‘The Way We Left’ was the theme of a special Africa Day event held at Mary Immaculate College (MIC) to celebrate African culture and research of African students.
Organised to coincide with wider international celebrations, the event was unique locally as it focused on an academic exploration of Africa, its culture, and the experiences of those who have arrived in Ireland from Africa.
Africa Day is observed annually in late May to commemorate the formation of the African Union and the unity of the continent.
The event at MIC was organised Social Worker Linda Kirwasa and PhD candidates Lylian Fotabong and Florence Ajala in association with MIC’s International and Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Interculturalism Offices.
Among the invited speakers was John Lannon, chief executive of Doras, the non-profit organisation working to support and promote the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Ireland.
“I can’t speak about what it’s like to be a migrant in Ireland but I know we’ve still got a long way to go before we afford everyone the same dignity and respect,” he explained.
“We’re getting better, but there’s still a lot of work for us to do. We need to see government leading the way. Our Migrant Integration Strategy is two years out of date. We can’t provide interpreters for basic visits to hospital for people who don’t speak English.
“And we’re still waiting for a new National Action Plan Against Racism. But, on a positive note, people can now be proudly Irish and proudly African in Ireland – at the same time.
“In the 2016 Census, just short of 40,000 people identified as Black or Black Irish with an African background, and there are many more who also identified as Black. Identity is important for all of us. Even if we don’t all define our identity in the same way,” he added.