I have not been okay. Events over the past week in the United States, where I reside and where The Africa Center’s physical space is located, have rattled my core.
Across the street from our building is Central Park, where a Black man was falsely accused of threatening a white woman’s life. Millions have seen the video of a police officer kneel on George Floyd’s neck until there was no more life left in him. Protesters have taken to the streets to express their anger over the systemic racism and the subsequent lack of humanity to which it leads. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard,” and time and time again, people all over the world have flooded into the streets in ways some will never understand, to make sure that someone, that anyone, is listening.
At The Africa Center, we understand and acknowledge the long struggle of Black Americans for full recognition of their humanity and citizenship – which was not officially recognized by law until the mid-1960s. The hard work of Black American people has inspired campaigns for freedom and solidarity across the African Diaspora. Institutional and structural oppression remains prevalent throughout the African continent and throughout the world, and it is up to all of us to ensure an injustice anywhere is seen and understood as an injustice everywhere–also critical words spoken by Dr. King.
I, and our team remain committed to serving as a platform for the discussions that help us process the complexities of our experiences and the world in which we live, specifically as they relate to African people and those of African descent. There is no denying that at the intersection of policy, economics, and culture, strategies and solutions can be found that will lead us toward a better, more equitable future.
I am excited that our upcoming conversation on June 2, between Wayétu Moore and Luvvie Ajayi will include these topics as they discuss “Third Culturalism,” the term that refers to the experience of people raised in a culture other than their parents’, and Moore’s new memoir, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women. I’m also looking forward to joining our New York City partner institutions on Museum Mile on June 9 for the Virtual Museum Mile Festival, that will include a conversation between Dr. Jessica B. Harris, curator of African/American: Making the Nation’s Table (our collaboration with the Museum of Food and Drink) and Pierre Thiam, executive chef and co-owner of Teranga, the fast-casual dining concept located inside The Africa Center.
Both conversations, and many of our past programs, evoke a philosophy at the core of our mission – that what we experience today is shaped by decisions of the past and can significantly influence the character of our future.
Thank you for your commitment to our work. I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
Uzodinma Iweala, M.D.
Chief Executive Officer, The Africa Center