IN the last few days Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo has put across his case as to why we should not listen to youths like 33-year-old musician Brian Bwembya popularly known as B-Flow.
Among the issues raised by B-Flow were his concerns on unemployment, gold mining rights for locals, poor government and abuse of human rights.
Looking at world history it is interesting to see what youths did in their lives to influence and make meaningful change.
In the field of civil rights everyone knows of 42-year-old Rosa Parks who on December 1, 1955, was commuting home from a long day of work at a department store by bus. Few people however know that a 15-year-old Claudette Colvin came nine months before Rosa Parks.
In March 1955, Claudette defied segregation laws by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Months later Rosa Parks emulated the Claudette and did exactly the same thing.
Martin Luther King Jr. became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement starting when he led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. He was only 26 years old. So it is all right for youths to have a dream.
Malala Yousafzai who was shot by the Taliban at age 12, became an activist for female education. She became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate as a result of her human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children.
According to former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, this discontented youth has become “the most prominent citizen” of the country.
In the Environmental field, 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunburg began her climate strikes in 2018 inspiring thousands of students to walk out of class and demand action on the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg got the majority of ordinary people in the world’s attention but are leaders really listening?
Way before Greta Thunburg’s 2018 foray into environmental issues, our very own Zambian climate leader and youth empowerment advocate Brighton Kaoma won the 2016 WWF International President’s Award for his efforts to educate, and give a voice to, youths about the environment.
This is the WWF’s top accolade to recognise outstanding leadership in young conservationists from around the world.
Kaoma had been a Child Ambassador with UNICEF’s “Unite4Climate Zambia” programme since 2010.
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement began with the use of the hashtag#BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of an African-American teen. Its founders were Alicia Garza then aged 31, Opal Tometi, 27 and Patrisse Cullors, aged 28. In 2017, the Black Lives Matter founders issued a statement calling US President Donald Trump among the world’s worst fascists.
The group implored people, and especially white people, to “forcefully reject the hatred.” Trump said these young activists were malcontents and accused the group of inciting violence against police officers, calling them a “threat.”
Last year the Parkland students in the United States of America became a force for gun control legislation and boosted the youth vote. The movement was started by David Hogg, a student who survived the attack.
He expressed his frustration at the pattern of political inaction that seems to follow mass shootings in the United States. He led many disgruntled youths to express their frustrations with the US gun policy.
It is not only in foreign lands that youths excelled in political and social agitation. There is such evidence when you look at the run up to our independence.
In 1959 UNIP was born and amongst its movers and agitators were 28-year-old Sikota Wina (UNIP Cowboy), 22-year-old Rupiah Bwezani Banda (RB), 21-year-old Alexander Bwalya Chikwanda (ABC) and 20-year-old Vernon Johnston Mwaanga (VJ).
The UNIP Cowboy, RB, ABC, VJ and many other “pre Brians” were disgruntled youths. They were disgruntled with the racial discrimination and oppression we were under. These youths guided the elder generations like Kenneth Kaunda and others to gallantly fight for Zambia’s independence.
Even in later years youthful energy was important in energizing political movements. Young Baldwin Nkumbula at his youthful age was a leading advocate for a return to multi-party democracy in the early ‘90s.
In the field of education, Professor Lameck Kazembe Haza Goma, served with distinction as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zambia having been appointed as Vice Chancellor whilst still in his 30s.
On January 15, 1976 in a demonstration in support of the MPLA, UNZA Students’ Union (UNZASU) described Zambia’s support for UNITA as misguided since they saw UNITA to be divisive and likely to hamper quick and true emancipation of Angola.
In the traditional and royalty field, you have had luminaries like Senior Chief Inyambo Yeta who ascended to the throne 43 years ago in his early 20s. His long reign has been peaceful and progressive.
Muhabi Lungu, when he was in the same age range as Brian, was wisely advising the Father of the Nation. KK appreciated what the youth could do and lent them an ear.
Like Muhabi, in the field of economics, you had people like Rabson Chongo who at a very early age were competently making economic policy decisions for the country.
Even outside Government you had entrepreneurs like Andrew Kachibe who as a young man in the 1980s did what the city council was failing to do.
Andrew set up a private sanitation firm (Andrew-Kurt Limited) in eight townships of Lusaka for emptying pit latrines to stem water borne diseases in the city.
Jeff Sitali very early in his life brought innovative changes to journalism and media presentation.
Even the older journalists were learning new tricks from him. Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma, then a 25 year-old Zambian doctor, won the Queen’s Young Leader Award in July 2017. Natasha Kaoma who is a women’s health advocate led a drive to launch fundraising to provide menstrual hygiene kits to girls in rural areas. She made an impact in her community and says she won’t rest “until all women and girls in Zambia
live their lives to their maximum potential,” has promised herself to be “on the frontlines, speaking, inspiring, uplifting millions one life at a time.”
Another Natasha, Natasha Mwansa, a young 18-year-old girl was awarded with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Award in May 2019. This award is given to individuals doing extraordinary work in promoting people’s health around the world.
Former US President Barack Obama noticed and singled out B-Flow from a large congregation of upcoming young men from all across the world at the 2015 Mandela Fellowship summit.
B-Flow and the other young Zambian youths cited here are evidence that our youths can be mentioned in the same breath as the Malalas, Thunburgs, Claudette Colvins, Alicia Garzas, Opal Tometis, David Hoggs and Martin Luther King Jnrs.
The older generations should not think they possess all knowledge and that they can mend any problem we may face. They should be more sensitive and modest instead of claiming like Trump that they are some kind of “stable geniuses” who have answers for everything.
On Covid-19, Trump was even heard saying that he would fix it by having people inject detergent into their blood streams!
Zambian youths continue to prove that even without the right conditions, they can still make an impact and will excel inspite of working in very trying conditions.
We should not handicap them further but instead give them the right environment. Let us not be so opinionated that we stop listening to our amazing youths.
These are examples for Ballies like Bowman Lusambo, instead of thinking that they have the answer for everything, to reflect on and modestly pose the rhetorical question, “Why should B-Flow be listened to?”