“People of African Descent: Recognition, Empowerment and Equity” Conference

Behnaz Mirzai Associate Professor of History organized a conference entitled “People of African Descent: Recognition, Empowerment and Equity” September 22–23, 2014. It provided an opportunity to bring together leading scholars, UNESCO delegates, policy makers, and students to explore the related subjects of the global ethnocultural and identity formation of enslaved Africans and the complex intercultural relations of the African diaspora communities.

Jack Lightstone (President and Vice-Chancellor), Douglas Kneale (Dean, Faculty of Humanities) and Mark Spencer (Chair, Department of History) opened the conference with welcome greetings to the participants.

Brian McMullan (The Mayor of St. Catharines) addressed the opening remarks. It was followed up by Edward Alpers’s keynote presentation entitled “From Bilal to Barack: What are the implications for recognition, empowerment and equity in the African diaspora?.” This conference continued by a session on Africans in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, comprising Ehud Toledano (Tel Aviv University) and John Thabiti Willis (Carleton College). A plenary round-table session led by Ali Moussa-Iye(History and Memory for Dialogue Section, UNESCO Headquarter, Paris) and Professor Sir Hilary Beckles (Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados; and Vice President of the UNESCO Slave Route Project) outlined strategies for Promoting recognition, justice, development and the human rights of people of African descent.

The third session, on Colonialism and Nationalism, included contributions from Bonny Ibhawoh and Arua Oko Omaka (McMaster University) and Dolana Mogadime (Brock University).

The second day began with a session on Justice and Literature consisting of presentations by Carrie Walker (University of Nevada), Fouad Mami(University of Adrar, Algeria), and Awet Tewelde Weldemichael (Queen’s University). This was followed by Challenge for Change, in which Dana Elizabeth Weiner (Wilfrid Laurier University), Karlee Sapoznik (York University) and David Wilkins (University of Hull) presented their research.

The conference was sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, McMaster University and Brock University.