Perhaps the better way to change the African American attitude toward organ and tissue donation is to demonstrate the Christian value of the humanitarian tradition in African thought and in the Biblical tradition of Christianity. This value is also an integral part of the Akan cosmological belief system. The Akan, for example, say "A human being needs help," which can be translated loosely to mean that the human being, precisely because s/he is human, is entitled to help from other humans. Former Senegalese President Leopold S. Senghor, noted poet and father of the philosophy of Négritude, was fond of observing in Wolof: "Man is the medicine [or cure] for man." This central theme, humanism, found its way into former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda’s political and social philosophy as articulated in his Humanism in Zambia and a Guide to Its Implementation.

     The value of humanism and its role in African thought generally can be more thoroughly appreciated when viewed as a fundamental characteristic of African ideas about socialism from Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana,, to Kaunda, and Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, and from Senghor to Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Collectively, their socio-political approaches were firmly anchored in this very strong humanistic and humanitarian tradition of mutual aid, and of individual and collective self-reliance and cooperation. 


     The natural inclination Among Euro-Americans to resist appeals for organ and tissue donation for transplantation purposes has been reduced largely through extensive public education. Similarly, African Americans can be brought to over-come their reluctance (however rational its origins) and participate as donors and save the lives of others as a fundamental responsibility for having lived and received the benefits of this world. 

     African Americans can draw inspiration and encouragement further from the African humanists and the African humanitarian tradition, based on mutual aid and collective self-help, and commit themselves to donate their organs for transplantation precisely because one person can become the medical cure for others, to paraphrase President Senghor. This message, the cosmological proclamation of the Akan, might be used here as well since it recognizes that human beings need help. It is our personal and individual responsibility to provide that help -- one to another. African Americans as donors and supportive participants of organ donation and transplantation are in a position to save lives and reap the synergistic powers of their African legacy and religious faiths. Their basic contemporary values and religious beliefs continue to support this conclusion.                        


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June 2001