U.S.-Africa Sister Cities Conference Seeks HBCU Participation

ByDaQuan Lawrence

PublishedSeptember 28, 2022

Image courtesy of  the African Centre for the Study of the U.S. at the University of Witwatersrand.

The Center for African Studies (CfAS) at Howard University is currently partnering with the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS), Johannesburg Convention Bureau, University of Witwatersrand and North Carolina Central University to plan the Africa-U.S. Cities Conference. The convening will be the first of its kind and take place February 15-17, 2023, at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, organizers hosted an international Zoom call with participants from Johannesburg and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) such as Albany State University, Bennett College, Claflin University, the University of the District of Columbia, Elizabeth City State University, Morris Brown College, North Carolina Central University, Prairie View A&M University and Howard University.

The conference is being organized with Sister Cities International (SCI) and will be part of a larger effort – the 2023 African Regional Summit – which will take place February 20-24, 2023, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Cape Town conference will also be a new endeavor and is aimed at strengthening and increasing the number of U.S.-Africa sister cities within the SCI network. The summit will consist of a week-long series of engagements, activities and will include participants from the United States, South Africa and the rest of the African continent. 

The Africa-U.S. Cities Conference in Johannesburg will convene academics, political leaders, business professionals, funding agencies, practitioners, members of civil society and students. The conference will provide an opportunity to develop further academic knowledge of cities within the United States and across the African continent. The event’s organizers are highlighting the multidisciplinary focus and are interested in submissions that speak to any topic that informs relations between African and U.S. cities.

The conference’s organizers view this as an opportunity for (HBCUs) to establish partnerships with African universities, international organizations and public and private institutions. They are encouraging HBCU faculty, students and alumni to participate and support the conference.

Dr. Gwendolyn Bookman is a Howard University alumna, an associate professor of political science at Bennett College and board member and co-chair of the Sister Cities of Durham-Arusha Committee. She believes HBCUs are needed at the upcoming conference.

“The conference in Johannesburg is an opportunity to play a critical role in the multidisciplinary dialogues that will take place.  The African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) is coordinating a major platform to bring a variety of key players ‘to the table’ in research and problem-solving,” Dr. Bookman said. 

“At the conference, participants will identify targeted initiatives for city-to-city internationalization that will promote genuine collaborations and concrete partnerships. The viewpoints of HBCUs are essential for these dialogues and initiatives to be meaningful. HBCUs belong at, and must be at, the table in all places where decisions are being made because they have a valuable perspective, ” she continued.

Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 at his White House summit on citizen diplomacy, Sister Cities International is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization which serves as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties and states across the U.S. The organization has over 2,000 partnerships in 140 countries and its network consists of tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers across approximately 500 member communities.

It is dedicated to promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation and working with its members to create a more peaceful world by establishing people-to-people exchanges and initiatives. President Eisenhower envisioned a network that would be a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world. Today, the organization continues to be a central resource for institutional knowledge and best practices in the field of citizen diplomacy.

Howard University currently has over 800 students enrolled in African language courses, the most of any educational institution in America. As a Title VI institution that receives funding from the U.S. government, the Center for African Studies seeks to connect Howard and HBCU students with opportunities in Africa.

Interested participants are encouraged to apply before the September 30, 2022 deadline. 

Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee