By MCPHILIPS NWACHUKWU
The three day international conference on the theme, Africa and the Diaspora in the New Millennium held at the University of Missouri, St Louis, United States of America by the Centre for Black African Art and Civilisation ( CBAAC) in conjunction with E Desmond Lee Endowed Professorship of African/ African-American Studies and International Studies Program at the University of Missouri- St. Louis and Pan African Strategic and Policy Research Group (PANAFSTRAG) Nigeria has come and gone. But the memory will linger for a long time.
This particular programme came at the right time. It did not only come on the eve of America’s election that brought an African American, Hussein Obama to power a second time, but at a time when the issue of America’s foreign policy relationship with Africa has become a raving debate.
The choice of America for this year’s conference is also very apt when viewed from the historic role that America as the flagship of the new world played in the inglorious human trade that led to the shipment of many black sons and daughters as slaves the new world.
When it is said that the Diaspora blacks make up Africa’s 6th continent, it is rightly believed that over 80% of the citizens of this Africa’s Diaspora continent live in America. The idea behind the conference therefore is anchored on the need to harness the immense potential deriving from this relationship for the mutual development of Africans at home and Africans in the Diaspora.
“Our decision to organize a conference around this theme is informed by the need to address the challenges and opportunities created by the phenomenon of global linkages and transnational networks that impact and shape identities, cultural heritages and relationships between Africans and the people of African descents worldwide.”, said Babawale, Director General of CBAAC in his welcome address.
This salvaging mission to God’s own country of America by CBAAC and its partners has become the defining a programme since the inception of agenda setting Director, Babawale. This mission of reclaiming of Diaspora blacks has equally been taken to the twin cities of Rio de Janeiro and Bahai in Brazil as well as in Trinidad and Tobago.
The success of this intellectual braining storming which brings together the best of scholars from different academic disciplines from across Africa, Europe, Caribbean , South and North America has since begun to yield encouraging results.
It is suspected in many quarters that the level of economic and diplomatic ties that Nigeria has today attained with Brazil can not be divorced from the two productive conferences held in Brazil which resulted in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries in areas of economic, technical, educational and cultural cooperation.
Against the background of previous CBAAC’s achievements from these conferences and the continued need to harness the huge professional human and capital resources of Africans in the Diaspora for the development of home continent, the three days meeting took time to re-engage issues of under development, racism and xenophobia.
After the three day of scholarly brain storming, a communiqué was issued , which recommended the following measures:
“Those activist scholars, civil society organizations and the press should critically re-engage African governments to make them proactive, transformational and accountable to their people. Scholars should deepen their knowledge about typically African epistemology and employ African systems of thought to provide explanations for Social Science issues of development and democracy in Africa.
That African intellectuals, research institutes, cultural agencies, public intellectuals, mass media and engaged individuals should design an Afro centric model for the creation of a supra national consciousness based on the intrinsic values of African culture to provide a counter discourse to the existing ideology of racial inequality, stigmatization and intolerance.
That in view of the failure of existing methodology, the UN should bring activities associated with the declaration of 2011 as the International Year of People of African Descent and decade following, away from the cozy conference rooms to the public domains in Africa and the Diaspora.
That existing linkages between Africa institutions and their counterparts in the Diaspora should be strengthened and deepened to promote a better understanding of African social realities.
That the African Union should create opportunities for Africa and Diaspora cooperation to address contemporary problems of HIV/AIDS, public health challenges and youth empowerment, gender matters and not just money remittances.”
Many important dignitaries and scholars that graced the occasion include; Professor Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States of America, High Chief Edem Duke, Honourable Minister for Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Professor Niyi Coker of the University of Missouri, St Louis, Cave Hill from Barbados and Professor Union Edebri, for Director General of CBAAC and Professor Sir Hillary Beckley.