A Tribute To Our Black Star
After today, I might re-think sleeping with my phone next to my pillow. This morning, a CNN notification woke me up at 6am (EST) reading: “Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan had died at the age of 80.” I immediately checked Twitter, which seemed to all but confirm the news. My body froze. And in those moments, the only way I could physically react to the news was to fall back to sleep. But as I tried to escape what would be a huge addition to an already sorrowful week by the loss of Aretha Franklin, so many questions ran through my mind at hyper speed about what tragedy had just occurred. Kofi Annan was my biggest idol. Not only for me, but for many Africans, who by the historical forces of imperialism and colonialism had never seen someone who looked like them occupy one of the most powerful positions on the national stage: the UN Secretary General.
As a politics and history buff through high school, it was easy to lose interest in the affairs of old white men in continents far removed from my own. Though I had envisioned myself having a career in politics and international relations one day, I could only see my career only going so far as the confines of the continent. Though that may not be a bad thing, Kofi Annan’s appointment as the UN Secretary General of UN from 1997-2006, the first black African to do, sent a message to a young Ghanaian like myself, that the sky is the limit. I’m not sure what the material of the ceiling is for African advancement, but Kofi Annan sure did shatter it.
I modeled my life after him. I told myself, if Kofi Annan can be UN Secretary General one day, I sure can. If he can win the Nobel Peace Prize, what excuse do I have? In my senior year of high school, when I was selected to be the Secretary General of my school’s 10th anniversary Model UN conference, I thought the pieces were falling into place. In my first job interview, when asked who my idol was, there was no other name that felt right: Kofi Annan. I got the job.
I admired Kofi Annan from afar for so long in the hopes that the universe would conspire to bring us to the same room one day just so that I could STAN. By stan, I mean find the most dignified way to say thank you to Mr. Kofi Annan. I would thank him for the impact he had on me and many young Ghanaians who felt that their identity was a barrier to their destiny. With this news, I will have to find comfort in saving the thank you for the next life.
If as Maya Angelou puts: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Seeing the outpouring of love and appreciation towards Kofi Annan lets me know that his legacy will live on and ignite a politically conscious generation of Africans who know that, they too, can reach the apex in whatever field that find themselves in. This isn’t a well-thought out obituary of Kofi Annan, nor is this an evaluation of his decision-making as an international diplomat. These are just the words of a young Ghanaian who was immensely inspired by the life of fellow statesman and felt the only way to grieve was to write.
Rest in Power Kofi Annan. Your legacy shall live on.
Kwabena Agyare is a Political Science major at Northeastern University. To get in touch, follow him on Twitter