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Lady Tee Thompson, David Adeoye Filmo, Odion Ikyo advocates women’s reproductive health rights in conflict

In recent times, Nigeria has experienced conflicts in its 6 geopolitical zones. At the center of conflict are women and children who are most vulnerable. From rape to abuse, women face a lot of reproductive healthcare challenges. In the context of humanitarian conflicts, are women’s rights to reproductive healthcare valid? And if yes, how does this promote gender equality and equity? What policies are in place to safeguard women’s reproductive health rights in conflict? Are there even policies in the first place and if there are how effective are they? How do these policies affect service delivery to women in conflict and host communities and IDP camps?

These are the issues raised and addressed at the stakeholder’s consultative meeting on Addressing Gaps in Policy and Access to Reproductive Healthcare for Women in Conflict Context (project AGRIC) which is powered by Theodora Anavhe Adamu Foundation (TAAF), held on the 29th of September 2023 at the Grand Pela Hotel Abuja.

In her opening remarks, Lady Tee Thompson, (UNA-USA Women Group Chairperson and International Gender Equality Advocate) said reproductive care is a fundamental human right and every woman deserves a healthy and fulfilling life.

“The pursuit of gender equality in healthcare, and particularly in reproductive care, is not just a matter of justice but of fundamental human rights. Every woman, irrespective of her background or circumstances, is entitled to comprehensive and respectful health care as her birthright. A gender lens in healthcare ensures that every individual, regardless of their gender, has an equal opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life.”

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) plays a pivotal role, especially in regions like Nigeria. It serves as a beacon, guiding nations to commit to removing barriers and ensuring that all women experience the care, respect, and opportunities they deserve.

“We all have a stake in this. Gender equality benefits societies at every level, fostering growth, stability, and prosperity.” Lady Tee said

While addressing the stakeholders, the  Executive Director of Theodora Anavhe Adamu Foundation and the convener of the Addressing Gaps in Policy and Access to Reproductive Health Care for women in conflict project, Mrs Odion Ikyo calls for cooperation of stakeholder and action plan to engage goverrment and international agencies.

” We can’t talk about closing reproductive healthcare gaps for women in humanitarian conflict without asking what policies are in place to safeguard women’s rights in conflict. We hope that by working together with stakeholders represented here, we will come up with an implementable action plan for further engagement with legislators, the government and UN agencies.” ikyo said

The three key points reached by stakeholders are

  1. There has to be more synergy and coordination by the government, international organizations, UN, and CSOs.
  2. More accountability in funding for reproductive health care programs for women in conflict context
  3. Review policies protecting and promoting women’s reproductive health rights in conflict

Stakeholders represented at this event were representatives of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Health, Humanitarian Affairs, Nigeria Youth Parliament, Foreign Affairs, Senator Adams Oshiomole, FIDA, ARFH, NGOs, CSOs

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UNGA78: Amb. Hugues Sanon urges African leaders to be united, presents Medal of Honor to Awardee

African Leadership Events leverages unique access to some of the world’s most influential leaders, policy-makers, and entrepreneurs, —uniting these global forces to harness their collective knowledge, address today’s critical issues, and discover innovative solutions.

During the International Forum on African-Caribbean Leadership (IFAL) 2023 –with the Theme: Africa-Caribbean cooperation and today’s global geopolitics which was held recently in NEW YORK, at the prestigious New York Hilton Midtown – 1335 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10019, United States.

The Global Peace Ambassador, Mr. Hugues Sanon presented the Medal of Honor to Dr. Ken Giami, President and Publisher of the African Leadership Magazine, to His Excellency Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana; His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe and to His Excellency Mr. Muhammad Jallow, Vice President of Gambia.

Mr. Sanon emphasizes the importance of diplomacy and politics in achieving peace and sustainability in Africa and the world.

“I urge all African leaders to continue and put heads together because together we are stronger and together we’ll continue to empower the World “, Said Mr. Sanon

In the same vein, Ambassador Hugues Sanon also participated at the GLOBAL POWER WOMEN CONFERENCE (GPWC) 2023 with the THEME “Advancing Resilience & Transformational Women Leadership for Sustainable High Performance & Global Impact, Hosted By the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development, held At the Hilton located at 1335 6th Avenue New York, NY 10019,

The event was attended by HE Vjosa Osmani, President of Kosovo; HE Mellisa Santokhi-Seenacherry, First Lady of Suriname; HE Angeline Ndayishimiye, First Lady of Burundi; Hon. Rosalyn Henderson Myers, Member South Carolina, House of representatives, among other prominent business and political leaders from across the globe.

Earlier, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Mr. Sanon also presented three special medals of honor to Judge Octave Saint Juste, Mr. Garry Dorlean and Mrs. Nadine Charles, three great individuals from Haiti who have impacted their community.

Hugues Sanon and his New York City team also took part at the AFPC UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SIDE-EVENT to discuss with the panelists and global leaders who attended the event on various challenges the world is facing and how to get results through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Ambassador Hugues Sanon also participated at the 78th UNGA High-Level Side Event on Social Business, Youth and Technology  co-hosted by the Government of Timor Leste , Cabo Verde, Nigeria and the Global Committee on Social Business for Sustainable Development Goals, co-curated by Yunus Centre, The Yunus+You Foundation and *Youthink” Center, attended by Government leaders, Nobel Laureates, UN SDG Advocates, Business Leaders, Innovators, Social Entrepreneurs, young leaders from all over the world to empower community-led actions and innovate together for achieving SDGs: 1) Build a global eco-system to support social business, youth and technology for SDGs 2) Promote cross-sector and generational partnerships for innovation and development 3) Build a global network to support youth on technical innovation and social business with Featured Speakers include: H.E. José Ramos-Horta, President of Timor Leste, 1996 Nobel Peace Laureate, H.E. Ulisses Correia e Silva,  Prime Minister, The Government of Cabo Verde Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laureate 2006, Chairman of Yunus Centre, Founder of Grameen Bank and UN SDG Advocate Emeritus, Hon. Dr. Bosun Tijani, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Nigeria.

During the conference, Ambassador Hugues Sanon had the privilege to discuss with many young leaders, experts, and advocates including Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and in 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Internet blocked, imposes curfew amid election voting delays in Gabon

Gabon’s government announced a nationwide curfew and cut off internet access Saturday evening as voting in major national elections was wrapping up.

The Central African nation’s communications minister, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, said on state television that there would be a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. He said internet access was being restricted indefinitely, saying there had been calls for violence and the spreading of disinformation.

The announcement came after voters cast ballots to elect new local leaders, national legislators, and Gabon’s next president.

Incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba was seeking a third seven-year term to continue a 55-year political dynasty. Bongo came to power in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for 41 years.

Bongo, 64, won his current term in office by a narrow margin in 2016 amid violent protests. This year, the opposition united in favor of his main challenger, economics professor Albert Ondo Ossa, one week before Saturday’s elections.

Around 847,000 people were eligible to cast ballots Saturday. Voters in Libreville, Gabon’s capital, complained of polling stations opening late. Voting was scheduled to begin in the morning, but many election sites had failed to open as of 2 p.m.

“I’ve finally voted. I’ve been here since 6 a.m. It was at 12 noon that I was able to vote because the polling station opened at 11 a.m.,” Ballack Obame, a former student leader, said.

“I’ve never seen an election in Gabon that doesn’t start before 10 o’clock. It’s really sad. I’m going home,” said Théophile Obiang, a pensioner leaning on his cane.

Authorities did not explain the reasons for the delays or indicate when results would be announced.

“Voters must benefit from the 10-hour period provided for by electoral law,” said Paulette Missambo, who withdrew from the presidential race in favor of Ossa, an independent candidate.

Ossa’s platform revolves around breaking Gabon out of the status quo. He said that if elected, he would dissolve the National Assembly, redraw the electoral map and organize a new legislative election, with a goal of forming a government committed to addressing economic inequality.

“Sixty years in power is too much. I’m not afraid of (President Bongo),” Ossa said after casting his ballot at a Libreville school on Saturday afternoon.

Every vote held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multi-party system in 1990 has ended in violence. Clashes between government forces and protesters following the 2016 elections killed four people, according to official figures. The opposition said the death toll was far higher.

In anticipation of post-electoral violence, many people in the capital went to visit family in other parts of the country or left Gabon altogether. Others stockpiled food or bolstered security in their homes.

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Children in DRC facing worst cholera outbreak in six years, warns UNICEF

A spike in conflict and displacement in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is pushing children into the worst cholera crisis since 2017, warns UNICEF.

Across the country, there have been at least 31,342 suspected or confirmed cholera cases and 230 deaths in the first seven months of 2023, many of them children. The worst affected province, North Kivu, has seen more than 21,400 confirmed or suspected cases, including more than 8,000 children under 5 years, according to the Ministry of Public Health. This compares to 5,120 total cases in all of 2022, with 1,200 for children under 5 years.

“The size of the cholera outbreak and the devastation it threatens should ring alarm bells,” said Shameza Abdulla, UNICEF DRC Senior Emergency Coordinator, based in Goma. “If urgent action is not taken within the next months, there is a significant risk that the disease will spread to parts of the country that have not been affected for many years. There is also the danger it will continue to spread in displacement sites where systems are already overwhelmed and the population – especially children – is highly vulnerable to illness and – potentially – death. Displaced families have already been through so much.”

If urgent action is not taken within the next months, there is a significant risk that the disease will spread to parts of the country that have not been affected for many years

In a similar situation in 2017, cholera expanded to the entire country, including the capital city, Kinshasa, leading to almost 55,000 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.

The DRC – which shoulders the worst displacement crisis in Africa and among the worst globally, with more than 6.3 million displaced people across the country – has seen more than 1.5 million people, including over 800,000 children, displaced in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri provinces since January 2023.

The displacement camps are generally overcrowded and overstretched, making them ripe for cholera transmission. For example, families living in displacement camps around the provincial capital Goma are facing a massive shortage of water and sanitation: Almost 300,000 people, including 183,000 children, lack access to sufficient water; fewer than a third of people have access to a latrine, meaning 159 people have to share a single latrine.

In-depth investigations by the Ministry of Public Health in May and June in households with cholera cases in North Kivu’s four biggest hotspots found that between 62 per cent to 99 per cent of cholera-affected households – depending on the hotspot and week of investigation – were families that had been displaced this year. The survey also showed that families living in cholera hotspots face multiple other health risks, including malnutrition and lack of access to prenatal care and vaccinations.

UNICEF is calling for US$ 62.5 million to scale up its prevention and response activities to cholera and WASH crisis over the next five months, which seeks to reach 1.8 million people, including 1 million children, with safe water, hygiene kits, latrines, medical supplies, and child-friendly cholera care. Currently, the appeal is just 9 per cent funded.

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Sudan: Aid agencies urge immediate action as residents appeal donations to survive

What started as a power struggle in Sudan to plunge the country into a war entered on Tuesday (Aug. 15) its fourth month. At least 4,000 people are estimated to have been killed, according to a Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office.

Each day the fighting continues sees destruction, human rights violations by both sides and and loss of lives.

Samy Talat, a volunteer in Omdurman shares  his despair as civilians die due a lack of access to timely medical treatment.

“We took the injured to the hospital, but it was closed and we had to look for a doctor through social media. We managed to reach a doctor but unfortunately the mother died and only the daughter is alive.”

Services in some 200 hospitals across the country have been suspended due to the armed conflict, the health ministry said on Monday (Aug. 13).

Since Sudan’s conflict erupted on April 15, the country has been plunged into a dire humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations also warning of arbitrary killings and rampant sexual abuse.

In western Sudan’s Darfur region,  the latest fighting has also morphed into ethnic violence, with the RSF and allied Arab militias targeting ‘African’ communities, U.N. officials say.

In a joint appeal, the heads of 20 global organisations pointed out that “more than six million Sudanese people are one step away from famine”.

“The situation is spiralling out of control,” said the statement, signed by the heads of numerous United Nations agencies, along with organisations including Save the Children and CARE.

4 million people have fled their war-raged country

The signatories pointed out that more than 14 million children need humanitarian aid and over four million people have fled the fighting, either within the war-ravaged country or as refugees to neighbouring states.

At the same time, they warned, “time is running out for farmers to plant the crops that will feed them and their neighbours”.

Fresh calls for peace and accountability were made Tuesday (Aug. 15), during a UN bi-weekly press briefing on Sudan.

“The High commissioner has repeated again and again that those in command should issue clear instructions to those under them that there’s zero tolerance for sexual violence and it’s so important to hold those accountable to make sure the perpetrators are held accountable and of course unequivocally condemn such violence,” Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office said.

The leaders of global humanitarian organisations gathered in Geneva also called on the international community to provide more funds.

The UN said it so far had received just a quarter of the $2.57 billion it has appealed for to support people inside Sudan and just 31 percent of the $566 million requested to help those who have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries.

The conflict-induced food scarcity has plunged 20.3 million people into severe acute hunger, who represent 42 percent of the country’s total population, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.

According to U.N. data, roughly half of the population — 24.7 million people, including 13 million children — need humanitarian aid.

Currently, U.N. and its partners have reached only about 3 million people with humanitarian aid.

A recent uptick in violence in South Darfur state has made aid deliveries to the remote area difficult, said David MacDonald, aid group Care International’s regional director for east and southern Africa.

Meanwhile, the country has seen increasing risks of large-scale outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and cholera.



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Tragedy! Over 60 migrants killed after boat sinks off Cape Verde

Sixty-three migrants are believed to have died after a boat from Senegal was found off West Africa’s Cape Verde islands, the International Organisation for Migration said on Wednesday.

About 38 people survived the tragedy, including four children aged between 12 and 16, IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli told reporters.

The pirogue, a long wooden fishing vessel, was seen on Monday in the Atlantic Ocean, about 277km from the Cape Verdean island of Sal, police said.

The Spanish fishing vessel that saw it alerted Cape Verdean authorities.

The Cape Verde archipelago is about 600km off the coast on the maritime migration route to the Spanish Canary Islands, which are a gateway to the EU.

“Generally, when people are reported missing following a shipwreck, they are presumed dead,” she said.

100,000 migrants cross the Channel in five years – in pictures

The boat left the Senegalese fishing village of Fasse Boye on July 10 with 101 people on board, Senegal’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, quoting survivors.

Apart from one person from Guinea-Bissau, they were all Senegalese.

The authorities have not, for the moment, said what happened to the boat after it set off.

“Those missing are all dead,” Abdou Karim Sarr, an officer with the local fisherman’s association the CLPA, told reporters.

Moda Samb, a local elected official from Fasse Boye, said nearly all those on the boat had grown up in the fishing community.

“One of the survivors who had his father on the telephone told him that the others were dead,” Mr Samb said.

Other families were still waiting to hear if their children were among the survivors, he said.

The authorities in Cape Verde said they had sent the necessary resources to care for the survivors, seven of whom had to be admitted to hospital after reaching Sal on Tuesday.

Senegal’s Foreign Ministry said it would be working to repatriate its citizens as soon as possible.

Senegal has dealt with several similar tragedies in recent years.

Cape Verde is on one of the migration routes used by thousands of Africans fleeing poverty and war towards Europe.

Many of them aim to reach the Spanish Canary Islands, one of the most dangerous routes, often travelling in the pirogue boats, which are vulnerable to the weather.

About 90 migrants from Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone had to be rescued in the seas off Cape Verde in January this year.

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UPDATE: Niger junta leader, Abdourahmane Tchiani agrees to dialogue with ECOWAS

Niger Republic coup leader, General Abdourahmane Tchiani has agreed to dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after his meeting with Nigerian Islamic Scholars led by the national leader of Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’ah Wa Iqamatus Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau in Niger Republic.

According to Niger Republic’s Prime Minister, Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, General Tchiani gave the green light for talks with ECOWAS and was optimistic the talks with ECOWAS would take place in the next few days.

‘’We have agreed and the leader of our country has given the green light for dialogue. They will now go back and inform the Nigerian President what they have heard from us…. we hope in the coming days, they (ECOWAS) will come here to meet us to discuss how the sanctions imposed against us will be lifted,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, a report published in Voice of Nigeria (VON) stated how Nigeria’s Intervention Team, which included notable Islamic scholars from the country, met with the coup leaders in Niger over the weekend, and all parties decided to strengthen the option of dialogue in resolving the country’s political problem.

The Islamic Ulammas led by Sheik Bala Lau was said to have met with General Abdourahmane Tchiani for several hours in Niger’s capital Niamey during which they deliberated on all the issues including the demand by ECOWAS leaders that former President Bazoum be reinstated.

Bala Lau, who is the National Chairman of Jamatul Izalatu Bida Waikamatu Sunnah, said the clerics were in Niger on behalf of President Bola Tinubu who accepted their request to intervene.

Sheik Lau said the team had earlier told President Tinubu who is also the Chairman of Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government that their position is that the political impasse in Niger is resolved through dialogue.

He, therefore, told General Tchiani that the visit to Niger was to engage in constructive dialogue to encourage him and other military leaders behind the coup to toe the path of peace instead of war to resolve the crisis. Responding, General Tchiani who accorded the team warm reception welcomed their intervention. He said their doors were open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter.

General Tchiani, however, said it was painful to the coup leaders that the ECOWAS leaders did not hear their side of the matter before issuing an ultimatum to them to quit office.

He claimed the coup was well intended, stating that they struck to starve off an imminent threat that would have affected not only the Niger Republic but also Nigeria.

He also apologized for not according to the team sent by President Tinubu led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) the required attention because they were angry about the ECOWAS ultimatum.

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Niger’s military rulers seek help from Russian mercenary group Wagner

Niger’s coup generals have asked for help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner as the deadline nears for it to release the country’s removed president or face possible military intervention by the West African regional bloc, a news report says.

The request came during a visit by a coup leader – General Salifou Mody – to neighbouring Mali, where he made contact with someone from Wagner, Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, told The Associated Press.

Three Malian sources and a French diplomat confirmed the meeting first reported by France 24, Nasr added.

“They need [Wagner] because they will become their guarantee to hold onto power,” he said, adding the private military company is considering the request.

Niger’s military government faces a Sunday deadline set by the regional bloc known as ECOWAS to release and reinstate the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who has described himself as a hostage.

Defence chiefs from ECOWAS members finalised an intervention plan on Friday and urged militaries to prepare resources after a mediation team sent to Niger on Thursday was not allowed to enter or meet with military government leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani.

After his visit to Mali, run by a sympathetic military government, Mody warned against military intervention, promising Niger would do what it takes not to become “a new Libya”, Niger’s state television reported.

Niger has been seen as the West’s last reliable counterterrorism partner in a region where coups have been common in recent years. Military leaders have rejected former coloniser France and turned towards Russia.

Wagner operates in a handful of African countries, including Mali, where human rights groups have accused its forces of deadly abuses.

‘It’s all a sham’

Some residents rejected the military’s takeover.

“It’s all a sham,” said Amad Hassane Boubacar, who teaches at the University of Niamey.

“They oppose foreign interference to restore constitutional order and legality. But on the contrary, they are ready to make a pact with Wagner and Russia to undermine the constitutional order … They are prepared for the country to go up in flames so that they can illegally maintain their position.”

Niger’s military leaders have been following the playbook of Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso, also run by military governments, but they are moving faster to consolidate power, Nasr said.

“[Tchiani] chose his path so he’s going full-on it without wasting time because there’s international mobilisation.”

One question is how the international community will react if Wagner comes in, he said. When Wagner came into Mali at the end of 2021, the French military was removed soon afterwards after years of partnership. Wagner was later designated a “terrorist” organisation by the United States, and international partners might have a stronger reaction now, Nasr said.

And much more is at stake in Niger, where the US and other partners have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance to combat the region’s growing security threat.

No details on possible intervention

It’s unclear what a regional intervention would look like, when it would begin, or whether it would receive support from Western forces. Niger’s military government has called on the population to watch for spies, and self-organised defence groups have mobilised at night to monitor cars and patrol the capital.

“If the junta were to dig in its heels and rally the populace around the flag – possibly even arming civilian militias – the intervention could morph into a multifaceted counterinsurgency that ECOWAS would not be prepared to handle,” said a report by the Hudson Institute.

While some in Niger are bracing for a fight, others are trying to cope with travel and economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS after the coup that have closed land and air borders with ECOWAS countries and suspended commercial and financial transactions with them.

Residents said the price of goods is rising and there’s limited access to cash.

“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of these sanctions, especially their impacts on the supply of essential food products, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, petroleum products and electricity,” said Sita Adamou, president of Niger’s Association to Defend Human Rights.




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Drums Along the Hudson: The amazing multicultural celebration with global attractions

Drums Along the Hudson is a multicultural gathering that celebrates and showcases the diversity of cultures, traditions, and people from different backgrounds. These events are typically aimed at fostering inclusivity, promoting cross-cultural understanding, and appreciating the richness of various cultural heritages.

It was started over two decades ago, the event first took place annually in the spring, thereafter added something new and different attractions each year to make the event more exciting and enjoyable which includes a shad tasting, a white Pine tree planting (the Iroquois symbol of peace), international foods, drummers and dancers and a Native American Arts in Education Initiative. The event has attracted attendees from 400 in the first year to over 8,000 in recent years.

In an exclusive interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE, of African Development Magazine. Carl Nelson, co-producer of “Drums Along the Hudson” shares the journey of the maiden edition as a traditional Pow Wow to celebrate Native American heritage and culture started, his landmark achievement after the 21st anniversary celebration, experiences, and challenges.

Below are Excerpts:

Q: You are the Co-Creator & Co-Producer of Drums Along The Hudson, tell us more about this great concept.

A: That is correct. On September 19, 1992, a special ceremony was held in Inwood Hill Park rededicating the area known as Shorakapkok. At the time the ceremony was held, Mayor David Dinkins officially restored the original Lenape name of Shorakapkok to Inwood Hill Park. Shorakapkok was home to the annual Native American Festival, which was co-sponsored by the Urban Park Rangers and the Native American Heritage Committee. When my Co-Creator and I came aboard In September of 2002 with a generous grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs a new festival format was created in Inwood Hill  Park. It was just the two of us, Kamala Cesar the Artistic Director of Lotus Music and Dance, and I as a Producer.

Carl Nelson

We created a new event and named it “Drums Along the Hudson.” A Native American and Multicultural Celebration. With Drummers and Dancers from around the world, storytelling, music, Native American Pow Wow, International foods, and Native Arts & Crafts. When I think of Drums Along the Hudson, I think of all the different types of performers and participants that have come to this event over the years. I look at what we have in common, and no matter where we came from, we want many of the same things at our core; we want our children to be educated first of all. We want our children to have good lives, we want to get along with our neighbors, we want to be respected and appreciated by other people, we want our children to know our history, know their history, and we should want our children to know other people’s history and to respect it, regardless of what part of the world you’re from. We always encourage people to wear traditional apparel so they can be identified and embraced for who they are. This way, they are able to have conversations educating each other about where they come from, and why they’re wearing them. It’s very rewarding to me when I see this cultural exchange happening.

The next day after each event, I would say, “Well, you know what? We did something good today.” I want people to be able to look at their neighbors, the people that they see on the train in the park, and realize, “You know, this is my neighbor. This is somebody who is just like me, so I don’t have to be hateful and resentful of others, and just like I want to be appreciated, I can also appreciate other people. Thank you for being different and at the same time similar.”

Q: Tell us the challenges you faced while planning Drums Along The Hudson and how did you overcome them?

Honoree Loida Nicolas Lewis at the Native Blanket Ceremony at Drums Along the Hudson

A: Many of the challenges we’ve faced have to do with integrity, exposure, and quality. We have vendors at our event, and we wanted to feature organic items, not manufactured things, like weaving, blankets, and items like Native American artifacts. We feel like we want to be the best humanitarians, so we wanted to invite environmentalists, to be more conscious of global warming and things affecting the planet. So it was difficult to find vendors who would adhere to the vision that we wanted and showcase products that fit within it. Even with our food vendors, we wanted it to be multicultural. We wanted to have Native American, Indian, African, and Caribbean foods with vegetarian and vegan options so that people can have a variety of food to eat at an event that’s very inclusive. There are many families that attend, so we wanted the food to be educational, entertaining, and authentically delicious. It was also very difficult finding certain types of performers. But New York is a melting pot of different types of people, so we just had to do the work of traveling around to all the different areas, asking for recommendations, etc. The team really does extend beyond just a group. Initially, it was Kamala and I doing all of this initial legwork, but now the team has really been extended. Fortunately, I have friends who believe the same things I do, which made it easier for me to find national and international people who I felt were deserving of honoring; environmentalists and humanitarians, icons in the arts, the community, and even the business world at every event. It has actually become easier as we now understand the challenges over the past 20 years and we have worked through them.

Q: You started the maiden edition as a traditional Pow Wow to celebrate Native American heritage and culture, and also to commemorate the Lenape people who first inhabited Inwood Hill Park, or Shorakapok (“edge of the water”) Tell us more about the Lenape people, their culture, and tradition?

A: For us New Yorkers, Inwood Hill Park is where the Lenape people first dwelled. They survived, mourned their dead, and loved. Just like you and me. There is always something to be learned from those who came before us, and you can always tell when the wisdom of the elders has been hidden, neglected, or ignored.

The Lenape name is derived from the terms “original people” or “true men.” were Native Americans who lived and traded in upper Manhattan long before the arrival and colonization of the European settlers. The Lenape were expert botanists possessing knowledge of plants that were used for food and medicines. The Native Americans respected nature and were early conservationists and environmentalists for their own needs and beliefs. Most traveling in Manhattan was done on well-used Indian trails. The longest of these eventually became Saint Nicholas Avenue and Broadway. These trails are connected with smaller footpaths that are now located in or near Inwood Hill Park and Isham Park.

Kalpulli Huehuetlahtolli Aztec drummers and dancers perform for the crowd at Drums Along The Hudson
Kalpulli Huehuetlahtolli Aztec drummers and dancers perform for the crowd at Drums Along The Hudson

The population of the local Lenape tribal groups was 20,000 in 1600 and had diminished to 4,000 a century. Presently there are at least 28,000 Native Americans living in New York City. Some are Lenape who wish to keep the stories of their ancestral homeland alive.

In the early part of the 20th Century, archaeological digs near Inwood Hill Park produced two double burial sites of the original inhabitants of the area. These skeletal remains were located near 203rd Street and Seaman Avenue. There was a village site in the same area, there was Indian habitation in Inwood Hill Park as late as the 1920s and 1930s. One of my favorite areas is the one surrounding the Little Red Lighthouse, which was used as a settlement for trading, hunting, and fishing by the local Algonquin, Mohegan, and Lenape tribal groups. The Lenape Nation has a website,

Q: It was reported that the event has attracted attendees from 400 in the first year to over 8,000 in recent years. What was the inspiration and motivation that drives your spiritualism on the increase of attendees?

A: There is magic that happens at “Drums Along the Hudson,” which is sometimes too emotionally overwhelming for me to truly take in. I think one of the reasons why I keep doing this event is because of the responses that we get from people and their families. They share how entertaining it is, how they’re experiencing things they’ve never encountered anywhere else. For example, my assistant this year is a student at NYU University but is from Nigeria. And after his first year at Drums, and seeing all the performances, he was fascinated because, first of all, he’d never seen Taiko drumming, and it was also impactful because it was the first time many others saw women playing them. Usually, Taiko drumming is mostly done by men. New York is the perfect place to do this, but any city could benefit from this event.

Q: Tell us about other side attractions that are included in the Drums Along the Hudson 2023 event?

A: The event is held in Inwood Park, which is very big. When you walk into the entrance, there’s a Welcome tent with information on everything that is going on in the park for the day, further on there is the main stage where performances for the day take place. It’s also where we show our appreciation to our honorees for the year. As you go further down into the park, we have all types of vendors there, but predominantly Native American. As you keep going, you will notice a tent where people can safely drop their kids off, called a “storytelling tent.

Carl Nelson with co-creator of African Odyssey Carol Bouwer, from South Africa. Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka Under Secretary General, UN Women executive director at a breakfast for African Odyssey in New York

” We also have an environmental tent and an information tent from Lotus Music and Dance where you can find out about the various programs that they offer, which include books and the history of the people who’ve been instrumental to this event over the past two decades. Mrs. Loida Nicolas Lewis is an honoree for this year, and she has a new book, “Why Should Men Have All The Fun,”

that came out in March 2023, so we arranged a sold-out book signing for her. But the nucleus of the event is the main stage with performances and acknowledgments that last about half of the day. We then follow the crowd to a Pow Wow which is a gathering of Native American people with singing and dancing.

We also plant a white pine tree each year so we have a tree-planting ceremony, which is presided over by a Native American elder. As of this year, over 20 trees were planted, and some of the original ones have grown very tall and big. It gives me such a good feeling every time I go to the park and I see those trees that we’d planted. So it’s very rewarding in that way.

There is a second separate section in the back of the park and one of the highlights is the drumming Circle, which is for anybody who wants to play a drum. This drumming circle is led by Patrice C. Queen a.k.a Patrice Ejuwa, who is very passionate about it. You do not have to be a trained drummer to join. There are about 100 drummers who come every time, to just drum. It’s called the Healing Drumming Circle. It’s wonderful. Patrice was so inspired she created a book, which has pictures and information about the event. The drum circle itself, which is only one of the components, represents a form of healing and Meditation. There’s a built-in spiritual component. The drum has a very spiritual utility. It’s symbolic of the heartbeats that we all have, and I have also been inspired to do a book on my experiences which I’m currently working on.

Q: Who are the honorees for this year’s edition of Drums Along the Hudson?

A: This year, we recognized another group of amazing people who were honored for their contribution to the Arts & Humanities. We selected George Faison, an American dancer, choreographer, teacher, theater producer, and winner of the 1975 Tony and Drama Desk Awards, and an Emmy nomination for his choreography on “The Wiz,” and Loida Nicolas Lewis, A lawyer by Profession she was the first Filipino and Asian American woman to pass the New York bar without having studied law in the United states. She is the widow of the first black American billionaire, TLC Beatrice founder, and CEO, Reginald F.Lewis, She is also the author of, “Why Should Guys Have All The Fun?” an Asian American Story of Love Marriage, Motherhood, and Running a Billion Dollar Empire. In the past, we’ve honored people like Laura Turner Seydel, who is the daughter of Ted Turner, an environmentalist, and Chair of The Captain Planet Foundation, and Congressman John Lewis, who has changed the world in the way he thinks. We didn’t honor him because he was a politician. We honored him for the work that he did during the Civil Rights movement, his bringing people together and helping people to advance. Tichina Arnold, Actress, Singer, and philanthropist with the “We Win Foundation,” and Xernona Clayton, President and CEO of the Trumpet Awards.

Q: Do u have an ancestral link or lineage to Africa, If Yes, share it with us.

Fusha, Congolese Drummers & Dancers perform at Drums Along The Hudson

A: Do I ever have an ancestral link to Africa? According to a DNA assessment, I share 26% with people from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, 24% from Benin and Togo, 10% from Bengal, 9% from Senegal, 9% from Nigeria, 6% from Mali, 6% English and Northwestern Europe, 4% from Cameroon, Congo, and the West Bantu people, 2% from Sweden and Denmark, 1% southern Bantu, 1% southern Indian, 1% Welch, and 1% Scottish. Finally, it states that I’m connected to the Afro-CAribbean Peoples of the Lesser Antilles and Guyana’s Southern Coast community, which is where I was born. My genetic makeup perfectly explains why I work in South Africa and other parts of Africa, in North America, and I do work in South America. I am reluctant to use the term, but have often been called, “Renaissance,” because I’m interested in different things culture-wise. I believe that I can fit into any part of the world in many capacities. So I’ve worked in many different parts of the world.

Q: Researchers put forward a new narrative explaining the variations in African ancestry in the Americas and how these variations were shaped by the transatlantic slave trade, how have you and many others changed the narrative for development?

A: By profession, I’m a producer. I produce events, I produce plays, and I produce movies. But I wanted to be able to use my creative talent to educate and promote something that was not in my sphere. It’s something that I think could influence a lot of seemingly ordinary people who didn’t have to go outside of their neighborhoods or to a special place. We brought the conversation to them.

I wanted to use my knowledge and my skill to be able to do that. Make it entertaining, make it educational, and make it many things. So I think this is my little way of giving back and trying to pass on the knowledge of different cultures celebrating together. Someone reminded me that those trees we planted will outlive most of us, and I don’t think it’s about getting personal credit for planting a tree, I just think it’s my contribution to give back to society and to give back to planet Earth.

Q: African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?

The White Pine Tree planting ceremony with NYC Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, NYC Parks Commissioner Anthony Perez, Ivonne Valesquez, Honorees George Faison & Loida Nicolas Lewis, Carl Nelson & Native Elder Tom Porter

A: In my experience, I’ve found African culture to be about community. And I wanted to say that by respecting the community, we give a healthy appreciation for our community by simply coming to Drums, by getting involved in all the things that we’re doing. And especially for me, planting a tree is giving back to Mother Earth or Planet Earth. By sharing some of the cultural experiences at this annual event; the displays of the drummers, dancers, and history from different parts of the world, people are educated about other cultures and reconnected with a culture that they might have only heard of or left a long time ago. Also, the children, most of them first and second-generation Americans, get to see their parents and grandparents’ culture exhibited on stage. So along with the physical trees we plant, we’re also sowing cultural seeds.

As children of the diaspora, we were all affected by the African Slave Trade. The largest difference really is who was dropped off where and when, some were just dropped off earlier than others. But a lot of our customs come from Africa. Guyana, where I was born, is made up of five different cultures, with the most predominant cultures being Africa and India. So we are mixed, and then we have indigenous people, and we have Portuguese and a variety of combinations. Our culture is blended, but our African culture is strong because we’re storytellers.

Drums Along the Hudson is a multicultural Event. Any culture that has a drum in it we will collaborate with them. So, we have drummers and dancers from different parts of the world who perform, and we do our best to make sure that different countries and cultures are represented. This year we featured Japanese Taiko drummers, African drummers from the Congo, Indian Drummers & Dancers from India, Sri Lankan Drummers & Dancers, and Kalpulli Huehuetlatolli Aztec Drummers & Dancers. The commonality is the drum and even though the drumming traditions are different, we use all of those different traditions to teach people about other cultures.

Q: African Development Magazine would like to promote and report activities on your events in one of our special editions. Would you consider this for Africans to read about it? Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

Co-Creators Carl Nelson & Kamala Cesar address the audience at Drums Along The Hudson

A: After maybe eight to ten years of doing “Drums Along The Hudson,” I thought perhaps I shouldn’t do it anymore. It was heavily on my mind that maybe I should move on to something else, that there are other things to do. But, then I was invited by Oprah Winfrey to go to South Africa to open her School for Girls as a guest. And I remember having a conversation with her that has stuck with me until now. While thanking Ms. Winfrey she said, “Carl, I invite people like you and everyone here so that they can see what I’m doing, and then they can go back into their own communities and do the same thing. And so I often think about these things, and I don’t know if this is affecting everyone. I don’t even know the approximate number of people we’re influencing by doing this, although it’s estimated that we now have over 10,000 people that come to this event. Yet, I always remember what Oprah said; we do these things because we could affect people to change, and to be positive. So, I thought to myself, I can’t stop doing this because people are enjoying it. It has a tremendous impact and maybe we encourage each attendee to go out into their own lives and do something inspired by the work that “Drums Along the Hudson” is doing now.

Q: What advice would you give the younger ones?

A: I would say to the younger ones, and anyone really, that simply because something doesn’t work the first time doesn’t mean you just discard it. What I found is that if you know it’s a good concept, but it didn’t come out right the first time, try it again again and again. Because if it is truly a good concept, you will get better, you can find satisfaction in it after you’ve tried it a few times, and through trial and error, we learn, and that’s how you end up with the magnificent. We have to go through the mundane in order to get better. You do it with education. You do it with time. You do it with everything you truly care about. This is how “Drums Along the Hudson” came to be where we are today. We tried it one year, then the next year, then again the following year, and people are still coming after 20 years because every year the attendees see something different every time. I think we’re better than we’ve ever been because we’ve used the previous year’s momentum to correct many of the mistakes we thought we made. And next year we’ll be even better because we get another chance to do it.

To the older ones, I would say encourage young people, support them, and be with them, because there was a time when it was your generation attempting to create change in the best way you could, so this generation desperately needs encouragement from you.

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2nd Edition: Lady Tee Thompson shines at Permanent Forum for People of African Descent

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized the second session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent recently at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The forum is a significant development within the United Nations (UN) framework, reflecting the growing recognition of the rights and experiences of people of African descent worldwide. The establishment of this forum is historical for several reasons that begin in December 2022 with the 1st Forum in Geneva and recently convened for a 2nd Forum in New York.

Opening remarks of the Chairwoman of the Permanent Forum a global consultant is aimed at global reparatory justice, Pan Africanist, transnational migration, data collection on addressing racism, health, well-being, and inter-generational equality, and trauma

The overarching theme of the second session is “Realizing the Dream: A United Nations Declaration on the Promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of People of African Descent”.

Crosspsection of attendees

The Second Session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) will be part of a global consultative process with a focus on five thematic panels on global reparatory justice, Pan-Africanism, transnational migration, data-collection for recognizing and addressing systemic and structural racism, and health, well-being, and intergenerational trauma.

Lady Tee Thompson is one of the attendees at the event who spoke about the pressing issues and some challenges facing African descents

In her remark address, Nelson Mandela said, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the people have been emancipated from ALL forms of oppression.”

“These words resonate within the context of our discussions. We must recognize that accessibility to this very forum where crucial discussions are made, remains limited to people with disabilities or of African descent. We must go beyond mere provisions of broken wheelchairs in Geneva and “no exceptions” policies for UN pass retrieval times in New York” she said

“Let us embrace inclusivity, ensuring that everyone, regardless of ability, can fully participate in the deliberate dialogues that shape their lives,” She said

“Equally, we cannot overlook the barriers faced by African citizens who seek to attend this forum. Long wait times for issuing visas and indigo approvals create significant obstacles for those who wish to share their perspectives and contribute to the discourse.  We must strive for efficient and fair procedures that enable diverse voices to be heard, transcending borders and fostering true global cooperation”

Lady Tee Thompson advocates for African Development by putting an end to human, labour, and sex trafficking and drums support for communities ravaged by conflicts or natural disasters, eulogizing the efforts of Threshold of Hope in Nigeria, which has been working towards ensuring a life free from inequality and discrimination for every woman.

Thompson and Disability Activist, .Stevie Wonder’s Daughter at the Permanent Forum during Closing Ceremonies

“Another pressing concern that demands our attention is education & prevention of human trafficking particularly in communities ravaged by conflict, crises, or climatic disasters, vulnerable populations are subjected to labour and sex trafficking. It is our collective responsibility to provide comprehensive education and support systems, empowering migratory, refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people to recognize and combat these heinous crimes.  For example, Threshold of Hope in Nigeria does just that. To the voiceless communities they serve.  Only then can we ensure that human rights and dignity of every individual are protected and upheld.”

“Together, let us strive for accessibility, inclusivity, and justice. Let us uphold the principles of human rights and create a future where no person is left behind” she concluded

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