The Accidental African
Michael Kirkpatrick was sent a letter by a young man from Malawi in November 1995. The young man had found Michael’s employment identification badge in the pocket of a shirt that was donated to The Salvation Army in the Philadelphia suburbs. The shirt had miraculously found its way to Lilongwe, Malawi. The letter started a correspondence between the two strangers and was the beginning of Michael’s life as “The Accidental African”.
In 1998, Michael traveled to Uganda for the first time with his wife Stephanie after being invited by a Ugandan gentleman who had launched a grassroots organization to help the orphans and rural peasants devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Michael’s life has not been ordinary. He was born to teenage parents in 1967. His parents fostered his curiosity to learn which enabled him to be a successful student throughout his formal education.
He graduated from Lehigh University with a BS in Computer Science in 1990 and started his career.
Love unexpectedly entered the picture when Michael met Stephanie in 1994. He soon proposed to her at the top of the Eiffel Tower during a romantic weekend in Paris. They were married in Las Vegas on April Fool’s Day 1997.
Michael’s life has not been free from challenges and disappointments. His 20 year career at Dal-Tile Corporation came to a sudden end in 2007. Three years later he was terminated by St. Jude Medical. He became an unemployment statistic during the collapse of the American economy.
Over the years, Michael continued traveling to Uganda. He has experienced the country’s incredible hospitality and beauty. Michael has particularly been attracted to the abundance of creativity and talent that he has encountered during his travels.
There are things that we’re fed in the media that are an incredibly small percentage of what Africa is really about.
Michael met Ugandan artist Fred Mutebi in 2004 while Mutebi was a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Christian Brothers University in Memphis. Mutebi creates multi-color woodcut prints that depict stories about critical social events in Africa or that portray images indigenous to the African environment. His beautiful creations and rural community efforts have earned him global acclaim and recognition. They have hosted each other multiple times in the United States and Uganda.
During a visit to Uganda in 2007, Michael met musician Maurice Kirya. In 2010 Kirya was named the winner of the Radio France International (RFI) Discovery Prize for best new African artist. He has been featured in the international media and completed an extensive world tour in 2011. Kirya has released two brilliantly composed albums, “Misubbaawa” and “The Book of Kirya”.
Michael has witnessed the politics of genocide and international exploitation in Africa. He traveled to the northern part of Uganda in 2007 as it was recovering and rebuilding from civil war. Unfortunately the region suffered for two decades from a horrific conflict that traumatized innocent civilians. The displacement of people from their villages into Internally Displaced Persons camps threatened the survival of the Acholi people. Many experts have called the herding of the Acholi population into these diseased and dangerous settlements a “slow motion genocide” strategically perpetrated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Michael also learned about the recruitment of Ugandans by American military contractors during his visits to Uganda. For many years, thousands of Ugandans have been serving in Iraq and other proxy wars as mercenaries and hired hands. These private and for-profit military contractors have different accountability procedures and guidelines than national militaries. This has led to many tragic stories.
My mission is to incite people to think.
Michael’s network of African friends has grown to include government officials, business people, religious leaders, artists, musicians, students, farmers and rural villagers. Michael has become a passionate advocate of sustainable development and self-determination in Africa. The challenges of the continent have caused him to be skeptical of institutional aid agencies and charities. Many of the programs and strategies have created economic dependence and perpetuated “third-world welfare”. Africa is now at the nexus of global issues that will dictate the path of human history. The orphan crisis, the destruction of societies caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the war on terrorism, regional conflicts, environmental issues, and the global battle for natural resources will affect every person on the planet.
Michael has decided to share positive stories about Africa and his African friends by utilizing the internet and social media. Independent Global Citizen has been visited by people all over the world. The website was commended by President Bill Clinton for “making a difference in Africa”.
“The Accidental African” will chronicle Michael’s extraordinary life from a rebellious teenager to an evangelist for Africa. Stories of his youthful indiscretions and adult adventures will take the reader on a journey across continents and introduce you to many more characters in his life that have impacted him.
“The Accidental African” proves that sometimes you don’t get to choose your destiny; your destiny chooses you.
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