A collaboration between WARA/WARC, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and Universite Cheikh Anta Diop
A Symposium on Race, Racism and the Construction of Black Modernities was held in Dakar on February 7-12, 2016. For this event, WARC/WARA partnered with the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the IFAN institution at Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), Dakar. This was yet another illustration of WARA/WARC’s role as a bridge for the promotion of academic and cultural cooperation between West African and US learning and cultural institutions.
Over three days and in three different venues (WARC, UCAD and IFAN), in-depth presentations were made and insightful discussions conducted over various topics centering on race, race relations and the advancement of black communities.
Eminent scholars from the US and West Africa attended the learned gathering and gave substantial food for thought to the dozens of students who filled the various conference rooms over three consecutive days. Featured speaker was Professor Michael Blakey (Anthropology),of William and Mary College, Director of the Institute for Historical Biology. Other international scholars participating included Alain Froment, Jemima Pierre, Ibrahima Thiaw, Deborah Mack, Dean Rehberger, Michael Green, and Francois Richard. The opening ceremony recorded opening statements by representatives of the NMAAHC, WARC, UCAD, IFAN as well as the US Embassy in Dakar and was attended by students, scholars from two US Universities and Cheikh Anta Diop University.
WARA Celebrates Black History Month: Blackness and the Changing Face of the African Diaspora in the US
A Dialogue between Wendy Wilson-Fall and Trina Jackson
On the evening of February 26, 2016, WARA hosted its annual Black History Month program at the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University. This year, thanks to a generous grant from the Boston Cultural Council, WARA was pleased to present a dialogue between two exceptional women: WARA board president Wendy Wilson-Fall and scholar-activist, Trina Jackson.
The topic of their discussion was the changing face of the African diaspora in the US and the challenges that these changes pose. This searching and provocative discussion was attended by more than 50 people, including members of the African American communities of Boston, recent immigrants from Africa, and first generation African immigrants. A video of the program is available on WARA’s youtube channel.
Since the 1960s and the rollback of racially biased immigration laws, the proportion of the Black US population that was born in Africa or whose parents or grandparents were, has grown enormously. Along with waves of immigration from the Caribbean, these new African Americans are changing what ‘being black’ in the United States might signify. What has this meant for the older African Diaspora community in the United States? How has this influx of ‘new Africans’ changed the dynamics within and between communities in the US and on the African continent? How is it different from earlier arrivals of ‘new Africans?’
The discussion following the dialogue included a spoken word presentation by Leonard Tshitenge of Africans in Boston, one of the event’s co-sponsors. Also co-sponsoring were the BU African American Studies Program, the BU African Studies Center, and the BU African Students Organization.
The speakers: A graduate of Goddard College, Trina Jackson co-coordinates the Network of Immigrant and African American Solidarity (NIAAS), a grassroots community organization that seeks to build solidarity between African Americans and immigrants of color. She is also the Program Coordinator of the Inclusion Initiative, a program of Third Sector New England, which supports cross-sector networks in communities of color to address root causes of poverty and economic inequality. Trina is also a mixed media artist, writer, gardener, and nature photographer.
A graduate of Howard University, Wendy Wilson Fall is Associate Professor and Program Chair of the Africana Studies Program at Lafayette College. Her new book, Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic, explores African American family narratives about Madagascar. Her research engages questions of socio-cultural change, ethnic identity, and multi-focal historical narratives. She is currently working on a book entitled A Negro Handbook for West Africans and Other Strangers. Wilson-Fall is also a painter and visual artist.
This program was supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor’s office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events
KOMIVI DOSSA is a Beninois Ph.D candidate at UCAD working on sesame, which plays an important part in the lives of rural people in West Africa. His research is on food security, particularly on the physiological and enzymatic mechanisms of drought resistance in sesame. (See more).
KEITA IBRAHIM is a Ph.D candidate in Microbian and Cellular Biotechnology at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He is working on indigenous yeasts and metabolites generated by the so-called “Rabile” which is the dregs of the local beer named “Dolo”. (See more).
KOFFI YAO BERNARD is a Ph.D candidate in Agroecology from Cote d’Ivoire. Using ecological intensification, he is conducting his research on the microbian community of the soils fertilized by animal manures (See more).
IDOWU OMOWUMI OMODUNNI is a Nigerian Ph.D candidate at Ekiti State University in Nigeria. Her research project is entitled: Women, Environment Degradation and Food Security: the case of Oloibiri Community of Bayelsa State, Nigeria. (See more).
WARA 2015 travel grantee, David Obada was named Research Training Fellow for Developing Country Scientists (RTF-DCS) at the CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, Nehru-Marg, India. He will be under the guidance of Dr Nitin K Labhsetwar during the six month fellowship period. He will be studying how low cost catalyst supported on ceramic supports diesel emission control. David is also pursuing a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria.
“Charlie Hebdo in Niger: Between AQIM and Boko Haram” was the title of this year’s official WARA panel at the African Studies Association (ASA) annual meeting in San Diego, California. Panelists examined the various reactions of Nigeriens in the wake of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s expression of solidarity with those speaking out against the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Each explored the complex and changing context from a different disciplinary point of view, contributing to the rich and nuanced presentations.
Panelists included Scott Youngstedt, WARA Immediate past president (Saginaw Valley State University); Barbara Cooper (Rutgers University); Hilary Hungerford (South Dakota State University); Amanda Gilvin (Mount Holyoke College), Yahaya Ibrahim (University of Florida) and Abdoulaye Sounaye Independent scholar) .
After several weeks of recess because of the Center’s annual leave in August, the book club, “We Read for You” of the West African Research Center is back to business. This new series, inaugurated in June 2015, brings together members of the community to discuss classic works as well as newly minted ones. WARC intends to keep the momentum up by featuring at least one event every month.
The fall 2015 series of “We Read for You” was kicked off on October 15th with the presentation of a novel which has now become a world classic: The Beggars’ Strike (La Greve des Bàttu), by Senegalese author, Aminata Sow-Fall.
The event was attended by many people including the author herself. In her opening remarks, Sow-Fall warmly commended WARC for its contributions to the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of Dakar and for its commitment to furthering academic research, collaborative efforts, and exchanges throughout West Africa and beyond.
The presenter of the day, Miss Borso Tall, a doctoral student at University Cheikh Anta Diop stressed the topicality of issues raised in the novel and dwelt on its social and political implications. The audience of 30 people reacted and enlivened the exchanges with seminal contributions and questions.
The JETS project (Jeunesse, Entreprise et Transformation Sociale/Youth, Entrepreneurship and Social
Transformation) is the result of a very productive and stimulating collaboration between a US international NGO established in Baltimore, Maryland; the International Youth Foundation (IYF); and the West African Research Center. The funds needed to implement the project were initially entrusted to UNESCO-Dakar by the Japanese Fund-in-Trust for the benefit of the Senegalese Ministry of Youth. When IYF was selected by UNESCO for implementation, they turned to a number of local organisations and ultimately selected WARC as their partner.
After a week’s training at WARC in December 2014, the 16 JETS fellows went back to their respective sites in various parts of Senegal. The next phase, consisting of long-distance training and monitoring, took place from December-January to June-July.
During this monitoring phase, the academic coordinator identifed by WARC to conduct the training activities kept in regular contact with the fellows and was thus able to measure their progress. Progress was assessed in the various modules of the training program including leadership, management, computer skills, civic engagement, and networking
The July 22 event at WARC provided the JETS fellows the opportunity to inform each other and the training staff about progress made in their entrepreneurial activities and to reinforce their networking skills and opportunities.
T he various resource persons and personalities who attended the event were very impressed by the young fellows’ articulate presentations, their clarity of purpose, and the appropriateness of their businesses and projects. Their civic awareness and engagement as well as their social commitment were also praised by the audience.
As a result of the remarkable quality of the meeting, it was moved that the JETS fellows be involved in the future establishment of a local or panAfrican network for the promotion of social transformation in African societies. The Director of WARC has already started contacting potential members of such a network and planning for a preparatory meeting.
The fellows were encouraged to join organisations like the American Chamber of Commerce in Dakar. This would allow them to be part of a forum where they could promote their ventures for potential funding and partnerships. They were also urged to set up a website for exchange of ideas among themselves and with other youths in Senegal and the rest of the continent.
The event, which was attended by at least 20 people, was wrapped up with a friendly reception in the WARC gardens.
Un regard africain sur le siècle des ruptures
by Landing Savané
(Éditions Presses Panafricaines, Avril 2015)
On Saturday afternoon, June 6, the West African Research Center found it challenging to
accommodate the crowd that flocked in to attend the presentation of the book written by one of the most distinguished and honorable political leaders in Senegal, Mr. Landing Savané, Secretary General of And Jef, a left-leaning political party.
Landing Savané, a household name in Senegal, Africa and in left-leaning circles around the world, engaged in politics very early and was a major actor in the events which rocked Senegal in May 1968. A statistician by training, Landing Savané was among the specialists who masterminded the major population censuses in Senegal in an effort to adjust national economic plans and projects to the demographics of this West African nation.
Now that he has almost retired from the political scene, he thought it profitable to commit to paper ideas garnered from his long experience as an opposition leader and later, when Abdoulaye Wade came to power, a cabinet member.
The book and its author were introduced by former Senegalese minister of finance and the economy, Mr Pape Ousmane Sakho, who was instrumental in designing the Senegalese structural adjustment plan (known by all as “Le Plan Sakho-Loum” under President Abdou Diouf).
According to M. Sakho, Africa holds the future of the world not because of her mineral and other still-untapped resources, but because Africa has the needs which industry and other economic activities exist cater to. Africa is the huge market of tomorrow and commodity producers will have to provide for her needs in the future for their survival.
This focus on the human factor and not on the mineral factor was echoed by the other two panelists, Prof Amadou Guiro, Rector of the Sine Saloum University (to open in 2016), Dr Abdourahmane Ngaidé (Department of History, UCAD) and by the author himself who, in his final remarks, urged African youth to believe in the future of their continent and invest all their energies and capabilities in the actualisation of a rosy future for the continent.
The event, which was extensively covered by local and international media, attracted a crowd of nearly 150 people.
This year’s Black History Month at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar was particularly eventful. A number of film screenings and discussions were held at WARC during the month. These were followed later in the month by three events that were made possible by a very
fruitful collaboration between WARC, the Senegalese American Studies Association (SASA), the US embassy in Dakar, the Dakar-Gorée Jazz Festival, and local representatives of the celebrated pan-African publishing house Présence Africaine.
In cooperation with Présence Africaine, WARC hosted the presentation and dedication of the French translation of the autobiography of the great Jazz piano player Randy Weston, entitled Randy Weston, African Rhythms (by William Jenkins and Randy Weston). Held at WARC on February 25th, the event was a great success. According to the world-famous jazzman whose work has been presented and discussed in many parts of the world, this event held at WARC was very special to him.
On Friday, February 27th, the new US ambassador to Senegal, His Excellency Mr. James Zumwalt, and the Director of WARC chaired a presentation by Sheldon Austin, a lecturer invited by the Public Affairs Office at the embassy. Dr. Sheldon Austin’s presentation was entitled “Civil Rights Movements and Participation in the Political Process.” The focus was on the American experience with the election of President Obama and also explored various experiences identified in West Africa in countries such as Senegal and Burkina Faso.
On this occasion, the Ambassador remarked on the excellent relations with WARC and praised the Center as a vibrant venue for scholarship, on West Africa and the U.S, and a dynamic forum for the advancement of democracy, equal opportunity, dialogue and peace in the West African sub-region. In front of the many members of SASA who attended, he marveled at the Senegalese scholars and students’ in-depth knowledge of political and socio-cultural issues in the US.
by Mountaga Diagne
Young political scientists at WARA should be familiar with the name of this Senegalese researcher who completed his PhD in Canada, all the while acknowledging his academic indebtedness to the works of scholars such as Leo Villalon, Catherine Boone, and Penda Mbow—to name just a few.
On March 13, 2015 at WARC, Professor Abdou Salam Fall of IFAN and Dr. Cheikh Guèye of Enda presented Dr. Diagne’s new book, Pouvoir Politique et Espace Religieux au Senegal. According to them both, Dr Diagne’s book is a major contribution in the field of political science in Africa. They noted that Dr. Diagne’s work was a bold departure from the usual research tracks in that it acknowledges the role of other key players beyond the state—players likely to account for political governance on the continent and, particularly, in a country like Senegal. In Senegal, religion, and Islam in particular, has played a historic role for liberation and the construction of a new identity to stand up to the onslaughts of European colonization.
Likewise, Islam still plays a political role in a country like Senegal and, to illustrate this, the author chose to investigate the shifting power relations within Muslim religious spaces such as Touba (seat of the Mouride Order), Medina Baay (center of the Tidjane-Niassene Order) and Camberene (seat of the Layeene order), and between those spheres and the Senegalese central state.
The event was attended by 20 people.