By Helen Bezuneh,
Special to the AFRO

The African Diaspora Development Institute (ADDI) held the extravagant, well-attended ADDI Afro United Festival Award Ceremony on Sept. 29 at Howard University’s Armour J. Blackburn University Center.

Haki Ammi, author, entrepreneur and community organizer from Baltimore was one of several Arikana Excellence Award recipients to be recognized. He spoke with the AFRO about how it feels to receive such an honor.

“It’s a great opportunity to be recognized for me, being from Baltimore and doing local, regional state work and now international work,” he said. “Being recognized by the first Black female African Union ambassador is a true honor. Sometimes you don’t know what spaces that you actually influence and who hears your name, or who sees your work.” 

Ammi called it a “pivotal time” for his growth and acceleration in terms of what he’s done internationally. “I’m very excited about being here and the opportunity to meet many of the other awardees who are truly distinguished in many different regards,” he said. 

At the event, ADDI recognized individuals who have made significant contributions to the development of Africa and the African diaspora. 

“We as Black people around the world … are growing what I’m calling a revelation period, like in the Bible,” said Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, founder and president of the ADDI and former representative of the African Union to the United States, in an interview with the AFRO. “It is being revealed to us who we are, what the real truth is [and] the lies that we’ve been told. Welcome to the new Africa, welcome to the African revelation, welcome to the African revolution.”

Guests arrived at the ball dressed in their best African formal attire, filling the room with brightly colored fabric, eye-catching head scarves and varied textiles native to the African continent. Attendees entered the ceremony on a red carpet, taking photos with one another to capture the pivotal event.

The ADDI presented Arikana Excellence Awards, one Lifetime Achievement Award and a Presidential Award. The event also featured numerous performances and a fundraising gala silent auction.

Dr. Chihombori-Quao delivered opening remarks and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

She spoke with the AFRO about the significance of the ceremony.

“The importance of this event is to promote unity and also to encourage the African diaspora to participate in the development of Africa,” she told the AFRO. “What they’re calling ‘coups’ in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea– those are not coups. That’s an ideological realignment of our own economic, political and social values. That is a revolution that is needed for Africa to change.”

“This is a revolution similar to what you saw that brought down an end to the Roman Empire– what brought down an end to the British empire,” she added. “The revolution of changing Africa back to what Africa once was – the continent that civilized the world. The continent that gave birth to the world. Without Africa, without Africans, the rest of the world would not be.”

Agrippa Ezozo, ADDI global human resources director and awardee, spoke with the AFRO about the immense value of relationships between Africa and the diaspora.

“We’re trying to unify Black people around the world,” he said. “It’s about time for us to come together. We have been misguided, we have been colonized, we have been mistreated. Our children were captured from the continent. It’s about time for us to embrace our children outside of the continent from the Caribbean to South America to North America, everywhere. ADDI is simply for us to be able to bring our children and make sure that we develop the continent. We cannot do it alone without our diaspora brothers and sisters who were taken away from the continent.”

Ezozo implored people to join the ADDI in their efforts to unite the African diaspora.

“We wanna make sure we take care of our own people,” he said. “Africa has fed the world for too long but ourselves. No one has been subjected to the kind of slavery, colonization that has been placed upon African people time and time again. Now we have to wake up.”

Vivian Stuart, an awardee from New York who currently lives in Charlotte, N.C., was another one of the awardees recognized at the gala.

“I’ve been a member from the beginning,” she told the AFRO. “We love ADDI. When I first heard Dr. Arikana I was so impressed and I learned that we were learning so much about mother Africa. I just said, when she forms an organization, her own organization, I will be there to be a member … ADDI connects the continental Africans to the … African diaspora … I went with ADDI in December 2, 2021, [it] was my first time in Africa, in Ghana. We were in Accra and then we went to the Cape Coast. We put on a business expo there for economic development – it’s important. Whether on the continent or in the United States, economic development and empowerment are important.”

Dr. Chihombori-Quao spoke with the AFRO about the awardees’ major achievements.

“These are people who have been with ADDI,” she said. “They have been in the trenches, they understand that it starts with one and we build that critical mass of people who get it. These are people who have been working and continue to work, all volunteers, none of them are paid, all of them are contributing to the cause. We’re counting on them bringing in more people because this moment is calling for an African, a Black person who’s selfless. The ones getting an award today are an example of what the new Africa is about and is supposed to be – selfless leadership. That’s why we’re honoring them for three years of solidarity with ADDI, three years of believing in what we can do as Africans.”

Lorna Thomas, a member of ADDI originally from Jamaica and currently living in Atlanta, was one of many enthusiastic attendees at the event. 

“ADDI plays a very important role in the African American community, not just in Africa but in the diaspora,” she said. “They are doing a fantastic job organizing and mobilizing and doing what we need to do as a people.”

Eleanor Maxine Ankrah, a professor from Uganda and author of the 2018 autobiography “Maxine: A Life without Baggage,” was also in attendance.

“I’m promoting an international conference that would be organized for July next year entitled ‘Africa Reclaimed: The Diaspora-African Connection.’ In that context, I was invited to come here tonight,” said Ankrah. “I think [Dr. Arikana] has made a major contribution toward the rethinking of Africa and particularly in my own area, the reclaiming of Africa as the first continent and the Africans as the first people.”