Reflections on Black History Month: Mercy Erhiawarien
February is Black History Month. For the month of February, we will be sharing a series of spotlights of some of our staff and volunteers in the Black community. This post features Mercy Erhiawarien.
I am an advocate and social entrepreneur with a goal to mobilize people to transform and impact their own communities, and I currently serve as the Executive Director of Heritage Africa. I’ve been a RESULTS advocate for nearly a year as part of the African Leadership Cohort.
I’ve always been passionate about eradicating poverty. My initial interest in advocacy was rooted in my heritage as a Nigerian-born immigrant. I have seen poverty firsthand in Africa, specifically in my time in Gulu, Uganda. When I had the opportunity to not only learn about international development, but also to work in the policy space, I took it. I have great appreciation for the democratic process. We often take it for granted that we have the ability to communicate directly with our elected representatives and champion policies that have an impact on people. I’m glad for the opportunity to be a RESULTS advocate and push for policies that positively benefit the African Diaspora, people of color, and the African continent as a whole.
I am most inspired by African female advocates who consistently use their voices to advocate for others. There are so many! They include: the late Wangari Mathai, Africa’s first female Nobel Prize winner, once a political activist for social and environmental change in Kenya; Saran Kaba Jones, a Liberian clean water advocate; and Nneka Achapu, an advocate for Diaspora engagement in policy (through trade and business). These women and countless others remind me that I need to continue speaking up and making a difference in my own way.
It’s so important to continue to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people in advocacy for two reasons. The most important is that it gives others an example to follow. For young Black boys and girls, seeing Black people in advocacy is a reminder that we can be the agents of our own change. Secondly, not everyone in the African Diaspora may understand the role policy plays in shaping our lives; it is crucially important. Highlighting the contributions of people in the Diaspora as advocates helps to shed a light on our unique role in shaping advocacy that impacts our communities.
Mercy Erhiawarien is a RESULTS advocate, member of the RESULTS African Leadership Cohort, and Executive Director of Heritage Africa, an African faith-based organization whose mission is to inspire and broker diaspora collaboration towards impact-driven actions on the continent.