The first Bridging the Gap panel and public discussion, part of the Union of African Communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania 2015 Speaker Series, was a resounding success. The purpose of the event was to foster unity, understanding, and cooperation between multiple communities of African descent living in Southwestern Pennsylvania: African immigrants, African-Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans. More than 70 people attended and participated in the event held on June 6, 2015 at the Bayer Learning Center at Duquesne University. The illustrious and engaging panel included:
Mr. Elie Kihonia and Dr. Shirley Olayinka Aganga-Williams, representing the African community;
Mr. Sala Udin and Mr. Mark Adams, representing the African-American community;
Dr. Uhuru Hotep and Ms. Verna Crichlow, representing the Afro-Caribbean community;
Mr. Rufus Idris acting as moderator and Dr. Yolanda Covington-Ward, acting as the panel discussant.
A number of issues and comments were raised from both the panelists and the audience members over the course of the discussion. Some of the recurring themes include:
- People in all of the different communities being affected by historical and continuing systems of oppression, including enslavement, colonialism, and modern-day neo-colonial exclusion from global systems of power and decision-making
- Negative misconceptions and stereotypes about people in each of the groups which are perpetuated in the media, including movies, news broadcasts, etc.
- The psychological impacts of both these stereotypes and systematic oppression, leading to distrust of one another
- The physical impacts of these stereotypes and systematic oppression, leading to negative health outcomes including higher stress levels, hypertension, and other health problems
- The lack of education about Africa and other aspects of Black history in the primary and secondary school curriculum
- Lack of knowledge about past cooperation between Africans, African-Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans
When the discussions turned to solutions for bridging the gap between communities, some of the suggestions included:
- Political organizing and electing like-minded officials
- Creating a development plan for all of the Black/African communities
- Focusing on alleviating poverty
- Holding festivals at which all of the communities can participate and interact
- Creating a Black business app
- Participating in the reparations movement
- Connecting interpersonally in every life with people from different communities
- Having student volunteers teach children in Pittsburgh Public Schools about Africa
Overall, the Bridging the Gap panel demonstrates UAC’s commitment to disseminating knowledge about African immigrants and creating connections with other local communities.
SOME OF THE SUGGESTIONS MADE
Summarized by Dr. Yolanda Covington Ward
- Establishing interpersonal relationship through different activities that can better unite us such as invitations to events, partaking in activities like “ESUSU” a traditional community banking systems suggested by one of the panelists, cross cultural events , promoting and supporting each other’s businesses, encouraging business and tourism to Africa was also suggested.
- Setting up a better information dissemination system and Marketing
- Empowering people to be proactive, be involved in championing the cause to create an ample effect and working together on concrete projects that brings about further unity.
- Encouraging events such as Bridging Gap to occur in various communities more than ones a year in a progressive manner.
- Intentionality and creating a powerful presence; Pursuing professional vocations as part of intentional strategies to empower particular part of the city or communities.
- Establish economic partnership or alliances both within the city and across nations through establishing and understanding doing businesses here and in Africa
- Learn from Pan-Africanism and understand systemic problems being careful not to repeat mistakes from the past, device better and strengthened conflict resolution strategies.
- Moving forward in terms of Humility; being humble and respecting one another within our economic partnerships and sharing knowledge, recognizing our own values and be the best at what we do.