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by wayne campbell
Habari gani is the Kiswahili for how are you? The United Nations Educational and Scientific Education Organization (UNESCO) celebrates the first-ever World Kiswahili Language Day on July 7, 2022.
UNESCO states that indigenous peoples number some 370 million and that their languages represent the majority of the approximately 7,000 living languages on the planet.
Many of us who have been socialized according to Eurocentric principles have forgotten or try to disassociate ourselves from our genetic roots. We’ve been told over and over again that anything too black isn’t good.
Unfortunately, we continued the negative narrative of words associated with the prefix black to describe our siblings.
This is problematic and needs to be questioned especially in a historical context of black enslavement
who were forcibly expelled from Africa and transplanted
in the Americas.
Words such as black market, blacklist, black eye, blackout, black box, black mood, black magic, black death, black sheep, black face, black hand, black head, black hole, black shirt, blackmail, black leg, blackball, black mark.
The list is lengthened increasingly. The way we speak is often scrutinized and stigmatized not just from the outside, but by those of our own skin color and beliefs. This should be of concern to any black person, especially when the “white” symbol has historically been free from negative representations.
The international community joins the people of Africa in commemorating the first World Kiswahili Language Day. Kiswahili is a language that speaks both past and present.
With over 200 million speakers, it is one of the most widely used African languages, encompassing more than a dozen major dialects.
Over the centuries, this Bantu language has become a common form of communication in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to the Middle East.
In the 1950s, the United Nations established the United Nations Radio Kiswahili Language Unit, and today Kiswahili is the only African language within the United Nations Global Communications Directorate.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, by its resolution 71/328 of September 11, 2017 on multilingualism, welcomed the establishment of a day devoted to each of its official languages in order to inform and raise awareness on their history, culture and usage, and encouraged the Secretary-General and institutions such as UNESCO to consider extending this important initiative to other non-official languages spoken around the world.
The Kiswahili language plays a role in promoting cultural diversity, raising awareness and promoting dialogue among civilizations and noted the need to promote multilingualism as a core value of the United Nations and an essential factor in harmonious communication between peoples, which promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
The resolution proclaimed July 7 of each year as
World Kiswahili Language Day. Kiswahili is the first African language to be recognized in this way by the UN.
This first celebration of World Kiswahili Language Day will be held under the theme: “Kiswahili for Peace
and prosperity”. The mission of the annual celebration is to promote the use of the Kiswahili language as a beacon of unity, peace and increased multiculturalism.
Language is dynamic
The classroom should never be seen as an outlet for shame and discrimination; instead, the classroom should be seen as an oasis of opinions where one feels safe to express one’s opinions with respect.
This linguistic power play in society is obviously a violation of human rights since native language speakers are sometimes denied certain services for fear of being ridiculed or ridiculed.
Language reinforces a hierarchical system of discrimination and if we ignore our mother tongue, we are also guilty by association of perpetuating a system of prejudice and inequality. Language is dynamic.
On this special day, let us embrace this historic moment, especially those of us who have not had the opportunity to speak our true mother tongue, Kiswahili. Happy World Kiswahili Language Day.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, if you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to him in his language, it touches his heart.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator interested in development policies as they affect culture and/or gender issues. [email protected] @WayneCamo © #WorldKiswahiliLanguageDay #KiswahiliforPeaceandProsperity #Africa #BantuLanguage