April 8, 2003

Africana Department Hosts Conference

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Last weekend, the Africana Studies and Research Center hosted the New York African Studies Association’s 27th annual conference at the Clarion Hotel.

“Current world events are shifting and reconstructing the balance of power in the world towards a one superpower domination. … The impact of this restructuring will be enormous on Africa and the African Diaspora,” said Mwalimu Abdu Nanji, president of NYASA, at the conference.

Both Friday and Saturday were filled with a variety of events, including sessions for teaching African issues and panel discussions. Topics discussed concentrated on political, economic, social and literary perspectives on African people.

This was the second time during the last six years that Cornell has hosted the NYASA conference, to which Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin expressed great enthusiasm in her opening remarks.

This year’s theme was “Transnational Discourses in the African World.” Papers were presented on “people’s experiences across boundaries, across regions, across oceans through multiple and diverse lenses,” according to Prof. Ayele Bekerie, Africana studies.

A range of scholars attended, including professional intellectuals and graduate and undergraduate students from across New York State.

Friday’s teaching workshops addressed a variety of topics, including “An African-Centered View of the African Diaspora: The African World in America” by Prof. James Turner, Africana studies; “Dimensions of Political Conflicts and Wars in Africa” by Prof. Margaret Kroma, education; “Teaching African Cultures Through African Literature” by Prof. Anne Adams, Africana studies; and “The Pedagogical Value of Culture and Identity” by Prof. Gerald Jackson, Africana studies.

Bekerie said that the teaching sessions were “well-attended,” and found of particular interest the workshop entitled “Teaching and Counseling African Resettled Refugee Children in the American School System” by Prof. Ikhram Hussein, international and public affairs, Columbia University and Brooklyn College. Hussein led the colloquium discussing how refugee students may feel and gave recommendations for ways teachers should treat them.

The panel discussions ran concurrently on both Friday and Saturday and featured students as well as professors speaking on a broad range of subjects. Nicole Ivy grad shared her paper entitled “Enter the Dragon: On Orientalism and Hip-Hop,” in which she linked the male rap artist and his desire to “conquest females with his masculine power.”

Prof. John Marah of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Brockport talked about “The Virtues and Failures in the Traditional African Education in the Context of Transnational Africa.”

In his speech, Marah talked about the tribalistic nature of the African education and how it was viewed as inferior by the Europeans, who upon settling reestablished it in a demeanor which they felt was more civilized. Prof. Mecke Nagel of SUNY-Cortland spoke on “African Prison Intellectuals and the Struggle for Freedom,” in which she described the history of prisons in Africa with respect to colonies and slavery and continued to current African-American views of prisons.

With the 28th conference to look forward to, NYASA will continue along with its primary goal of expanding the understanding of African societies at home and across the world, according to Prof. Don C. Ohadike, director of the Africana Center.

Archived article by Alexis Munoz