The Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State is hosting a special virtual event – Let Freedom Ring – celebrating the fact that freedom is inherent in American values and that freedom is at the heart of our nation’s aspirations. A playlist of American and African artists and citizens will share what freedom means to them and share their own experiences on cultural exchanges.
As the Special Coordinator for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and as a woman of color, the horrors of George Floyd’s killing were especially heartbreaking, infuriating, and inescapable. I spend my days highlighting, supporting, and celebrating Black excellence. It felt as if YALI and its core values, which are based in servant leadership, a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve one’s community or organization, had been betrayed.
But since then, having seen people around the world rise up, I am hopeful that we will see progress in the march toward freedom. From the United States, to Asia, Africa, and Europe, people around the world are calling for social justice. Much progress remains, but there is heightened awareness about race issues – and we are seeing real action as a result.
I am also inspired by our YALI alumni. Since the pandemic began, YALI alumni have embarked on a range of efforts to provide access to services and information in their communities to help stop the spread. They are leading the charge by making information about COVID-19 safety guidelines accessible to people with disabilities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, providing information and resources to high-risk groups like drivers and refugees in Kenya and Uganda, creating online education platforms in Nigeria, and supporting small businesses and feeding the hungry in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela once said that, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” There is still a lot of work to be done both at home and abroad to achieve and maintain true freedom. But I am confident that Americans, YALI alumni, and Network members will continue to speak out for justice whether home or abroad. Together, we can change this world for the better.
Please join us on July 4, 2020 @ 2-6 GMT for the Independence Day Africa Broadcast and let freedom ring!
About the Author: Elizabeth “Liz” Liu is Foreign Service Officer serving as the Special Coordinator for the Young African Leaders Initiative in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Liz also serves as the Secretary for the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association, an employee affinity group for the U.S. Department of State.