Fighting borrowed prejudices about Africa

The African community in the Czech Republic today amounts to about 3,000 people. It has been shrinking since the fall of the communist regime when many scholarships were offered to students from African countries. Even today the community consists mainly of former students who have settled down here. Now the Czech Republic's joining the EU has brought new changes and not just for the better, according to Kofi A Nkrumah from the organisation Humanitas Afrika in Prague. He spoke to Jarka Halkova, at an forum in Prague in celebration of the Czech Republic's first ever "Black History Month".

"Czech prejudices or biases Czechs have towards Africans people are borrowed. The Czech Republic is in the EU and it is an open market now and trying to please the Big Brothers in the West Europe. I am not saying that Czech people have not their own perception of Africans. They do have it but it was not as strong as in the West. They are borrowing a lot from the West, the way they see Africa. Especially Czech media. They don't show, they don't see, they don't talk about anything positive in Africa. They don't show any good films about Africa. They not even bother to discuss Africa unless it is calamity, disaster, hunger or AIDS."

Kofi A. Nkrumah is president of the organization Humanitas Afrika, which was set up two years ago to help to raise awareness. In Mr. Nkrumah's opinion Czech society since the fall of communism has accepted uncritically the traditional relationship of the West to Africa.

"Africa and the West had an unwritten partnership. Africa has a lot of natural resources and the West has a program for industrialization. It is clear that the West benefited a lot from the partnership, while Africa, the second largest continent and the richest continent in the world, has nothing. To justify why Africa did not profit from the partnership some self-centered politicians, who have their own special interests, have created a lot of theories and stories in the form of propaganda, hiding the real truth."

The group of Czech Africans who set up Humanitas Afrika have decided to fight for a different image of Africa in the Czech Republic, and have organized a forum in celebration of Black History Month to fight borrowed prejudices.

"This is an attempt to prove that black people have history and that history matters. If you know positive history of a friend, people, a group, culture, a continent you tend to appreciate them more and if you appreciate somebody you respect the person."

The tradition of the Black History Month started in America in 1926 where it is held in February. UK Africans have celebrated it since 1987 in October when children are just back to school and minds are fresh and able to absorb. Here in the Czech Republic it's November.