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McKinney addresses Parliamentarians for Global Action

March 24, 2000

Greetings. What a very special honor it is to be asked to participate in such a timely conference. I was only introduced to Parliamentarians for Global Action just a few short months ago and I can tell you that I am so impressed with what I've learned! I am proud to be a member and supporter of such a wonderful organization.

And just a word about President Chiluba and the people of Zambia. The Zambian people and President Chiluba have dedicated tremendous resources to finding peaceful solutions for the region's troubles. I would like to commend both President Chiluba and the Zambian people for the brave work that they have done in risking it all to find peace for both Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo. Not too long ago, before the Lusaka Peace Agreement was announced, I dubbed Lusaka Africa's City of Peace. Your presence here today once again confirms the spirit of sacrifice and commitment of the Zambian people--from the courageous fight a generation ago against racist governments in southern Africa to the fight today, in the aftermath of political freedom, to redefine black freedom and independence to include economic rights over Africa's land and resources.

Your conference is about the very meaning of the words freedom and independence. For if Africans are to remain subservient to outside interests who continue to extract African resources and leave only pain and suffering, guns, and enclaves of wealth behind, then . . . is that freedom? And is that what the African freedom fighters fought for?

As a young African American, I can remember watching as African and Asian freedom fighters risked their lives so that we all could be free. I remember the first time seeing African Heads of State on television and realizing that as an African American something all the way over there in Africa was affecting my standing in my own country here in the United States of America.

I also saw how the United Nations was transformed from the private social club that it had been to a body more representative of all the peoples of the world. In 1961, change was forced upon the United Nations and the colonial masters of the world. Sixteen African states joined the U.N.

As I look back over the days of the Civil Rights Movement, and the isolated pockets of black empowerment that it produced and today's retrenchment from all those gains, I wonder what did we African Americans achieve with our freedom. My generation benefited tremendously from the disobedience of my parents. Their refusal to accept what had been prescribed for them as their role in society created a Congressional Black Caucus of 38 members strong.

But just as all of Africa, from the West Coast to the East Coast down to her very heart, becomes engulfed in flames of war and misery I ask myself, what has our liberation on the Continent achieved?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of saying, "A man can't ride your back unless it's bent." I keep hoping that one day within my lifetime all peoples of color will stand up and throw off from their backs those who for centuries have been riding them.

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