A cocktail of spirited cultural drumming and dancing, passionate poetry recitals, and stimulating intellectual debates and discussions marked the Third Biennial Kwame Nkrumah International Conference held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond Campus recently.
The cultural performances, poetry recitals, and intellectual debates kept participants, including those who skyped in from Africa and the USA, literally permanently on their feet, cheering, clapping, and applauding throughout the three days of the conference.
The conference, which was held from 20th to 22nd August, 2014 under theme “Re-engaging the African Diaspora: Pan-Africanism in the Age of Globalization,” brought together scholars, researchers, civic society organizers, and students to debate and discuss the causes, effects, and dynamics of the scourge of brain-drain in Africa.
The main highlight of the conference was a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the late anti-Apartheid activist, former president of South African, and world statesman. Paying tribute to the stellar achievements of Mandela and the legacies of the Anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, keynote speaker, Jay Naidoo, former cabinet minister in the Mandela government called for integrity and inspiration from political leadership in Africa and elsewhere.
“A Tribute to Mandela,” which was the brainchild of co-organizer, Dr. Wendy Royal of the Department of English Language Studies at KPU comprised a drum café, a colloquium and a panel of community activists who discussed homophobia, education and multiculturalism.
For the past four years, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) in British Columbia, Canada and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana have co-hosted a highly successful the biennial conference dedicated to the political and intellectual legacies of Kwame Nkrumah, one of the illustrious leaders of Africa. The two universities have been taking turns to host the conference.
This summer it was the turn of KPU to host the conference (http://www.kpu.ca/knic), which is dubbed Kwame Nkrumah International Conference. The 3rd Biennial Kwame Nkrumah International Conference was held at KPU’s Richmond campus and it attracted over 150 participants from four continents.
Also co-hosting this year’s conference was Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in the United States, which plans to host the next conference.
Participants discussed and shared ideas on how to turn the brain-drain loss into a brain-gain gain for the mutual benefit of Continental Africans and people of African descent in the Diaspora.
Describing the conference as “extremely fruitful,” Mbjiba Frehiwot, a panelist noted that the content presented can serve as the blue print for Pan-African organizations and governments, however, in order for this to become a reality these scholars must be supported by both the Pan-African Movement and governments throughout the African world.” (http://panafricandevelopment.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/2014-kwame-nkrumah-international-conference/)
For part, KPU instructor, Andrea Mackenzie, said: “Kudos to co-chairs Wendy Royal and Charles Quist-Adade! We were so fortunate to have had this opportunity at KPU to listen/learn, discuss and reflect. Thank you for making it happen! In understanding the Mandela legacy, we were reminded that “only the strong know peace and compassion” and also, that community activism is “driven by volunteerism and sacrifice, not by careerism”.
“The third Biennial was another blast! It was indeed an intellectually stimulating and culturally invigorating conference,” remarked KPU Sociology student and conference assistant, Nubwa Wathanafa. I am lucky not only to assist in organizing it, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to present a paper,” she added. Nubwa’s fellow conference assistant, Emma Cleveland, chipped in: “This indeed was a great conference. I am proud to have been part of it, not only as an assistant, but also as a presenter. My paper was very well received and I treasure the encouraging feedback from the participants of our panel.”
In the welcome address, Dr. Arthur Fallick, Acting Director of KPU’s Office of Research and Scholarship thanked the organizers for the hard work they put in in organizing the conference and wished the participants fruitful deliberations. Attending the opening Wine and Cheese ceremony was Dean of Arts, Dr. Diane Purvey, as well as a number KPU faculty and staff.
Prayers and Libation
The opening ceremony was highlighted with libation poring by Mr. Kofi Ohene Asante, an elder of the Ghanaian Canadian Community of British Columbia, a prayer by Darlene Willier on behalf of Elder Leyketen of the Kwantlen Nation and an enthusiastically received musical performance by former Soweto Gospel Choir member, Jabulile Dladla and her band.
In his opening address, co-organizer, Dr. Charles Quist-Adade of the Sociology Department of KPU emphasized the significance of honoring Nelson Mandela at a conference dedicated to Nkrumah. He said it was “proper and fitting to honour and celebrate Mandela the life and achievement at this conference” because “both leaders symbolize two different, yet interconnected phases of African liberation and independence. While Nkrumah spearheaded the African independence struggle in the sixties, Mandela inspired the anti-Apartheid movement, which led to South Africa’s independence 20 years ago.”
Dr. Quist-Adade added: “Both were international statesmen who fought for human dignity, social justice, and equality for all, irrespective of colour, ethnicity, religion, gender, or country. Both were Pan-Africanists who sought to unite people of African descent in their struggle for political, social, economic, and cultural development and empowerment.
Dr. Quist-Adade thanked the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Kwantlen’s Faculty of Arts, the Office of Research and Scholarship, the Sociology Department and the Coca-Cola Foundation funded the conference.
In welcoming the delegates to the conference, co-chair Dr. Wendy Royal noted, “We are all united by our strong commitment to the countries of our birth and to the desire to see them prosper and thrive.” She added that she hoped the conference would build bridges between Continental Africans and people of African descent in the Diaspora, between Canadians and Africans and between academics and non-governmental organizations.”
Dr. Royal also thanked the Kwantlen Students’ Association, Kwantlen’s ACA Faculty, Nando’s restaurants, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and African Breese Specialty Foods for their generous support.
The conference attracted a large number of participants from the general public, the Black community, and students from sister universities, including the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.
Background: The conference was a sequel to, and built on, the very successful Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded inaugural Kwame Nkrumah International Conference held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the summer of 2010 and the 2nd Biennial KNIC held at KNUST in the fall of 2012, The two conferences attracted a combined total of over 250 participants globally. The Journal of Pan-African Studies has published a special issue on the KNIC1 http://www.jpanafrican.com/vol4no10.htm and the Cambridge Scholars Publishing plans to publish a combined volume on the proceedings of the two conference by the end of the year or early in the New Year.
By Charles Quist-Adade, PhD