By Stephen Weir
Last week, on the front lawn of Queen’s Park, The Caribbean Camera had the privilege of learning African flag raising etiquette during a special ceremony commemorating Global Africa Day and the 60th anniversary of the African Union (AU). As the green flag of the AU ascended, attendees, including diplomats from African and Caribbean nations, participated in a symbolic act of unity by pointing towards the sky.
Although the event was a significant milestone, there was a woefully small number of Canadian government leaders in attendance. However, the African Unity Sixth Region Canada Foundation, in collaboration with the African Union Economic Social and Cultural Council, ensured that the celebration was marked by the presence of African leaders from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and various African nations.
The African Union, established in 1963, represents 55 countries with a shared interest in promoting political and economic cooperation among African countries. The flag raising ceremony aimed to honour the resilience and achievements of people of African descent, acknowledging their significant contributions to fostering unity and advancing the continent’s development. Moreover, this year holds special significance as it also marks the 190th anniversary of emancipation, a pivotal historical moment that marked the end of
African slavery in the British Empire.
The event further commemorated the 11th anniversary of the Sixth Region Declaration, which was declared on May 25, 2012, by the African Union Heads of State. This declaration officially recognized all people of African descent living outside the continent, including those in the Caribbean, as the Sixth Region of the African Continent. This acknowledgment solidified the bonds between African nations and their diaspora, emphasizing their shared heritage and common goals.
On the day of the ceremony, a small cluster of attendees, mostly from various African and Caribbean delegations, gathered in front of the imposing Queen’s Park Flagpole. Among them were four provincial politicians, including Ted Arnott, the Speaker of the House, to show support of the Provincial Government for the occasion. The sole member of the press to cover the event was this reporter, representing The Caribbean Camera.
The honour of raising the flag fell to Hilda Suka-Mafudza, the African Ambassador to the United States, and Dr. Barbara Stewart, a member of the African Union Board. Their act symbolized the unity and strength that the African Union represents, inspiring hope for a brighter future.
During the ceremony, speeches were delivered by three elected MPPs, including NDP MPP Sarah Jama, the first-ever Somali-Canadian elected to the legislature, Liberal MPP Dr. Adil Shamji, and Conservative MPP David Smith. Their words echoed the significance of the occasion and highlighted the ongoing efforts to strengthen ties between African nations and their diaspora communities.
The flag raising ceremony at Queen’s Park according to the African Union “served as a powerful reminder of the shared history and aspirations of African nations and their diaspora. It celebrated unity, resilience, and the achievements of people of African descent, while emphasizing the importance of continued collaboration for the advancement of the African continent”.
As the flag of the African Union waved above Queen’s Park, it carried with it the hopes and dreams of millions, serving as a beacon of unity and progress for all those who call Africa home, regardless of their physical location.