Report – “US-Africa Solidarity in the 21st Century: A Strategic Discussion”

* The theme was “US-Africa Solidarity in the 21st Century: A Strategic Discussion.” We understood this in the sense of Samora Machel’s words: “International solidarity is not an act of charity: it is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective.” One of the organizers of the event, who could not be there because he was leading a trip to Brazil, South Africa, and Mozambique, was Prexy Nesbitt. Friday evening opened with a video interview with Prexy, by one of the many students he has inspired. You can watch it at

* The event was made possible by the fact that the Eastern Educational Resource Collaborative (East Ed; agreed to act as fiscal sponsor, making the US-Africa Network its project and assuming responsibility for financial management. There were also contributions from individuals and grants from the New World Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Trust Africa.

* We met at Kalamazoo College, hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and stayed in a dormitory at Western Michigan University. We were welcomed the first evening by two of our group, Lisa Brock, co-director of the Arcus Center, and Don Cooney, Kalamazoo City Commissioner and professor of social work at Western Michigan University, as well as by Dr. Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, President of Kalamazoo College, who recalled her close ties with Nigeria where she began her academic career at the University of Ife.

* There were 49 participants, traveling to Kalamazoo from 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and from four African countries.

* Even with twice the number of participants, there is no way the group could “represent” all the diversity of both the United States and Africa. But, as you can see by the photos here, we did indeed have a diverse group, including ages ranging from somewhere in the 20s up to 80. While only six of our group flew to the meeting from the African continent, we included people born in (or with parents from) Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, as well as China, Haiti, Jamaica, and the USA.

* The topics discussed in plenary issue sessions are laid out in the attached documents. These served as backdrop to the “action discussions” facilitated by Anita Wheeler and Imani Countess. Each of these was primarily conducted in break-out groups, with relatively brief report-backs to plenary sessions.

* The consultation was not intended to and did not result in a written “declaration” or in a polished action plan ready for implementation. It was intended to begin a networking process to be continued over the coming months and years. Nevertheless, there was clear consensus on several points:

  1. Ways must be found to continue and expand the communication across geographical distances and engagement with different issues, with the same spirit of mutual respect and commitment to facilitate common action on issues of social justice.
  2. For the time being, at least, the structure should be that of a decentralized network rather than establishing a new formal non-governmental organization. The existing coordinating committee was charged with the responsibility of coming up with a draft network structure and strategic plan by the fall of 2013.
  3. Participants in the meeting, including those in three “issue break-out groups” convened on Monday morning, were urged to come up with specific proposals for action and follow-up, discuss them among themselves, and consider what proposals might be brought to the wider group. While further discussion was necessary to determine the criteria for a campaign or sub-group to use the US-Africa Network brand, as well as plans to further expand the Network, it was agreed that sub-groups should also begin with plans for common action on the issues rather than waiting on “central” direction from the coordinating committee.

* After the consultation, Anyango Reggy reports, “a group of six spent five remarkable days in Chicago. The group included Andrew Mushita (from Zimbabwe), Tendai Mushita (from Zimbabwe), Ruth Castel Branco (from Mozambique), Liepollo Pheko (from South Africa), Brenda Mofya (from Zambia living in Ethiopia), and myself (from Kenya/USA). Special thanks to Basil Clunie who was there to assist throughout the trip, and to those who received us at a number of activist organizations working on a range of issues. These included the United African Organization; the Chicago Anti-Eviction campaign; and the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative. Through these dialogues, we were able to draw parallels between some of the most pressing issues in the U.S. and on the African continent, such as food sovereignty (food deserts), land grabbing (gentrification), and privatization of education (school closures). We also visited Southside Chicago, including Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which houses Chicago’s oldest African-American congregation. At Quinn Chapel, the pastor, Reverend James M. Moody, shared with us the significant role his church played in Chicago’s abolitionist movement.”

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