When Ahmed Salim ’08, a native of Tanzania, arrived at Lehigh University, he noticed that many of his classmates saw Africa only as a land of AIDS, malaria and poverty.
“We’ve all seen the pictures of starving children on late-night TV,” he says. “But there is a side that most people don’t really see: The beautiful side of Africa.”
To reveal the splendor of his homeland, Salim, now a senior, has spearheaded the creation of Africa Week. The six-day exploration of the world’s second largest continent will begin Monday, March 24.
“Africa Week started as a way for students and professor to deviate from the usual discussions of Africa,” explains Salim, an international relations major.
Salim says that Africa Week will not gloss over the hardships suffered by many Africans, but he hopes it will kindle a compassion for the continent.
“We’re not denying that there are problems,” says Salim. “But if people know about a culture and a people, then they will do everything in their power to see that it is preserved.”
Africa Week will feature two high-profile speakers, John Prendergast and Salim Ahmed Salim.
“John Prendergast has been one of the forceful personalities in moving African relations in Washington,” says Henri Barkey, the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor and the chair of the international relations department.
Prendergast co-chairs the Enough Project, an activist group that seeks to promote peace in Darfur, Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo. The human rights activist was also the Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council under President Clinton. When stars and news anchors want to tour African war zones, they frequently ask Prendergast to conduct them. He’s a frequent face on CNN and BCC and has written numerous op-eds for newspapers, including the Washington Post
He recently championed grassroots activism in his book, Not on Our Watch: the Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond
(2007), which was co-written by Don Cheadle, the star of Hotel Rwanda
Prendergast will deliver a lecture titled, “Why Africa isn’t Useless” on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium.
Like Prendergast, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim strives to bring peace to the Western Sudan region of Darfur. The Tanzanian diplomat has been the African Union Special Envoy to Darfur since 2004. While serving as Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity from 1989 to 2001, he oversaw its transformation into the African Union. Since the 1960s, he has worked as a diplomat for Tanzania to Egypt, India, China, Cuba and the United Nations. In his home country, he has also held high positions, including that of Prime Minster from 1984-1985.
“He can provide perspective on how far Africa has progressed,” says Ahmed Salim.
Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim’s lecture, “The Evolution of Africa” will be given on Thursday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m.
“It is really a privilege to host Dr. Salim here,” says Barkey. “He is one of Africa’s most distinguished diplomats and statesmen.”
Appealing to all types of people
Apart from these lectures, many other events will allow students to see the beauty of Africa, says director of multicultural affairs Alta Thornton, one of the many campus involved in planning Africa Week.
"In this program, we hope to appeal to all types of people,” says Thornton. “There’s no one person who we had in mind when we planned these events, and there’s no one person who won’t benefit from attending one of the events.”
The broad range of activities includes:
• A lecture on microfinance by Kevin Clawson, founder and president of Reach the Children, a non-profit organization that provides education opportunities, vocational training and micro-enterprise support. Clawson will speak at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 24 in Rauch Business Center, Room 141.
• A study abroad fair at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, will encourage students to visit the continent. The fair will be held in Maginnes Hall, Room 101.
• An African-inspired dinner will be hosted by Dining Services and available in the Lower University Center from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
• A slideshow will display images of African culture, art, people, geography and wildlife. It can be viewed in Lamberton Hall from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 26.
• Jamani Rhythm & Beats percussion ensemble will perform in Laberton Hall at 8:00 p.m. Friday, March 28.
• The week will end with a Ghanian and Tanzanian feast hosted by the Umoja House at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, March 29.
Africa Week is sponsored by the Dean of Student’s Office, the Black Student Union, the Global Union, the Association of International Students, Joint-Multicultural Program, the International Relations Department, the Student Senate, ArtsLehigh, the Chaplain’s Office, the Student Auxiliary Services, Career Services/Air Products and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.