The Boston University African Studies Center co-hosted the first ever African Diaspora & Governance Symposium at Boston University last Saturday. The event brought together African diaspora activists from the greater Boston area to discuss the issues of diaspora organizing and networking for effective participation in governance and political life. The Symposium, co-hosted with Africans in Boston, featured Dr. Sylvester Okere, President of the United People for African Congress (UPAC), and Attorney Candice McKinley, the Vice-President of UPAC and a civil rights and education attorney.
Dr. Okere stated that the community of African immigrants is one of the most educated, dynamic and diverse communities in the United States, “We have the people, talents, skills, experience, values and unique culture that distinguish us. Let’s come together and change the narratives that have been dragging us down. In order for the ethnic African community in the United States to become relevant and be fully integrated into the American political system, we must first be organized.” Dr. Okere called for ethnic Africans in the U.S. to overcome the scars of colonialism, discrimination, and marginalization, and work towards creating solidarity to transform the local immigrant communities as well as those of the African motherland. Dr. Okere was the first immigrant to fill Africa’s seat of the National Democratic Party to represent the African diaspora, and first African immigrant to speak on a national platform on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
Attorney Candice D. McKinley, an African American attorney, political strategist and gender activist, urged African immigrants to understand their heritage, and to be selfless, purposeful, and intentional in their struggle to unite the diaspora to achieve their dreams. “I come from down South where we had the same issues of mistrust among different African American groups from different regions, but we managed to overcome these and now speak with one voice,” said the young mother and former teacher who spent time in Tanzania working for women empowerment and Rwanda genocide cases. Atty. McKinley highlighted the important role of women in diaspora work: “Women must know their worth, purpose in the world, and intend to be change agents. Society has engrained in men to be leaders rather than women. While women currently make up 51% of the American population, we are still not seen as an equal to men. Including and encouraging women to be at the political table would help to garner systemic change that will benefit future generations.”
The ethnic African organization UPAC is a non-segmented body committed to mobilizing the estimated 3 million African immigrants in the United States for empowered participation in the social and political lives of the communities in the U.S. as well as for the development of their motherland. The organization serves all ethnic Africans in the diaspora. Recent initiatives include the struggle to involve African immigrants in relevant high level policy discussions, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, as well as engaging their active participation in the 2016 presidential elections.
Mr. Voury Ignegongba, President of Africans in Boston and convener of the event, said that he was overjoyed by dozens of African immigrants from different African countries living in Boston who attended the symposium, demonstrating that Africans have the desire to put their differences aside and unify for a common cause while far from their homelands. Africans in Boston is an organization that fosters the socio-economic and educational development of its members by offering a platform that connects the African diaspora in the greater Boston area and in the state of Massachusetts.
“It is very refreshing and encouraging to see a group of African immigrants come together here today in search of better lives,” remarked Harrison Maina from Kenya (Boston University Metropolitan College). “Since UPAC has taken the lead to organize the highly disjointed and scattered African communities in the diaspora, it is up to us to join in and render our talents and skills. Let all African community organizations that are genuine about their intent to make Africans more united and respected now consider joining UPAC.” These calls were echoed by several other participants of the Symposium. The attendees included Geoffrey Nsereko of Radio Uganda Boston, Pastor Isaac Balinda of Uganda, Rev. Christine Nakyeyune of the Ugandan Anglican church in Waltham, Chioma Nnaji of Africans for Improved Access, and Dorothy Sebbaka of Women of Purpose International.
“In the present era of ever-growing migration and mobility, diaspora contributions to the development of their countries of origin are crucial,” said Dr. Daivi Rodima-Taylor of BU ASC Diaspora Studies Initiative. “We are proud to contribute to creating a forum for local African diaspora communities to discuss strategies for productive diaspora engagement and empowerment.”
Photos by: Harrison Maina, Ajabu Africa News
By Jesse Singal
It’s understandable why some people are concerned that there will be violence during or immediately after tomorrow’s presidential election. After all, for the entire final stretch of the campaign, Donald Trump has been pre-complaining that the results of tomorrow’s election will be “rigged,” and has repeatedly refused to say that he will accept the results, full-stop (well, he did say he’ll accept them if he wins). And while one can’t necessarily take the craziest things a given candidate’s supporters say at face value, some of his supporters have spoken openly and excitedly about the possibility of violence and revolution.
“People are both vastly and incorrectly overstating the prospects for electoral violence here,” Susanne Mueller said in an email. Mueller is a political scientist currently based at Boston University’s African Studies Center, and a widely publishedexpert on the Kenyan political system, which produced one of the more infamous recent examples of election violence.
The priest’s return to the people of eastern Congo surprised few of his friends. His murder surprised no one.
When Patricia Hibberd looks at her smartphone, she sees a chance to save young lives.
Hibberd, the new chair of the School of Public Health’s Department of Global Health, has been working in Malawi, India, and Pakistan to develop a low-cost thermal imaging system for smartphones that would help to detect bacterial pneumonia in children in countries where standard chest X-rays are not available. The prospect of giving resource-strapped clinicians a way to diagnose the world’s leading cause of death of children under age 5 marks a new chapter in her 25-year quest to stem childhood pneumonia, sepsis, diarrhea, and other illnesses.
Marc Sommers’ interest in Africa’s youth dates back more than three decades to his work in Kenya, where he was headmaster of a girls’ secondary school. In the ensuing years, he has returned to Africa routinely as a scholar and analyst, and his growing body of research suggests that the prevailing wisdom about the continent’s youth is misguided and calls for significant reform. As a visiting researcher with the African Studies Center at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Sommers (CAS’94) has written about postwar youth in Rwanda and South Sudan, among many other nations.
SPH prof & African Studies affiliate shares his passion for improving global public health
A physician specializing in infectious diseases, Christopher Gill calls himself “a clinician first,” but students are currently among the beneficiaries of his work on global public health problems. An associate professor of global health at the School of Public Health and a research scientist at BU’s Center for Global Health & Development, Gill treats his students more as colleagues, demanding a high level of dedication and professionalism, even as he engages them with his wit and wide-ranging war stories.
Boston University’s African Studies Center (ASC), an affiliated center of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, piloted a Swahili language course designed for Masters of Public Health candidates during the Spring 2016 semester, and students discussed the benefits of the course as well as the close the ties between the School of Public Health and the African Studies Center.
The class, Swahili With a Health Focus (CAS LE491), emphasizes Swahili language useful in conducting fieldwork and surveys, as well as cultural specific notions of health.
Jennifer Beard, Assistant Professor of Global Health, took the class this semester, and said the African Studies Center provides a link for faculty and students at the Medical Campus to colleagues on the Charles River Campus with similar research areas.