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KWEISI MFUME

Kweisi Mfume

Kweisi Mfume, famously known for his exploits as President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP) is a man who for those familiar with his humble past, deserves the utmost respect. Listening to the eloquent and charismatic Mfume speak, it would almost blow your mind to find out that he started off as a High School drop-out and teenage father. I say this with the utmost respect for Mfume because most High School drop-outs that I know, who double up as teenage fathers are still out there begging for change. Mfume on the other hand has put himself somewhere I can only dream to be someday.

Mfume's rise from such humble beginnings to President of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in America, is in itself quite a monumental achievement. Yet I still find it hard to ignore the fact that this is a man who made a complete about-trun with his life; an achievement I think far outweighs his ascension to the NAACP Presidency. I happen to be one of those people who believe that there are millions of Mfumes running around America's streets, who for reasons unexplainable have found themselves in bad situations but cannot make 180 degree changes like he did. The perfect point in question would be Malcom X, who went from being an all-out criminal to one of the world's most respected blacks. Mfume and Malcolm's lives should serve as a lesson to all black people as to just how much change we can make if we reached out to our misguided youths out there.

Kweisi Mfume was born Frizzell Gray in the US city of Baltimore, Maryland. His African name is a product of his great-aunt's visit to the West-African country Ghana. The name Kweisi Mfume translates to "conquering son of Kings". She must have known the young Frizzell Gray perfectly to hand him this name because thats exactly what he has turned out to be.

Mfume's debut into politics can be traced way back to his days at Morgan State University where he was editor of the school's newspaper and head of the Black Student Union. He graduated "magna cum laude" from Morgan State University and later returned there as a Professor in Political Science and Communications. In 1979, Mfume won a seat on the Baltimore City Council. He held his Local Government position for 7 years during which period he advocated minority issues. He for example was in the forefront in efforts to improve community safety , enhance minority businesses and shift American dollars from the apartheid government in South Africa. In 1984, he earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Arts from John Hopkins University.

His success at the local government level helped him win a seat in the US House of Representatives(7th Congressional District) in 1986. His stay in Congress lasted almost a decade, during which period he continued to stomp for stronger civil rights legislation and other minority issues. Looking at Mfume's career in Congress, the two overriding themes that come out are stronger civil rights and economic empowerment for minorities.

In 1995, Mfume walked away from his seat in Congress to head the NAACP, which at the time of his joining was an organization in dire need of some new leadership and direction. Mfume's leadership has done just that because he has not only transformed the NAACP into a more effective civil rights organization, but also a champion of minority economic empowerment.

Mfume also has a history in broadcasting, having hosted not only a radio show but also an award-winning TV show, The Bottom Line. In addition to that, he is a proud recipient of about 7 honorary Doctorate Degrees plus several other awards. I hate to play favourites but I can honestly proclaim that Kweisi Mfume is one of my best non-native African heroes.

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