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Reflections on The Harriet Tubman Institute's International Conference in Dakar, Senegal

Reflections on The Harriet Tubman Institute's International Conference in Dakar, Senegal

Photographer: Cyrus Sundar Singh

Written by: Omosalewa O. Olawoye

From October 9th-October 11th, 2023, the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Africa and its Diasporas (York University, Canada) and l’Institut Supérieur des Arts et des Cultures (Cheikh Anta Diop University, Senegal) hosted an interdisciplinary conference under the theme: Africa and its Diasporas’ Contributions to World Civilization. This conference welcomed academics and students around the world for rich discussions on the contributions of Africa and its diasporas.

The bilingual conference had panels on Gender, Migration and Blackness; Decolonizing Global Health and Education; and Black Resistance. Panelists include Vivien J. Bediako, Channon Oyeniran, Henry Gomez, Cyrus Sundar Singh, Sharon Henry, Amarachi Chukwu, Matthew Randolph, Gustave Rodady, and Kay Tracey. The conference had rich discussions on the narrative around Black women’s healthcare; the healing journey of people from the diaspora through the slave trade routes in Ghana; the experiences of first and second generation Ghanaian-Canadian immigrants and their emotional connections to the Motherland; exposing African and African diaspora children to their African roots through written words; the African influence in the Caribbean and Calypso as a tool of social change; the role of the African diaspora and Afrobeats in musical globalization; stories from the displaced Africville community in Halifax; the notion of Black superiority through the history of Haiti; how colourism and identity confusions are exploited in the division of Haiti and the roles of Creole and voodoo in the creation of the Haitian identity; and the racial segregation in Canada even among refugee selection.

There were two workshops in English and French on Decolonizing Museums and representations of Africans and people of Black Descent, and Debating on Decolonizing Knowledge on Africa. Here, contributions on Africa and its diaspora to education and the world were highlighted. Discussions included how to decolonize the current curriculum to include the contributions of Africa and its diasporas.

The conference ended on Wednesday with a visit to the Museum of Black Civilizations and a visit to Ile de Gorée (Gory Island). These visits were educational and participants got to go on a real-life healing journey through the slave routes in Gory Island. Overall, it was a successful conference and we look forward to many more international conferences by the Harriet Tubman Institute.