NEW YORK (Ugandans Abroad)— More than a hundred African immigrants, as well as friends of Africa, mobilized in Times Square over the weekend to raise awareness of the devastating famine in the Horn of Africa.
United in New York City, participants from Somalia, Sudan, Ghana, Togo, Kenya, India, Uganda, Trinidad, Mali, Nigeria, Spain, United States, and many more held a rally filled with stirring speeches and music.
Peter Kerre, a New Yorker from Kenya known as DJ Xpect, organized the rally with the organization iRelief, a nonprofit that works in New York, Minneapolis, and Nairobi on relief, rights and empowerment.
Kerre spoke about how the African diaspora in the city can raise awareness, volunteer their times at events that help victims of the famine, and donate money. “There are 12 million people affected by this famine,” he said. “We have to do something about it.”
Relief partnered with African People Alliance, Inc., Mezesha Entertainment, and FindingMyRoots, among other organizations, as well as the East African diaspora communities and friends of Africa.
Pius Bugembe, the chairman of the Ugandan American Association of Greater New York, as well as a member of the African People Alliance, a Bronx-based advocacy organization, spoke out at the rally.
“We cannot stand by and watch others,” he said. “We have to take initiative and help our fellow brothers and sisters.”
Bugembe emphasized the importance of the global human family, and recalled the biblical story of the Good Samaritan. He also pulled out an Endingidi, a one-stringed instrument indigenous to Uganda, and
played a song for the crowd.
“I don’t want anyone walking away from the rally, and saying there was nothing authentically African about it,” Bugembe said.
A Muslim community leader spoke strongly about drawing upon the lessons of Ramadan to help in the Horn of Africa. Hussein A. Ibrahim, an imam in a Muslim African community in the Bronx, spoke to the crowd about the importance of helping your neighbor.
“It is time to open up our hearts and give to others,” he said. “It is our responsibility if we believe in God to help others, and we cannot forget our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa.”
Djounedou Titikpina, the president of the African People Alliance, told the crowd that it was difficult for him to break the fast of Ramadan after seeing images of hungry children and families on television. “I had to stop. I could not continue,” he said. “We as Africans and friends of Africa have to do something to help others who do not have food to eat,” he told the crowd.
He led the crowd in a call and response, reciting the pledge of his community organization. He put his left hand over his heart, and his right hand up, and said, “We Are Africans. One People, one nation, under God. With God, everything is possible.”
Ole Pertet, a Kenyan community leader, spoke about the need for all Africans and friends of Africa to continue in their efforts to help children affected by the disaster.
Joe Ugochukwu Ofili, an American-born Nigerian that runs an organization called FindingMyRoots that helps second-generation children of African immigrants embrace their parents’ culture, told the crowd that individuals needed to join together and collaborate in this time of need.
Many Africans abroad came to raise awareness of the famine in New York City, such as Joseph Sellman, the secretary of the New York City chapter of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Bourema Niambele, a Malian native active in the Bronx-based African Advisory Council, also took part, among many other immigrants.