This afternoon we had the monthly Afrobloggers meet up and the topic this month was “Rebranding Africa Through Storytelling.” The challenge lay in bloggers using their platforms to tell the African story enabling us to change narratives, create an impact and also create movements in portraying the beauty and potential that is Africa.
As I listened in and also tried to complete the August Rush challenge, the song by the late Philly Bongole Lutaaya, ‘Born in Africa’ came to mind. The song starts with a declaration that Bongole was born in Africa and is proud of his heritage.
Philly Bongole Lutaaya is Philly Bongoley Lutaaya (19 October 1951 – 15 December 1989) was a Ugandan musician but also the first to publicly declare his HIV/AIDS status. A virus that has continued to claim lives and still has no known cure to date. HIV testing of African immigrants in Belgium showed that HIV existed among Africans by 1983 and like we suffer the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV/AIDS had a wave of its own.
In Martin Meredith’s Book, The State of Africa, A history of the continent since independence, in Chapter 21, he writes, ‘The Scourge of Aids.’
The response of most African leaders to this calamity was to deny or dismiss this problem. African politicians preferred to represent Aids as either a western import or a western fabrication, concealing the true picture behind a smokescreen of accusations that it was no more than racist propaganda designed to dampen the sexual ardor and reproductive capacity of Africans (Martin Meredith, 2005, 2006, 2011)
Uganda and Senegal were the first countries in Africa to launch Anti Aids programs creating awareness, encouraging everyone to take extra pre-caution against the disease and reducing the stigma around those who were positive.
For Philly Bongole Lutaaya to come out was a bold step, a power move but one that impacted the world so much that till date we still say, “He was a great man.” He spent a lot of his time writing songs about his battle with AIDS but most importantly proving that even in tough times, even when you are alone and frightened, even when you’re story is painful, it could change someone’s life but most importantly the world. He used his voice which was music to spread a message of Hope. He understood his purpose when he sang, ‘I was born to sing… I was born to dance,’ and through his music, the message lives on.
What then is your voice? Have you identified your purpose? How can you use the resources available to you to spread a message of Hope, Joy, Love but most importantly Africa to the rest of the world. Whatever your niche, use it. You were born in Africa and Africa is our heritage!
To the Legend, Philly Bongole Lutaaya, Rest in Power! Your memories live on.