, 2010

One of my posts regarding AFRICOM has prompted a healthy and civil discussion of the issues from readers. Let me add a thought or two:

While there have been many misguided ventures financed by the IMF and others (including the U.S.) in Africa, not all have failed. Nor have all the failures been due to the source. The U.S. is not an evil country as it is so often portrayed. Much good is done by the people, corporations, and yes, the government of the U.S. for the people of Africa and elsewhere in the world. Are U.S. aid programs perfect? Of course not. Are U.S. investments without strings? Of course not. Nor are those by China, Germany, France, or Britain. The question I would pose is, if these powers don’t invest in Africa, who will? Development of third world economies, improvement of living conditions, and peace in the societies won’t happen without investment and assistance.

What prompted the discussion, of course, is the growing influence of AFRICOM. Please keep in mind that AFRICOM is no more than the re-organization of existing U.S. military operations on the continent. I have very mixed feelings about the use of U.S. military assets for humanitarian purposes as I wrote when AFRICOM was announced, but would like to suggest that we look beyond the rhetoric to see what’s actually happening on the ground, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

AFRICOM has offered training assistance in two key areas that would be a great help to Congo. One is in the justice system, where U.S. legal experts have provided training in the investigation and prosecution of rape and other crimes by Congolese military personnel. The other is in training programs for FARDC units designed to discourage crimes against the civilians the army is supposed to be protecting. It should be noted that both programs were conducted upon the express invitation of the Congolese government.

I don’t advocate military solutions for social problems, but the transfer of knowledge is far from an invasion of sovereignty. In these instances, the U.S. provided expertise lacking in the Congo. How is that wrong?

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds a about in the