Africa Now 2019 Conference
It is no secret that for over 500 years, the wealthy continent of Africa has been and continues to be exploited - both for its resources and its peoples. However, with the boom of communication and information technology in recent years, African voices have begun to spread around the globe, and we have learned that despite the revolutionary conflicts of the mid-20th century, African nation states remain under the influence of imperial powers. These previously-colonized countries are subject to the whim of the neocolonial and neoliberal policies imposed by international, financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, by listening closely the affected, we discover that the ongoing development projects are utterly unsustainable and do not serve to truly benefit Africans.
In recognizing that current development projects are draining Africa of its natural resources, destroying its ecosystems, and exploiting its peoples, Africa Now is seeking ~$13,000 to assist in organizing our second annual conference to inspire young Black students and professionals to join the movement for sustainable, afrocentric, African development. By tapping into the network of young, Black students and professionals in Washington, we can bring together an interdisciplinary group of driven individuals to evaluate how our skills can play a role in the sustainable growth of our common, ancestral homeland.
The Africa NOW Conference -- hosted and organized in collaboration with the African Student Association, Black Student Union, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and other student organizations -- will bring together over 200, young, Black students and professionals. At the conference, we will provide them with the insights, knowledge, and resources necessary to envision sustainable ways to improve their communities in Seattle, in Africa, and across the Diaspora. Through an all-star panel, dynamic breakout sessions, and networking, we’ll inspire and equip young Black professionals to fight for a sustainable future for Africa.
The conference will be held in the Ethnic Cultural Center from 10am - 5pm. Lunch and refreshments will be provided throughout the day.
The first annual Africa Now conference was successful in gathering over 100, mostly Black or African, UW students to discuss and explore resources and tactics for sustainable, afrocentric development in their communities in Seattle, Africa, or the larger African Diaspora. For this year’s conference, we hope to repeat the strategies that helped us to cultivate student interest and involvement last year, while learning from the approaches that lacked the desired impact. Our goal is to involve as many interested and open-minded students as possible, as long as they are motivated to fight for sustainable development projects that center Africans and other oppressed groups.
The most important strategy for ensuring UW students are interested in attending the conference is for it to be organized by students. As students, the organizing board is aware of the general interests and concerns that our peers share; this allows us to target speakers, facilitators, and resources that can best address those needs. Given the success of last years event, dozens of students were interested in getting involved in the conference again. The level of interest required the Program Directors to institute an application process to select this year’s organizing board.
However, those students that weren’t selected to be a part of the organizing board, will still be able to contribute to making this project a reality if they so choose. We will reach out to the previous applicants as well as other students to help volunteer at the event on the day of. We will need volunteers to help set up the spaces, check-in attendees, and distribute conference resources - among other tasks. Beyond seeking volunteers from prior applicants, we will reach out to our collaborators (e.g. the Black Student Union, African Student Association, African Youth Coalition, etc.) to recruit volunteers.
Beyond serving as organizers or volunteers, the best way for students to get involved in the Africa Now Project is by attending the conference itself. The conference will be a great opportunity for students to learn about afrocentric, sustainable development projects and how to be involved in making that a reality. Despite the afrocentric nature of this event, the strategies and tactics of the conference can be applied to communities and countries that do not belong to the African diaspora. As such, Africa Now will seek to reach out to FIUTS, FASA, MEChA and other student organizations that serve students and communities of color. These groups could not only explore strategies for sustainable development, but they could also learn how to be better allies for Black/African people.
Education & Outreach:
The UW and Seattle-area African student population will learn about Africa Now through a variety of channels. At the current moment, awareness of Africa Now has mainly been spread via social media and word of mouth; additionally, the organizing board is actively collaborating with other Black and African student organizations on campus to ensure their student bodies are aware of the event; we are also planning to host at least 2 lead up events to promote awareness.
Our first collaboration was the Black student “Friendsgiving” event during the middle of Fall Quarter. Breaking bread with other students on campus was our first opportunity to spread the word about Africa Now and our future lead-up events. The first lead-up event we are planning will take place on January 17th at the African Student Association (ASA) meeting. The event, organized in collaboration with the ASA, Africa Now, and African Youth Coalition, will focus on identifying the challenges of working in/with African communities. The discussion will give the UW community its first taste of Africa Now in 2019.
Following the first lead-up discussion, Africa Now will be involved in the annual Black Diaspora meeting organized in Black History Month by the Black Student Union. As co-hosts, we will help lead the discussion around what it means to be a part of the African Diaspora; in particular, we want the students to consider how they can play a role in making sustainable, afrocentric development projects a reality - both in communities on the Continent and our local communities in/around Seattle. We also plan to organize a second lead-up event independent that will take place on the Seattle Central College campus in an effort to expand Africa Now beyond the UW community.
These discussions will allow the UW students in attendance to get directly involved in shaping Africa Now. At the discussions, we will have surveys available to gauge interest in the lead-up events as well as to learn what students hope to gain from the Africa Now conference. This will allow us to ensure our speakers/events are tailored appropriately to our audience. Furthermore, they will help to eliminate any blind spots our organizing board might have.
Other than attending the lead-up events and filling out pre-conference surveys, the best way for UW students to get involved with the project will be by attending the conference itself. The Africa Now Conference is being organized with Black/African UW students in mind. While we will not restrict access to this conference, the conference theme and topic will be entirely afrocentric. We intend to reach out to students from other underrepresented and marginalized groups; because, Africa Now and the African Youth Coalition, along with many other Black/African organizations, believe that Black Liberation will inevitably lead to the liberation of all other oppressed groups. By exploring afrocentric, sustainable strategies for development in Black/African communities, other oppressed/minority groups can learn tactics for opposing the status quo and centering their peoples’ voices in projects that take place in and outside of their communities.
At the end of the conference, attendees will be required to fill out a post-conference survey in order to receive their complimentary, conference t-shirts. By requiring surveys to be filled out, we’ll be receiving as much feedback as possible, and we can use these results - in comparison with pre-conference surveys - to learn methods for enhancing future programming. These results will also be used in grant reporting and general conference evaluation.
- Environmental Justice
- Community Development
- Cultural Representation
- Social Justice
(See previous sections for discussions on the organization of our project team and discussion of project maintainence)
The central focus of Africa Now is raising a local awareness about the unsustainability of global development projects, especially those taking place in African countries and communities. We want attendees to recognize the unique position of Africans - on the Continent and throughout the diaspora - to play a role in addressing the problems that arise from those projects. Africa Now sees development as having 4 key areas of impact that determine whether or not a project is sustainable: environmental, economic, political, and social. Each of these aspects is important to ensure that projects are truly sustainable for the people, their country, their land, and the world. While the political and social areas are typically more locally/regionally isolate, the environmental and economic impacts and pressures can be - and typically are - global in nature.
The traditional focus of sustainability is on the impacts that are arising from global, economic development projects and climate change. The economic impacts of development go far beyond the jobs and wealth that are created by technology innovation and resource exploitation. Economics has to do with the control, consumption, distribution, and exploitation of resources, goods, and services, and, in relation to this, economic sustainability is typically thought of as combating global poverty and wealth inequality by affecting the utilization and distribution of regional resources. In this way, economic sustainability is deeply interconnected with environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability has to do with preserving local environments and ecosystems, and promoting a global awareness of the issues arising from climate change. Given that extracting and utilizing natural resources contributes to the further degradation of the global climate, any effort to bring about environmental sustainability must be connected to global and local economies.
While economic and environmental efforts are typically concerned with a more global mindset, social and political sustainability projects are focused on local and regional levels. Social and political sustainability are typically concerned with the capabilities, rights, and freedoms afforded to Africans and other peoples. While there are many different facets to social sustainability (cultural practices, land rights, food scarcity, etc), we believe it important to focus on the health-related aspects of society. Given the ongoing health concerns in African nations (e.g. malaria, HIV/AIDS, mental health, lack access to adequate resources, etc.), it is crucial that Africans take major strides towards addressing these issues within their own communities to break from their dependency on aid from foreign governments and NGOs.
Additionally, given the pressures that foreign governments and NGOs place on African nations, there is an urgent need for African nations to gain true independence. Ever since previously-colonized countries - both inside and outside of Africa - gained their independence, the imperial powers have been using loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to impose neoliberal policies on their former colonies. This has resulted in an illusion of independence in the majority of African Nations, which greatly restricts their ability to deal with sustainability issues, including climate change.
Given the fact that previously colonized countries are the most adversely affected by climate change and that Africans populate many of those regions, it would make sense to raise a trans-national awareness about the role that young Africans can play in contributing to sustainability locally and globally. We believe - given the natural humanitarian tendencies of many African cultures and communities - that afrocentric development will naturally lead to sustainability However, this will only occur if young Africans around the globe begin to have honest and difficult conversations about the ongoing, unsustainable projects that are continually affecting our communities.
The holistic, Africa Now conference will explore the four areas of sustainability (economic, environmental, social, and political) through a series of workshops, a panel discussion, and an inclusive resource fair. There will be four conference workshops, one for each area of sustainability, taking place during two breakout sessions; this means that Africa Now attendees will have to make a choice as to which areas of sustainability are most applicable to them, their work, and their lives.
The Africa Now organizing board has already begun to identify and contact potential speakers for the 2019 conference workshops and panel discussion. The following list of speakers are the individuals we have presently identified that could lead workshops in the relevant areas. As you can see, for many of the categories we have identified multiple potential speakers, and we hope to - where possible - pull one of each speaker to serve on our panel discussion such that the panel is as holistic as the conference itself.
- Isaiah Udutong
- Nourah Yonous
- Benjamin Fernandes
- Christy Abram
- Sitawa Wafula
- Claire Gwayi
- Francis Abugbilla
- Kehinde Andrews
- Martin Bagaram
- Paulo Ivo Garrido
Explain how the impacts will be measured:
The 2019 Africa Now organizing board has been working hard towards making the 2nd annual conference a reality since September of 2018. Since the end of September when the full organizing board was assembled, we have been actively working towards establishing what the conference will look like as well as putting together all of the initial details prior to contacting our potential speakers, facilitators, and resource fair individuals. Figure 1 (also included in supplementary documents) includes an extended - but not complete - gantt chart detailing much of the organizing activities that still need to be completed prior to, and following, the conference.
While there is still much to be done prior to the conference being underway, the board believes that the project is more than underway. The remaining details will be worked out by the extraordinary organizing board that was assembled for this year’s conference. The tremendous success of the inaugural conference saw Africa Now really take off in its own right. As such, there was a slight restructuring of the host organization and the way the board is assembled. The inaugural conference was hosted by the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, but we realized that it would be more advantageous if it were hosted by a grassroots community organization. As such, the primary host of the conference is the Seattle African Youth Coalition (AYC).
The AYC is also partnering with on-campus organizations (e.g. Phi Beta Sigma, Black Student Union, African Student Association, etc.) to promote and organize the event. Many of the outstanding members of this years organizing board are affiliated with one of those organizations. Having cross-campus affiliations as well as building coalitions with off-campus organization has allowed Africa Now to broaden its audience and establish deep ties with the Black and African youth around Seattle.
The full project team and organizing board is comprised of the following positions and the people occupying them:
- Co-Program Director: Kemi Akinlosotu
- Co-Program Director: Hawi Nemomssa
- Advancement and Treasure Chair: Tyler Valentine
- Secretary: Michelle Mvundura
- Community Engagement: Mariam Tesfaye
- Marketing Strategist: Deborah Keme
- Graphic Designer: Ebneazer Tsegaye
- General Officer: Mihret Haile
- General Officer: Feven Gurmu
- Program Advisor: Wole Akinlosotu
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:
|Item||Cost per Item||Quantity||Total Cost|
|African Chamber of Commerce|
|Africans at microsoft|
|Ethiopian Community Center|
|City of Seattle Race & Social Justice Initiative|
|One Vibe Africa|
|She Leads Africa|
|Front and Centered|
|Task||Timeframe||Estimated Completion Date|