Helen Leale-Green and Sarah Franklin (volunteer) discuss how Our Moon works with Zambians to overcome some of the deep-rooted inequalities and barriers they face and how Black lives certainly do matter
In light of the horrific death of George Floyd and other Black people before and after him, important conversations have been opened up around the world regarding inequality and the systemic injustice faced by many Black men and women. Having taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic, deaths of other Black people and ethnic minorities from police brutality as well as COVID-19 have drawn back the curtain on many deep-rooted injustices within our society. When faced with global crises like this, it is very common to think “we’re all in the same boat,” but the sad reality that these events have highlighted is, we’re very often not.
During these troubling times, we believe that it is important to be inspired by Our Moon’s values which aim to help overcome deep-rooted inequalities and barriers that Zambians face. Through our teaching programmes, Our Moon aims to develop bright, curious, and considerate young citizens in Zambia, who are given equal opportunities to reach their potential. By helping young Zambians overcome barriers to access high quality education, Our Moon can help create confident and ethical Black leaders who enter the world after their studies with the power to improve their local communities around them and influence social change. In the words of Justin Mushitu, co-founder of Our Moon, our goal is to ‘empower bright but poor young people demonstrating some leadership potential, but who are stuck in a system of limited opportunity.’ There is therefore an important link between the inequalities that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations aim to highlight and the barriers that Our Moon strives to help overcome.
Through Our Moon’s education programmes, many of our students go on to study at top universities around the world. As a charity whose students do regularly obtain scholarships to study abroad, we also turn to them during these times to hear their words of solidarity and inspiration.
African Leadership University
At African Leadership University, we are creating consequential leaders seeking a life of significance and impact on the continent and around the world.
As consequential leaders, we will make decisions that will have an impact on society, perhaps for generations to come. As leaders, we will have the ability to challenge systems that were designed to disenfranchise or muzzle others or do more harm than good. As leaders, we will be called upon by fate to be just and fair in moments that demand it. As leaders, we will have to lead ourselves, even more than we will be called upon to lead others. As leaders, we will be expected to follow paths less travelled and be tested by our own adherence to consistent principles and beliefs. As leaders, we will find ourselves in positions where our example will make a significant difference — and be the significant difference.
As Nelson Mandela reminded us, “One of the most difficult things is not to change society — but to change yourself.”
Listening to George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe” filled me with anger and anguish. The demonstrations that have exploded across the United States and spread globally are not only an expression of grief, but also a denunciation of racism.
Racism is evil. It is as blatant as it is subtle. In these times, we are reminded that we live in a world where the systems and institutions that should serve all of us, irrespective of what we look like, where we were born, our economic status, or the colour of our skin, don’t always do so.
So, what can we do?
We can speak out. Register our disapproval when we hear comments and jokes that perpetuate prejudice and intolerance.
We can talk with our children about what it means to respect all people.
I have found reasons for hope. I’ve watched as people with power and privilege have quite literally put down their weapons and marched with those yearning for change. I also find hope in our community and our collective commitment to Swarthmore’s mission and the contributions we make toward improving our society. Just one week ago, we celebrated the achievements of our graduating seniors, the work of our faculty and staff, and the lifelong love and support of family and friends that brought us to that moment. That ceremony likewise highlighted the values central to a Swarthmore education: intellectual curiosity, scientific reasoning, clarity of expression, empathetic collaboration, and bold creativity.
We stand today with those who are suffering from the threat and the consequences of racial violence, economic despair, disease, and death. Inspired by our values and ideals, we must dedicate ourselves to fighting for justice; to caring for those who are sick, hungry, or hurting in mind or spirit; and to repairing our broken world.
Following on from the lead of the fantastic universities and foundations that we collaborate with, it is important that Our Moon also continues to use education as the powerful tool that it is. Education helps create opportunities for all to learn, develop, and influence change, which is vital during times like these. As a global citizen, it is our responsibility to fight against these global issues, no matter how distant or unrelated to us they may seem. A global issue means everyone has their own important role to play, whether that is through education, being creative, using their voices on social media, or donating. In this hour, it is important to stand in solidarity with the Black community to help move forward and repair the deep cracks that have revealed equally deep injustices in our world.
Our Moon will continue to empower young Zambians through education as a key for change. We believe that this willenable the young generation to reach their potential and go on to become powerful leaders who can guide us towards a better future.