Dr. Edmund Abaka
Department of History; Tel: (305) 284-3702;
Preliminary Conference Report International Conference on the Role of the African Youth on the Continent and in the Diaspora in the 21st Century
Ismael Musah Montana AASC 2000 Local Organizing Committee, York University, Canada & Edmund Abaka National Executive Committee, University of Miami, Florida The International Conference on The Role of the African Youth on the Continent and in the Diaspora in the 21st Century took place at York University from May 26-28, 2000. It was the 12th Annual All-African Students' conference, and was held under the auspices of the African Studies Program, Founders College, York University. It was co-sponsored by several departments and offices at York University. These include: Office of Student Affairs, Centre for Race and Ethnic Relations, Centre For Human Rights and Equity, York International, Founders College, Office of the Vice President Academic Affairs, York Federation of Students, York University Black Students Alliance, YORK/UNESCO Nigerian Hinterland Project, Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CERLAC), Student Copy Centre, University Advancement-Media Relations Department, Senate Travel and Information Technology Service, (ITS).
One of the aims of the All-African Students' Conference is to develop strategies to deal effectively with some of the most pressing problems facing Africa and the African Diaspora. As the first conference of the new century, AASC 2000 was mandated to set the tone for subsequent conferences and to insert the youth squarely in the political, economic and social discourses on Africa and the African Diaspora in a very proactive and result-oriented fashion. The conference exceeded expectations in terms of scope, depth of coverage and level of participation.
In an innovative development, AASC 2000 at York began when over 250 youth from Local High Schools in Toronto descended on Vari Hall on May 26, for a whole day of seminars and workshops. The atmosphere was electrifying when the Co-ordinator of the African Studies Program at York University, Professor Pablo Idahosa, and AASC organizers welcomed the youth to the commodious Vari Hall, and to York University. The young minds had come to engage one another and the eagerness with which they went about that task was indeed a precursor to what would happen in the main conference.
In general, the papers presented at the conference reflected the overall theme and covered areas such as: Politics, Economics, Technology and Sustainable Development, Youth and Leadership in the 21st Century, Gender Issues, Family Issues, and Culture.
Outline and Structure
The conference followed this outline:
The conference was formally opened at 7: 30 p.m. on May 26, 2000. Professor Pablo Idahosa welcomed all the participants who had come from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Central and Latin America, Canada and the United States, to the beautiful campus of York University. Welcome remarks were also made on behalf of the AASC Local Organizing Committee by Ismael Musa Montana, LOC Co-ordinator. Deborah Hobson, Vice President, Enrolment and Students Services, York University, also welcomed participants on behalf of York University, and hoped that they would not only enjoy the conference but also the hospitality of the University. Since AASC 2000 was a conference in which the youth took center-stage, the President of the York Federation of Students, Hazrat Ghafour, was on hand to welcome the delegates, especially, the student-delegates. On behalf of the city of Toronto, Peter Li Preti, Councilor, and Local representative, delivered a message from Mayor Mel Lastman. He also presented a plaque to AASC 2000 in recognition of AASC's role in the community.
Following the opening ceremony, Dr. Edmund Abaka, York Alumnus and Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, delivered the inaugural address on the topic: "The Youth and Democracy Movements in Contemporary Africa." He outlined the role the youth had played in the democratization process in the past and stressed that youth participation in governance as well as in the democratization process is even more pressing in the 21st century.
The keynote address was given by Dr. Carolyn Cooper, Senior Lecturer, Department of Literature in English, the University of the West Indies (MONA), Jamaica. Dr. Cooper is the coordinator of MONA's embryonic Reggae Studies Center and the author of Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender and the 'Vulgar' Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. Dr. Cooper's presentation, "'No Matter Where Yu Come From': National Origin and Racial Identity in Pan-Africanist Reggae," was a powerful and inspirational piece that captured one of the central tenets of the AASC.
His Excellency, André Jacquet, South African High Commissioner to Canada, was represented by the First Secretary of South African High Commission in Ottawa. Other prominent personalities at the conference were: His Excellency, Ambassador Rachid Driss, President, Association of International Studies, President of the Tunisian Human Rights Commission and former Tunisian Ambassador to the United Nations; David Commissiong, special envoy of the Government of Barbados to Africa. The guest speakers included Dr. Sulley Gariba, University of Development Studies Ghana/Carleton University, Ontario, Canada. An international specialist with over 15 years of experience in development projects in Africa and with international development agencies including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the World Bank and other global partners in development, Dr. Gariba has also been working with Trent University, Canada, to implement international teaching and development internship program for Canadian youth. Epsy Campbell, President of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Women's Network, San Hose, Costa Rica and Mirtha Colon, Secretary of Women's issues, Central American Black Organization (CABO) and President of Hondurans against Aids, were among other guest speakers who represented the Caribbean and Latin America. Also in attendance were Dr. Julius Ihovbere, University of Toronto alumnus, and now with Ford Foundation, and Prof. Okon Akiba of Ohio State University, and formerly with the African Studies Program, York University. Professor Akiba was elected the new Faculty advisor for the All-African Students' Conference, following the retirement of Professor. Clarence J. Munford of the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Among the important aspects of conference at York was the fact that that AASC 2000 was attended by students, community members, NGO representatives, members of the diplomatic community, politicians, and several renowned scholars from Africa and the diaspora. The conference organizers hoped that they would pass on their generations of rich experience to the youth and listen to the ideas of the youth about the myriad problems facing Africa and the diaspora. And together, they would come up with effective strategies for the 21st century.
In all, AASC 2000 attracted about 250 High School students to the Youth/High School sessions. In addition, over 170 participants, including more than 100 student delegates and guest speakers, came to York University from various institutions in Canada, Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Rwanda, Uganda etc), Europe, the Caribbean, Latin and Central America, and the United States.
There were three Plenary sessions which alternated with concurrent
student sessions. The first plenary session began on Saturday May
27, and was chaired by Prof. Julius Ihonvebere, Ford Foundation, New
York. It featured three speakers:
Concurrent Student Session
The student sessions were divided into three, two on Saturday May 27, 2000, and one on Sunday May 28. Each session consisted of three concurrent student panels.
CONCURRENT STUDENT SESSION 1
PANEL 1: TECHNOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA AND THE DIASPORA (Vari Hall 2005)
Moderator: Sarah Kibaalya, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada
PANEL 2: YOUTH AND LEADERERSHIP: CHALLENGES, DIRECTION, AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES (Ross South 137)
Moderator: Farid Omar, University of Toronto, Canada
PANEL 3: CULTURE ( Ross South 201)
Moderator: Remi Warner, York University, Canada
CONCURRENT STUDENT SESSION 2 (1:30pm- 3:15pm)
PANEL 1: POLITICS (Ross South 203)
Moderator: Alimesse Mundulai, York University, Canada
PANEL 2-SPECIAL - ECONOMICS/POLITICS (Ross South 169)
Moderator: Gamal Adam, Anthropology Department, York University,
CONCURRENT STUDENT SESSIONS 3 (12:15pm- 2:00pm)
PANEL 1: SPECIAL - FAMILY/HEALTH (Vari Hall 3003)
PANEL 2: GENDER ISSUES (Vari Hall 3004)
Moderator: Sharon Boastwin, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York
PANEL 3- POLITICS (Vari Hall 3005)
Moderator: Lansana Gberie, University of Toronto, Canada
The participation of the local community in AASC represents one of the innovative aspects of the organization's work in recent years. Participants pledged to continuation this initiative. A community workshop was conducted by Colin Ninvalle, President, Xcelcare Homecare Services, Toronto, Canada and David A. Joyette, President, Quality Business Solutions Inc., Toronto, Canada. The presentation was titled: AFRICAN SYMBOLS IN THE MARKET PLACE: A PERSPECTIVE ON TODAY'S BUSINESS SOLUTIONS FOR PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT
The conference ended on Sunday afternoon, May 28. The closing remarks were delivered by:
AASC 2000 at York University provided York students -- graduates and undergraduates alike -- an ideal opportunity to experience intellectual dialogue with scholars and fellow students. The planning and execution of the conference program itself, with its attendant resource allocation, co-ordination, fund-raising, meetings with department heads, organizations and various individuals, have been a significant complement to academic, personal and professional development of York students. They have also shared in the vast experiences of presenters and discussants both formally and informally. As one of the most diverse campuses in North America, York University could not have been a better choice for this all-important conference, one that has certainly become a drawbridge for pulling in both the old and the new as we move into the twenty-first century.