March 6—The University of Massachusetts Boston hosted the second annual “Africa Day,” with a specific focus on “Challenges to Pan Africanism: Afrophobia and Migration Within and Across Africa’s Borders.” The MC’s of the event, Prince De Makele Mounguembou and Yaa Opoku-Agyeman, gave the opening remarks, commemorating the success of another annual Africa Day and their hopes to continue this event as a campus tradition in the future. The two main Keynote Speeches of the night were given by Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, and Rahman Oladigbolu, a Boston-based Nollywood Filmmaker who directed and produced the film “Soul Sisters.”
The Graduate Student Roundtable Panel, involving students from UMass Boston’s own graduate school, centered on the discussion, “The Legacy of Colonialism and the emergence of Afrophobia.” The first question, asked by the moderator, Gifty Debordes-Jackson, a PhD candidate, asked the students to define Afrophobia and the importance of distinguishing it from other forms of xenophobia. Prince De Makele Mounguembou, a first-year Doctoral student in Global Governance and Human Security answered, “Afrophobia is the fear of a specific black person ... or when we have hatred for a person of African descent.” Ellen Busolo Milimu, a PhD student of Global Governance and Human Security pointed out that “Afrophobia exists in the sports arena as much as any other.” Dennis Jjuuko, a PhD student of Global Governance and Human Security observed that the African continent as a whole “has to transcend beyond Afrophobia to a common Africa that we envision,” upon which Nyingilanyeofori Hannah Brown, a PhD student also in Global Governance and Human Security, interjected that “a common vision is subjective to the individual,” and that the idea of a “common Africa” is actually much more intricate.
The conversation continued towards repercussions of Afrophobia. Balkissa Daouda Diallo, a PhD student in GG&HS, noted, “In the case of Afrophobia, stereotypes contribute to conflicts.” Uchenna Nwangwu, a PhD candidate in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, said that in the case of Afrophobia, we have to “be mindful that there are issues of freedom of speech,” in the case of mobilizing people.
Gifty Debordes-Jackson then transitioned the conversation to the question, “What other ideas do you have of ways to address Afrophobia?” Nyingilanyeofori Hannah Brown answered, “Education. We have to understand what happens on our ground, provide opportunities to share research, and beyond education, [we need to] think about how to build communities that coexist.” Dennis Jjuuko remarked, “Africa as a continent shares a common vision; we believe we have a journey we can take together.” Finally, Ellen Busolo Milimu stated, “I believe in the power of sports. Africa has the highest number of young people, and I would hope our leaders would harness this power when hosting sports events, that when an African country is competing, all Africans are cheering for Africa.”
The student panel was then followed by the Keynote Presentation given by Rahman Oladigbolu, who showed the audience pieces from his film, “Soul Sisters.” When asked about the impact of film-making, he said, “there’s so much that needs to be said. To provoke debate to get answers … Films give us an opportunity to make our own stories.”
The event then transitioned to the Gala, accompanied by a fashion show with clothes from Obioma Fashion. Selectah Kareem, King Melody Sounds, provided music as guests danced to afro-music. Dinner was provided by Suya Joint and Anshur Restaurant, a Nigerian and Somali restaurant, respectively.