Sunday, November 27, 2016

My First Meeting With the Nu Skool of African American Thought

On Friday 25, I found myself in the midst of a gathering of members of Nu Skool of African American Thought, an organization that functions like an informal school exploring issues pertaining to the global African community. I only knew about this organization earlier this month, when my friend Adrian Mack told me about it and invited me to lead a class. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we did not hold the class as planned, but, instead, held an informal discussion. I was asked to present brief remarks on issues that I thought would be pertinent and suitable for a discussion.

I talked about the need for Africans and African Americans to continue the tradition of Pan African solidarity that was inaugurated more that a century ago and was carried forward by such figures as Henry Sylvester Williams, Marcus Garvey, W.B. DuBois, George Padmore, Kwame Nkrumah, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Jomo Kenyatta, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Julius Nyerere. We had an engaging discussion, exploring such issues as contempoary alienation between Africans and African Americans, and ethnic divisions and tensions among some Africans in Africa and abroad.

We also touched on the issue of African values that, across the ages, have sustained African societies and manifest themselves in some ways in African American life and could be the basis upon which we might build the kind of relationships and mindset that will enable us to deal with contemporary challenges. In response to a question about the trickster figure in African and African American folklore, I briefly highlighted the fact that the trickster is an embodiment and projection of social consciousness. Such are the issues I intend to address in my forthcoming Nu Skool presentation.

I was delighted to be part of that gathering, which included Professor Mahmoud El Kati, whom I have known for some years and with whom I have appeared on discussion panels on Pan African issues. It was a pleasant surprise to meet Njia Lawrence-Porter, after we first met in 2007, when she was preparing a group of students from the University of Wisconsin River-Falls for a trip to Uganda under the auspices of a program called Building Tomorrow. For cultural orientation for the trip, she had selected my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, and she and her group came to St. Olaf College to talk with me. It was exciting to meet again, this past Friday, after all these years.

Adrian announced that the talk I was scheduled to give, on African thought as expressed in folklore, will be held in early January. Given the camaraderie and intellectual excitement I witnessed at the gathering on Friday, I look forward to this event, which will be largely based on my book, Matengo Folktales.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Study Guide on the "Song of Lawino"

After several years of both reflection and procrastination, I have published a study guide, Notes on Okot p'Bitek's Song of Lawino. I wrote it hoping it might interest students and teachers of Okot p'Bitek's famous work and of African literature as such.

Years ago, I published another study guide, on Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and have been encouraged by its reception. It was, for example, recommended as a resource for incoming students of Cornell University who were reading Things Fall Apart.

These study guides constitute a reliable indication of the kinds of ideas I share with students in my African literature courses. I look forward to writing more.