THE BLOG
08/05/2011 03:43 pm ET | Updated Oct 05, 2011

My Africa

In my Africa, Barack Obama is very much the norm.

In my Africa, fellow Ghanaian Kofi Anan led the United Nations as Secretary-General, and writer and poet Wole Soyinka is a Nobel Laureate. My African heroines include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the President of Liberia and the first elected female Head of State in Africa, and the valiant Yaa Asantewaa who led an army that fought against British colonialism in 1900.

When people who look like you fill the influential roles in society, the heads of state, the judges, the doctors and the bankers, nothing feels impossible or out of reach. When the writers, television stars, artists and musicians all look like you, you simply don't know any different. That's allowed me to succeed in life -- and I feel lucky.

As a black British woman of Ghanaian descent who grew up in London and Accra and now lives between New York and Los Angeles, I have a unique perspective on the world. Wherever I choose to live or work, I've always felt it important to be a positive ambassador for my community, for my race, for people who look like me. Because when you win, you help pave the way. When there are so many unhelpful stereotypes of black people being propagated in the media, in politics and in popular culture, you feel a huge responsibility to be a part of the positive impact we make on society.

Africa is the continent where the largest concentration of black people lives. So much positive and good comes out of the continent that's rarely reported. So why do we hear from and about so few of these black voices?

In the West I've encountered two schools of thought among the black community when it comes to Africa. The continent is either romanticized as "The Motherland," the spiritual home they dream of visiting. Or, Africa is a place to be pitied -- a poverty-stricken people in a state of permanent famine or war, ruled by evil dictators. But my Africa is neither.

Let's neither idealize the continent not pity it but see it for what it is, a multi-dimensional community with bustling cosmopolitan cities, where countries such as Ghana and Tanzania have peaceful democracies and burgeoning economies.

Lets celebrate all the amazing writers, musicians, politicians and academics doing incredible things. Africans living on the continent and around the world are making great strides and making a real difference -- the movie stars like Chiwetel Ejiiofor and Idris Elba; the tv anchors like CNN's Isha Sesay, and my business partner and fellow Ghanaian June Sarpong. Model and humanitarians Iman and Liya Kibede; writers such as Chimamanda Adichie and Ben Okri and musicians Akon and Amadou & Mariam, are all people we can look to for inspiration.

This is the Africa I would like the next generation to see. By celebrating all that's positive and good about Africa, we can allow ourselves and our children to think big.

That's not to draw a veil over the oppression in Zimbabwe, or forget the victims of war in the Congo or the famine spreading across Somalia. We must remain vigilant and aware, and hold our leaders to account. But it's only by showing people what's possible, all that we are and can be, that we can really make a real difference to the way we're perceived and perceive ourselves.

I run an annual conference, the WIE Symposium, which is focused on empowering and inspiring women of all races and cultures. We're creating a community of engaged and informed women who are united around the issues that matter to them. WIE is very much about combating negative stereotypes, bringing women together and inspiring the next generation.

I see HuffPost BlackVoices as a great opportunity to do the same for the black community here in America and beyond.

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