Monday, October 21, 2019

Nollywood Animation - Malika: Warrior Queen

Today I came across this thrilling Nollywood animation tiled Malika: Warrior Queen.  It rings special for me because way back in the days when I was writing my thesis on Jamaican film I was then asking questions about the production of animated features that were informed by traditional African cultural themes that informed our childhood, and in particular my African-Jamaican childhood.  So to come across a production such as this that anchors itself in African mythology is particularly thrilling.

I have in the past written about Jamaica themed comics as in the Dread and Alive series which was inspired by the Jamaica Maroons, and where the writer takes the creative license to mix in some fact with fiction to create a uniquely Jamaican superhero, but still the space remains open in Africa and the diaspora for more creators to come forward and fill us with some unique experiences that we have probably contemplated in folk culture, but never really made it beyond that. 

Well, some of us may be in for a visual treat we always believed exists, but that we had not yet seen.  As this Quartz Africa story titled, Nollywood is one step closer to its first major animated cinema production tells us from an interview with Roye Okupe, a comics publisher and founder of YouNeek Studios,
After years of publishing Malika: Warrior Queen as a graphic novel with its central character inspired by Queen Amina, a 16th century queen who ruled in parts of Nigeria’s northwest, Okupe has stepped things up with an animated 15-minute short film which he expects to be the precursor to a full length feature."  
Have a look at the thrilling short film below:

I think the imagery is beautiful and very empowering for us as Africans who want to celebrate our culture. As the article tells us the short will be making the rounds at various film festivals and also shown to those who may be interested in producing a full length feature film.  As Roye says, “There’s no reason why our children [and adults] shouldn’t be able to turn on their TVs and see characters like this rooted in Africa.” I agree and I certainly wish this production well.

You may check out the company's website at YouNeek Studios where you can get some free comics or follow them on Facebook using this link.  Please feel free to share and also ask your kids what they think about this.

Jamaica's Intellectual Property Challenge

On Friday October 18, 2019 Jamaica's Emancipation Park played home to a free Christian concert named Sunday Service hosted by Kanye West, which was the first of the international leg of his proselytising series, and with its own hashtag #SundayServiceJA. 

Photo courtesy of Garfield Robinson, Jamaica Observer

The concert was not without controversy, as Kanye is known to attract, and as this Jamaica Gleaner article about "Upstaging Heroes Weekend" outlines, but the issue that elicited my response was the issue surrounding Kanye’s use of Jamaican intellectual property, specifically official national symbols and emblems, to produce and sell merchandise off and online for the event. 

Image courtesy of

The most recent controversy caused me to go back into my blogs for a post made on September 26, 2010 titled, Licensing Brand Jamaica, that suggested how Jamaica could handle these matters, that I anticipated back then. The controversial merchandise could have been licensed and the government would have been collecting some kind of revenue in theory.  Unfortunately however, seemingly nothing was ever put in place to handle scenarios where persons or entities could be marketed the idea of obtaining licenses to use certain Jamaican symbols or iconography for commercial purposes.

Image courtesy of

Below is a paragraph from that 2010 post that contemplated an approach to handling these matters for Jamaica: 
I have often wondered if the government, perhaps through the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, has examined licensing Jamaican properties in a similar fashion to how the city of New York has established NYC & Company Licensing to handle the business of licensing the City’s intellectual property. As a result, all official merchandise from the New York City police, taxi, fire department, parks and recreation, and the transport department benefit the city. We know that there is merchandise sold with the Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Kingston city/town names and replicas of other property. Then there is Jamaica Tourist Board’s signature 'JAMAICA' trademark and related property that serve tourism... I wonder to what extent local business, and by extension the state, could benefit from greater sales of products around these properties? This is certainly a business opportunity.

Since the outcry on social media for clearly what was an oversight (or more accurately a matter that was not even contemplated in the least) by the relevant authorities, the minister of culture was forced to act as the Jamaica Observer newspaper reports in this story, Pull the merch, Kanye, "government requests that West removes items with national symbols from online store." Of course, nobody really wins here, when the outcome could have been very different.

This is a sad outcome, because if there was a sales trend it is likely broken for the moment. In fact, a visit to the website ( today asks that I sign up for further updates. The newspaper goes further to say that the minister will "re-establish a committee to devise a strategy to deal with the proper use of our emblems and symbols, as she is aware that other vendors are selling Jamaica-branded products."  I wonder just how this will be tackled because not all Jamaica-branded products can be claimed to belong to the state, so in one sense all this may become an academic exercise bearing very little fruit.

The good thing is that licensing opportunities in which the government or its entities can participate still abound for some Jamaican merchandise, but as with everything, having the right partners, execution and knowing what you're doing makes all the difference.  

The minister has my best wishes, and I certainly hope they are able to create something meaningful that will redound to the benefit of the good Jamaican people. 

Zouzoukwa African Emojis For You

I came across a story today that I think is really cool and I want to make the quick share.  There are so many positives that are happening for African entertainment and cultural enterprises and sometimes it is hard to keep up, but I think this one is worth the pause to acknowledge how good it is.

The story is about Zouzuokwa, an African emoji app that contains more than 350 downloadable emojis with West African cultural references, that also resonate in the African diaspora. This was created by the 21-year old O’Plerou Felix Grebet (linked to his Instagram) from Côte d'Ivoire.

Here's a short BBC video interview of the creator... 

Having grown up in Jamaica the icon of the app is immediately recognizable as what we call 'suck suck', a lovable childhood treat. It is basically any flavored drink, bagged and frozen, and when ready for consumption you suck the contents from one end of the bag.

Needless to say I've downloaded that app and looked through the emojis and I love them. My contacts can expect that I'll be using them.

You can download the app by clicking the link for your respective store, the Apple store or the Google Play store.  Get it and share it with your family and friends.  This is indeed a moment that's better with family and friends.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Views on Jay-Z, Kaepernick and the NFL

I've taken a few days to formulate my opinion on this matter.  Snoop Dogg in an interview on the Breakfast Club published on August 21, 2019 gave a perspective that speaks to me, and Charlemange Tha God was also of a similar view, that the question is why do we need to pit one (Colin Kaepernick) against the other (Jay-Z)?

This Is Not A Contest, It's Not An Either Or
For our sake, and the cause of addressing injustice, we should want both these individuals to succeed because both have a role to play in keeping the attention on the unwarranted killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement - this is presumably the objective and not some other agenda that keeps us distracted. Take a listen to Snoop's comments here:

I have seen that many who have commented are more concerned about their own agendas and pushing ideological positions that are more distractions than adding clarity to an understanding of what we are witnessing. I think we should be careful we don't get carried away with these ideological labels.

Economic Activism and  Social Activism
Dr. Boyce Watkins made an interesting commentary on August 20, 2019 about ultra left socialists who he describes as idealists. To paraphrase, he said that they tend to be so blinded by their ideology that they harbor very little understanding of the value and power of money in helping their own struggles. I’m in agreement. I would like to point out that economic activism is just as legitimate as social activism, who is to say one has more legitimacy than the other? Below is the video of Dr Watkins' commentary:

Capitalism and Socialism
Further, I read one critique titled, Jay-Z has crossed the picket line with his NFL deal, where the writer tore into Jay-Z’s move and concluded that corporations and billionaires will not help the poor and the oppressed, but rather the solution is socialism. My question was what kind of socialism are they referring to? For example, Bernie Sanders, whose policy proposals I support for the most part, refers to himself as a democratic socialist, but I’ve never heard him claim himself to be anti-capitalist, for one because he recognizes fully well that profits are needed to fund social agendas. (Speaking of which, the converse is also true, what does it mean to be capitalist, because this too is not a single-version concept or system?)  In fact, I have read literature from some socialist groups denouncing Sanders and his proposals as not in fact being socialist enough, so what are we really talking about here when the article ends with saying socialism is the answer? This is a point that needs unpacking, because in my view the answer is not one or the other, each has some merit. 

All About The Money
I’ve read others articles like, Jay-Z Isn’t a Sellout, He’s a Capitalist, as well as heard commentary that Jay-Z is all about himself, as if he is the only party that includes self-interest as an element of their agenda. Yes, any deal made must be perceived to be mutually beneficial to all parties.  Have we forgotten that Kaepernick settled with the NFL - for money, presumably on an amount that was satisfactory to him? Have we also forgotten that if Kaepernick were to be given a job it would be for money? So I think we should be very careful not to paint ourselves into a corner. Kaepernick is as much about the money as is Jay-Z and it’s the reason his tongue is tied. So many have called for him to speak and to offer leadership beyond tweets, but, unfortunately for him, he is missing in action. From all indications if he were offered a job playing he would have taken it, and then what about 'the cause'? Nothing. We would still need to be activists the following day because the fundamental factors that give rise to the injustice being protested would still have not changed. Are any of the NFL players playing for free? Including Eric Reid and others who don the cause of social justice in a seemingly ultra righteous fashion?  Let’s be real, money is at the center of it all. And, by the tone of some of the commentary on this matter, the money itself and the ownership it can buy you is a bad thing, so the virtue remains in being a worker indefinitely. This is problematic because it does not allow for any other view or approach, and that is flawed.

It is naive to not recognize the value and power of money in a capitalist society. In case we forgot, it was Marcus Garvey who pointed out very early in the 20th century to black folks that, “wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is influence, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights. The system of our world politics suggests such, and as a fact it is.” Nearly a hundred years later today we still see this manifest as reality. The challenge today in my view is those who may be conscious, but who are not Jay-Z have not quite figured out how to use money to their advantage, beyond the flashy displays. Jay-Z is going places and making moves very few black men have gone and can go while learning as he goes along, and that makes many black folks uncomfortable because it is not something we're used to seeing. It’s his hustle and it is just as good as anyone else’s, and we might want to muster up the courage to support him as he goes into uncharted territory. It not an either or, both Kaepernick and Jay-Z would like similar outcomes, so why are we offering those who have no interest in fairness and justice fodder by pitting them one against the other? Both strategies have merit. We can offer to support them equally.

Challenge Our Thinking: Ownership and Employment
A few days ago I came across the article, Colin Kaepernick Posts New Workout Video to Prove NFL Readiness Amid Jay-Z’s Partnership with the Organization. I found it disappointing because it conflicted with a point that is at the core of my beliefs - business and enterprise are a critical source of empowerment (NB. not the critical source of empowerment). 

I thought the article was a travesty and felt that Colin Kaepernick should stop hurting his legacy by his incessant begging for work even at this stage.  I feel he is now at a point where he can use his network to create workout videos, for example, and release them now that he has the ability to parlay his persona into so many things that can earn him way more than he will make in the NFL over time. So I felt then that he was missing Jay-Z’s point.  In my view he should now be thinking how he and his friends can own NFL teams so that they can truly prevent future blackballing of other players. In one report Jay-Z is quoted when asked about Kaepernick's involvement as saying, “I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.” Which suggests to me the door is open for Colin.  So in my view they should both be talking at this point. 

Kaepernick seems to be playing checkers while Jay-Z is playing chess in my view, which means that one has a longer term goal in mind, which may not be immediately apparent to the onlooker. However, I don't wish to unfairly blame Kaepernick since as individuals we ultimately have to play where we're comfortable. Jay’s move is a call for us to challenge our thinking. Has any of those who are voicing disagreement about this given thought to the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling opened the door and has given rise to a movement that could result with more black folks moving to own more of the NFL teams?  It could. It’s the what’s next, because protest is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Hopefully, those highly paid sports stars and celebrities come to recognize that there are more uses for their money than showing off. Jay-Z has been on this message for years, and he evidently not only makes music about it, but he also does it.  What a concept, take action, act in spite of fear even as you venture into the unknown.

Instead of it being about a job, it has to become about owning the jobs that employ your people; become a decision-maker within the NFL. I wonder how many of the disenfranchised and oppressed can visualize a day when people who look like the players own more than half of the teams in the league with some of their companies also supplying the support services. It is helpful to remember that integration should work both ways, we first integrated as subordinates to white ownership, now it is high time to integrate as equal owners and decision makers. We’ve got a lot of learning to do among ourselves and we can see that the road won't be easy.

Find the Points of Unity and Celebrate Our Wins
Increasingly, black celebrities and investors are by now seized upon the importance of ownership in sports and other arena, and some recognize that each small step is a move that can in some small way help the overall African American community. So, if Jay-Z is successful at opening the door for other black owners to follow, would we not celebrate that victory? My hope is that as a community we would support him for making that breakthrough even while we work for breakthroughs at the level at which we operate.

Steve Biko once said, “the most potent weapon is the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” and we should be more careful we are not sowing the seeds of our own destruction by fueling unwarranted divisions. 

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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Emancipation Day 2019: Out Of Many Africans We Are One People

Best wishes on this Emancipation Day my fellow Jamaicans. I hope this Emancipation Day is one that is filled with deep reflection and meaning. I trust the significance of the day empowers.

I remain a proud Jamaican descendant of Africans who were primarily from the Yoruba and Fulani peoples of West Africa, but who today have united with the many other Africans (the Akan and Igbo, among others) who were taken to the island and enslaved. The common goal of our people became the doing of what is necessary to move forward in freedom, unity and prosperity.

From the cross-section of Africans who were taken to the shores of this incredibly beautiful island we have in a very remarkable way become one - we are admired by many. Our circumstances produced the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of the greatest early exponents of Pan Africanism and global African unity, whose legacy lives on today in the lives of so many Africans on the continent and outside of it. 

We now have a nascent African Union slowly coming into its own as a manifestation of the vision of Marcus Garvey and others then and now. So, for this reality, Jamaicans have even more reasons to celebrate because in some small way our tumultuous Jamaican struggles have helped to shape this reality the world now sees and lives today. Out of many Africans, we are one people.

Nuff respek Jamaica 🇯🇲.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day Reflections 2019

One of my social media handles reminded me of this July 4, 2010 post:
Someone put it this way, "Independence Day is also a celebration of entrepreneurship! ... The freedom to launch and grow our companies. The freedom to see our ideas become reality. The freedom to live outrageously successful lives." I'll add, the freedom/obligation to do so responsibly. Happy Independence!
I came across an article this morning that speaks about an African American community named Seneca Village in what was in the now Central Park of New York City.  The writer tells us, "the community, called Seneca Village, began in 1825 and eventually spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street along what is now the western edge of Central Park. By the time it was finally razed in 1857, it had become a refuge for African Americans."

I have no recollection of ever hearing about this community before so I found the story intriguing.  The story was originally published in February 2017 and is titled, An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park.

Prominent abolitionist Albro Lyons and Mary Joseph Lyons were residents of Seneca Village. (NY Public Library)

What I found fascinating in this story was the independence of the African community in New York, a community that was probably also a stop on the Underground Railroad. Reading about Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two prominent members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then apparently another organization named the African Society (or maybe it’s the same organization with the name shortened for convenience), whose purpose was in part to build black communities, and also the AME Zion Church who collectively bought land was definitely empowering.

So my question then became, what happened to these organizations? 

The article states that “more than three-fourths of the children who lived in Seneca Village attended Colored School №3 in the church basement. Half of the African Americans who lived there owned their own property, a rate five times higher than the city average.” Imagine that for the 1850s.

The article leaves very little doubt that some Africans in New York had actively taken charge of lifting their community. It points out that, "owning land in Seneca Village meant more than finding a refuge from the slums and violence of Manhattan proper. Buying property meant voting rights (at least for men), as laws in New York at the time required that all voters own at least $250 worth of real estate." This paints a very unpopular picture of Africans in the early development of the city, and perhaps we should be learning more about some of these individuals because stories like these go a long way in changing the narratives we have been fed.

I definitely would like to know more about The New York African Society for Mutual Relief and The African Society. These are clear demonstrations that Africans would like to claim responsibility to be in charge of matters that are important to them, to the extent that they can. Being left alone to develop independently is not at all a bad idea for Africans when examples such as these come to light. If only all people could be left to enjoy unbridled freedom -- the freedom to live outrageously successful lives."

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Monday, May 27, 2019

In Memory of Lady Liberty

On this Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, I find myself reflecting on a recent article that I read in the Washington Post, published on May 23, 2019, about America's Lady Liberty. The article is titled, The Statue of Liberty was created to celebrate freed slaves, not immigrants, its new museum recounts.

Left to right: The bust of the Statue of Liberty on display in Paris in 1884 before it was shipped to the United States. The statue towers over Paris rooftops in 1884. The right arm of the statue on display in Philadelphia in 1876. (AP)

This was a shocking revelation to me, because from all we’ve been told to this point, the story of Lady Liberty had been all about immigrants. So evidently, the propaganda to sell this story has indeed been successful, and that story may indeed remain the version of the story that will be forever popular across the world, regardless of the facts behind its origins.

You may use this link to check out the full article if you wish, and I even encourage doing further research and reading some of the books mentioned. Some lines from the article read: 
Lady Liberty was originally designed to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants.
One of the first meanings [of the statue] had to do with abolition, but it’s a meaning that didn’t stick,” Edward Berenson, a history professor at New York University and author of the book “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story,” said in an interview with The Washington Post. 
The monument, which draws 4.5 million visitors a year, was first imagined by a man named Édouard de Laboulaye. In France, he was an expert on the U.S. Constitution and, at the close of the American Civil War, the president of a committee that raised and disbursed funds to newly freed slaves, according to Yasmin Sabina Khan, author of the book “Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty.”
Laboulaye loved America — often giving speeches described by a New York Times correspondent in 1867 as “feasts of liberty which move the souls of men to their deepest depths” — and he loved it even more when slavery was abolished.
... An early model, circa 1870, shows Lady Liberty with her right arm in the position we are familiar with, raised and illuminating the world with a torch. But in her left hand she holds broken shackles, an homage to the end of slavery. 
(A terra cotta model still survives at the Museum of the City of New York.)
Makes you think, doesn’t it? With all of its opportunities and the best of intentions, America does have limits to the kind of progress she can stomach.

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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Africa: The Next 1,000 Years

I have been bouncing an idea around my head for a number of months now.  And, as I sit here in Accra, Ghana I feel I should commit the essence of the idea to writing. The shaping of Africa’s next 1,000 years rests with us, and if we are to shape it, then we must begin to effectively change the current narrative around Africa.

Africa In Space
 - Source: Selamta Magazine (Jan/Feb 2019)

Before the Common Era (BCE)
African civilizations have been documented to date back as far as 5,000 years Before the Common Era (BCE) by modern archaeologist and historians. This may not be widely known, but these are facts that have been verified by science, and the evidence confirms that a number of these civilizations have been along the Nile, a river that is approximately 6,650 km (4,132 miles) in length, and is the longest river in Africa and in the world, of which only 22% of the Nile's course runs through Egypt. While Egyptian civilizations may be the more known, and because of racism, disputed as being African in origin, the facts substantiate that the early culture of Egypt came down the Nile and not up the Nile. Prof Ivan Van Sertima was one of many scholars who made every effort to share this fact and he speaks to this in the video below:

It is documented that there are more pyramids to be found in the territories of modern day Sudan among the Nubians than there are in all of Egypt, and it is also documented that the massive stone monoliths that ancient Egyptians would have called tekhen or tekhenu, that we now call obelisks, that have become so familiar in cities across the world, were first to be found among the people further up the Nile (Nubia, Eritrea and modern day northern Ethiopia). 

Nile Valley Obelisks

Unlike the current demographic of 21st century Cairo, there is hardly any room for an honest dispute that the people further up the Nile and over into the nation of modern day Sudan are connected by culture to the people and cultures in other parts of the African continent.  It remains unfortunate that the word about the accomplishments of these peoples in history does not quite make it on to become common knowledge. My purpose in recalling these facts is to illustrate that Africans are not new to the concept of civilization.  For a comprehensive overview of this history I think the UNESCO General History of Africa gives a good survey of Africa’s history throughout the centuries.

The Common Era (CE)
In the period of the Common Era (CE) there also existed many African civilizations and empires across the continent, from the commonly called Moors in the north, Aksum in the east, to the Akan in the west, and the Zulus in the south.  This short post naming 7 Influential African Empires gives a quick summary of a few of these kingdoms.

African Empires Before 1884

The arrival of the slave traders and colonists interrupted African history, and we are better off dealing with our current context if we understand their arrival as such. At the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, that was a meeting between European nations to create rules on how to peacefully divide Africa among them for colonization, the European nations executed the division of Africa among themselves - with no Africans present. The result in effect is the division of Africa as we have today.
Africa Before and After Partition

By 1957, led by Ghana a new independence movement began with more African nations, using the same borders established by the Europeans as their borders for their newly independent states. By 1980 a majority of African nations had become independent of Europe, at least in form, if not in substance.  Using this broad sweep therefore, one could argue that the continent effectively endured direct European rule from 1885-1980, a period of 95 years.  I don’t want to be held hard to this estimate, but it serves my larger point, and the contention of this post, that, for peoples who have had at the very least 4,000 years of history (3,000 BCE + 2,000 CE) in some form or fashion, how can we rationally fix our identities around a period of 95 years of European colonization? For how much longer can this be justified? I do not believe that this can reasonably stand to scrutiny as we move forward.

Literal Translation of Country Names

Africa's Next 1,000 Years
Therefore, it is in the context of this background that I support positions that seek to peacefully rid the African continent of these very arbitrary and artificial borders imposed by the colonizers.  Like Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah and HIM Emperor Haile Selassie, I also support positions that encourage the formation unions among the African peoples who currently inhabit the space, and who are often family and tribesmen and women across borders.  Julius Malema makes some very good points in the video below when he speaks of African unity with a borderless continent that facilitates business and trade, with a single currency, and a united leadership:

I support the pan-African vision. I support intra-continental trade and most importantly, I support a policy that seeks to have some of the more widely spoken African languages become the common language across the African continent. If you believe it is possible then it can be done.  There ought to be a policy to contain the use of European languages to limited spheres and give the African languages primacy when conducting the business of Africa in the African continent, if only because at its most basic it is a justifiable human right to celebrate one's culture and heritage.

If we are to make these hopes and visions realties for the next 1,000 years then we need to act boldly and decisively to bring these into being.  The good thing is that the change we seek is still within reach. 

Useful African Statistics

To make this change, I challenge each African that for each negative story he or she posts about Africa, they should google and find at least two positive stories to repost on their timeline. Even after natural disasters Africans have always picked themselves up and moved on with their lives. The narrative of the hapless natives is played out. This is not a story we need to keep repeating, and we certainly don’t need to keep sharing them, because we are more than suffering.  There are many positive stories and we are better off helping our people by share those.

Selmata, March 2019
Africa Moves Closer to Becoming a Free Trade Zone
 - Source: Selamta Magazine (Mar/Apr 2019)

The story of Africa for the next 1,000 years is for us ordinary Africans to write. I will end this post with this 5-minute video clip that was a part of the Great African Leadership Series by Prof P.L.O. Lumumba who speaks to how we can make the immediate vision of the United States of Africa real.

Walk good.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Immortalizing Emperor Haile Selassie I

Ethiopian Airlines has on the cover of the January/February 2019 edition of its in-flight magazine Selamta the image here.

This I think this is significant. I recognize alongside the Emperor Haile Selassie I, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, and in another photo, Kwame Nkrumah. These are the elders.

This publication was timely as it was intended to coincide with the unveiling of the commemorative statue of Emperor Haile Selassie I, erected in the compound of the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 🇪🇹

The statue was in fact unveiled on February 10, 2019 quite coincidentally the very same day I landed in and departed from Addis Ababa in-transit. This note by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia is worthy of freezing for posterity and so I’ve chosen to preserve it in images below:

As the Emperor himself had proclaimed at the first meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in May 1963, “may this convention of union last 1,000 years,” I will add in support, long live the dream of a united Africa.

#travel #rastafari #panafrican #africa

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