FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Africa/America

Recently I have had the great privilege to work with some of the 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows, a select group of young sub-Saharan African leaders ages 25-35 placed for six weeks at about 40 universities around the US. The young leaders are electrifying.

The opening ceremony, some weeks ago, featured some of the world’s best drummers—Ghanaian—and the usual welcomes from university officials. Then came the opening address by one of the cohort at Portland State University, a young man—not even 30 yet—from Sierra Leone, Ansumana Bangura. He was a 12-year-old boy when the rebels came for his father during the horrific war of the 1990s. His father was at work so they hacked off the boy’s right arm.

Imagine being brutalized, living in wartime, driven from the country to live as an amputee refugee for four years, and repatriated only because the host country’s citizens were suddenly told that “all Sierra Leoneans are terrorists,” and all the refugees had to flee again.

Ansu, who works with slum children in Freetown (capital of Sierra Leone) is a brilliant public speaker, forceful, charismatic, with rhetorical power that connects instantly, stressing equal access and equal opportunity for every child. He is the very definition of resiliency, which is the hallmark of the best of Africa right now.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) has forged many new deep connections at Portland State University and, I’ll wager, at all the other host universities around the US. Beyond that, I’ve observed the Fellows developing profound relationships with my fellow Portlanders and I’ll similarly bet that all host communities are also now benefitting from these new relationships with young African leaders from all sectors of all sub-Sarharan African countries. I watch as a young Nigerian pursues knowledge of best practices for floating homes, an innovation that both promises housing relief in his homeland but also a threat if poorly regulated (“That’s how it is now,” he told me). And a young environmental official from Ethiopia engages with public officials and public policy professors and practitioners to seek out the newest US methods of dialing up commuter efficiency while dialing down carbon footprint. She has both science and development degrees and is drawn to Portland’s model in several areas, just as other MW Fellows are learning from other communities across the US.

The MWF grew out of President Obama’s surprise visit to the late Nelson Mandela and began with 500 fellows in 2014, the same in 2015, and expanded to 1000 this year. We are confident that this initiative will weave vital, enduring mutually beneficial relationships, individually and organizationally, in direct links, Africa to America.

While this is a State Department-funded-and-conducted Obama initiative, there is an excellent chance that it will continue, depending on the 2016 election. In our enlightened self-interest, I hope Americans make the choice that will indeed result in this ongoing exchange that ties emerging African leaders from politics to architecture to agriculture to banking to education to energy development and much more to America. Our assumptions about Africa often flip when we meet young women and men who work on peace, human rights, gay and transgender rights, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy, and mix in traditional Africa wisdom and ancient sustainable technologies hybridized with the latest high tech advances.

Continuing the MWF will be good for Africans and good for Americans. Africa is an incredibly rich continent with Russia, China, and America all vying for the most favored status with many of the 54 countries on the continent—this initiative goes a long ways toward strengthening the healthy, positive, peaceful connections that will advantage more Americans and more Africans. Anything else would be a pity.

More articles by:

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail