January 15th marks the annual “John Chilembwe Day” in Malawi. John Chilembwe (1871 – 3 February 1915) was a Baptist pastor, educator, and missionary who is commemorated today as Malawi’s earliest independence movement hero. John Chilembwe dedicated most of his adult life to advocating for the rights of Nyasaland’s (Malawi’s) African population, involving himself heavily in the resistance against British colonialism. He fought primarily for the fair treatment of African workers on European-owned plantations, as well as the social and political advancement of all Africans. Shortly following the outbreak of the First World War, Chilembwe organized an uprising against the British colonial rule. His efforts of supplanting British rule were unsuccessful. However, his revolt was regarded as a symbolic gesture of protest amongst the African population, and news of his uprising and beliefs spread throughout Nyasaland. His ideals lived on until Nyasaland finally gained independence in 1964, taking the new name “Malawi”. Today, John Chilembwe’s legacy is honored through the observance of a national holiday and remembered in classrooms across the nation every year. Additionally, Chilembwe’s portrait can be found in the back of the 500 and 2,000 Kwacha notes, reminding people every day of efforts for a righteous Malawi.
For this year’s Chilembwe Day, D2D’s residential youth and staff came together to celebrate the hero’s fight for freedom and equality. The afternoon was filled with good company, music, and games such as bao and chess. Many youths shared fun facts about Chilembwe that they had learned at school the previous day, sparking several conversations about his beliefs and legacy. The evening continued with a delicious braai consisting of chicken, sausage, beef, and tilapia. Everyone left with a full belly, having learned a thing or two about Malawi’s great hero.