Sunday, March 23, 2008

Support HB 4886 and 4902 by Akindele Akinyemi

On March 4, 2008 House Bill 4902 passed 106-0 in the Michigan House of Representatives. This is a bill that would require that if a school district teaches African history in middle school or high school, the course content must be focused on one or more of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Benin, Bornu, Nubia, Axum, Meroe, Medieval Ethiopia, or the Swahili Coast.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Nofs. Nofs is a Republican from Battle Creek.

There was another bill that passed 104-0 that was sponsored by Rep. Brenda Clack from Flint. Her bill require that if a school district teaches African history in an elementary grade, the course content must be focused on one or more of the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Benin, Bornu, Nubia, Axum, Meroe, Medieval Ethiopia, or the Swahili Coast.

This effort was pushed by Charles Six of Ending Stereotypes. Of course, people who do not understand the gravity of having these bills passed missed the point.

I have written on this subject several times.

One White guy wrote this on Michigan Votes:

"Tell me how African history will help our kids make a living?"

We are living in a global society. Africa is the second largest continent on the planet Earth behind Asia. If people here in Michigan were smart we would have been investing in Africa. We still have White people in the tri-county area that still think people in Africa is a continent of children with bloating stomachs, flies flying around their heads and relying on Sally Struthers to Save the Children.

Get real.

Africa is booming with business as we speak. Africans have the highest educational attainment rates of any immigrant group in the United States with higher levels of completion. It is not only the first generation that does well, as estimates indicate that a highly disproportionate percentage of Black students at elite universities are African or the children of African immigrants. Harvard University, for example, has estimated that two-thirds of their black population is not comprised of African Americans born in the United States. This is true for other Ivy League universities.

African immigrants to the U.S. are also more highly educated than any other native-born ethnic group including white Americans. Some 48.9 percent of all African immigrants hold a college diploma. This is slightly more than the percentage of Asian immigrants to the U.S., nearly double the rate of native-born white Americans, and nearly four times the rate of native-born African Americans.

Most of the African immigrants who come over here to go to school send money back to help build their country or their families. Africans typically congregate in urban areas, moving to suburban areas over time. The goals of Africans vary tremendously. While some look to create new lives in the U.S., some plan on using the resources and skills gained to go back and help their countries of origin. Either way, African communities contribute millions to the economies of Africa by sending money to their family members.

Charles Six have pointed out these facts about why it is important to learn African civilizations to get a full perspective on the future of Africa.

• Chinese and Indian businesses are spreading across Africa at a much faster rate than the US, gaining major influence.

• Chinese investment is increasing in Africa about 50% each year.

• Africa grew 5% in 2006, compared to 2% for the EU—obviously a better investment.

• China has become most active in Nigeria and Angola, the two major oil producers in Africa.

• Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and former head of the World Bank, says 10 years from now US businesses will be saying, “how did we miss that opportunity.”

• In 5 years 25% of our oil imports will come from Africa, putting Africa on par with the Mideast.
• Paul Wolfowitz said a great danger is how “uninformed” people in the U.S. are about Africa, for economic and security reasons.

• Al-Qaeda is trying to spread across Africa. After 9-11 the U.S. was scrambling to find people familiar with the Mideast.

• Discrimination leads to a less productive workforce, therefore a weaker U.S. economy, because we are not utilizing our best talent.

Africa's profitability is one of the best kept secrets in today's world economy. If our state lawmakers understood economics as well as education we would be in the business of pushing Michigan investments in African. Africa has experienced impressive economic growth rates in recent years, despite the effects of ongoing conflicts and depressed commodity prices. The serious problem is that most chief executives of multinational companies never look in detail at the prospect of any African country.

Despite the continent's structural problems and the relentless focus on aid and debt relief, Ghana's stockmarket was the world's third-best performer last year, while Egypt topped the global table and is soaring this year too. In the long term, Africa's best chance for prosperity and stability is not from dependency on foreign aid, but from sustained private investment and enterprise. Currently, only about 1% of the private capital in the world is invested in sub-Saharan Africa. As the continent becomes gradually more prosperous, levels of private investment are set to increase significantly, especially since (according to World Bank figures) Africa currently offers 'the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world'.

The Michigan Senate should support these bills. I would like to remind the Michigan Senate that a bill like this is extremely important to pass because we must prepare our children for the future. Not to mention that African immigrants here in Michigan are a hidden constituency for urban conservative policies.

As for the rest of those who oppose the bill please keep your one sided racism to yourself. Just like educators for years have shoved a one sided history on world classical civilizations to our children to the point they hate history we should teach classical African civilizations in the classroom to help prepare our people here to invest in Africa.

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