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South Sudan: An African American Opportunity

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(NNPA) Whenever there are advances for African freedom and self-determination, African Americans, in particular, should always be able to define mutual interests, opportunities and responsibilities to aid and assist our brothers and sisters in Africa. The Republic of South Sudan is the newest nation in the world and will become the 193rd member of the United Nations.

Independence Day for the Republic of South Sudan was as recent as this month. President Barack Obama stated, "A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. Together, we can ensure that today marks another step forward in Africa's long journey toward opportunity, democracy and justice. I am proud to declare that the United States formally recognizes the Republic of South Sudan a sovereign and independent state upon this day, July 09, 2011. After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation." We agree with President Obama's perspective and analysis about the significance of the newly established Republic of South Sudan. But we would like to deepen our memory and perspective on this momentous achievement from an African American perspective.

Too often in contemporary times, Africa is still viewed by too many Americans as that far off place where centuries ago, millions of people were enslaved and forcibly brought to the Americas for the sole purpose of one of the most brutal manifestations of human slavery and economic exploitation that the world has ever witnessed in history. Yet for African Americans we are more and more aware of how our plight here inside the United States of America still involves our long struggle for freedom, justice, equality and empowerment. But for the grace of God and the sacrifices, toil, courage and steadfastness of struggle by past generations of Blacks in America and throughout the displaced African world, we would not be able to recognize and celebrate the progress today that African people and all people continue to make toward a more just and empowered humanity.

Our concern and care is for our brothers and sisters in both the Republic of South Sudan and those who remain in the Sudan, to the north of the Republic of South Sudan. The whole of the Sudan and including the Republic of South Sudan ought to be the focus for all who care about Africa. The 50 years or more of deadly, self-destructive civil war has caused so much misery and suffering. It is good now that the civil war, despite some continued violent border clashes, has finally ended with the declaration of independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan being officially recognized by the world community.

African Americans should see clearly that once again there are significant and immediate economic and growth opportunities in this new African nation. Of course, some of the world's economic powers are already lining up to go after the vast quantities of oil and natural gas that are known to be some of the world's largest discoveries located in the Republic of South Sudan. China has just announced that they will invest millions of dollars in infrastructure development for the South Sudan. The U.K., France, the U.S., and other post-industrialized economies have all expressed their desire to work on development projects in this valuable mineral rich nation. At a time of very high unemployment in the African American community, this is a great moment in history for African American business leaders to develop new business relationships with Africa, and in particular with nations like the Republic of South Sudan.

I believe the greatest resource, however, that is in the Republic of South Sudan today is not its oil or natural gas, but it is its millions of people who have high aspirations and hope for a better quality of life. Thus, if Black owned businesses: the Black Press, colleges and universities, churches and other institutions that serve our communities would reach out to the Republic of South Sudan, it would raise the potential for ongoing sustainable economic development and educational joint ventures to be established. Africa awaits Black America. Giving back to Africa will bring a long lasting benefit to our brothers and sisters in Africa as well as to our brothers and sisters in our communities across America.

President Obama in his statement about the Republic of South Sudan reminded us what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about independence occurring in Africa. The President affirmed, "Decades ago, Martin Luther King reflected on the first moment of independence on the African continent in Ghana, saying, 'I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.' Today, we are moved by the story of struggle that led to this time of hope in South Sudan, and we think of those who didn't live to see their dream realized. Now, the leaders and people of South Sudan have an opportunity to turn this moment of promise into lasting progress." As we salute the Republic of South Sudan, let's extend a helping hand. The future holds great promise.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Educational Online Services Corporation.