Dream for the Congo

Patrice Lumumba, photo courtesy of The Guardian

Patrice Lumumba, photo courtesy of The Guardian

July 2nd marks the 88th birthday of revolutionary hero Patrice Lumumba. Hailing from what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his name may be foreign to younger generations of U.S. change-makers. However, his passion for justice and call to action in 1960 rang throughout the Congo and resonated with Black communities worldwide. After a series of nationalist rebellions which led to Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960, Lumumba became the county’s first democratically elected leader and took up the task of organizing the country’s first government. An ardent supporter of Pan-Africanism, which called for solidarity among African-descendant people, Lumumba fought tirelessly to unite the Congolese people. Lumumba envisioned an independent and thriving Congo nation. Yet, he was feared and resented by Western governments for his Leftist views and his insistence that African people could flourish without foreign intervention. Labeled a Communist threat by the U.S. and its European allies, Lumumba was tortured and assassinated in 1961.

Despite his short time in office , Patrice Lumumba left an indelible mark on his country, his continent and social movements throughout the African diaspora. Lumumba’s commitment to unity amongst marginalized groups greatly influenced Black revolutionaries like Malcolm X. His legacy is memorialized in Lumumba, a French biopic released in 2000.

Today, organizations like Friends of the Congo and the Patrice Lumumba Coalition keep these hopes alive, working to educate and unite Africans and members of the diaspora. Friends of the Congo advocates for an end to predatory practices in resource extraction which have fueled violent conflict in the Great Lakes region, sharing Lumumba’s dream of a peaceful Democratic Republic of the Congo.

by Courtney Cook is an M.S. Candidate in Nonprofit Management at The New School of Public Engagement

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