Spirituality and religion were among the themes of featured discussions at the 26th Annual Cheikh Anta Diop International Conference held at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel in Center City on Friday, Oct. 10 and Saturday, Oct. 11. It was hosted by the Diopian Institute for Scholarly Advancement.

This year’s theme was “An Afrocentric Re-Imagining and Remaking of the World: Classical and Contemporary Paradigms, Projects and Practices.” Among the panel discussion were “Africana Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Exchanges” and “Afrocentric Ritual, Religion and Aesthetics.”

During the “Human and Civil Rights in the Context of Globalization” segment three scholars discussed how social justice was and is being addressed in different parts of the world. SUNY at Albany professor Ibram X. Kendi discussed “Civil Rights Strategy: Reimaging Moral Suasion as White Suasion.”

Kendi traced abolitionists and later civil rights activists addressed the issue of “suasion” or persuading populations towards social justice. Some, he said, preferred to target the white population in a re-education campaign to get them to realize that discriminatory practices were immoral or went against their faith. Others used the “suasion” on African Americans to help them to realize the moral imperative of fighting for their rights.

Also, Northwest University doctoral student Sureshi Jayawardene presented her paper, “Race, Caste, and Colorism in South Asia: What this Means for African People.” Additionally Eastern Michigan University professor Ana Monteiro-Ferreira spoke about “Notes on African Resistance in Brazil.”

“The Siddis [African population] in India were affected by the African centered epistemology and oncology,” Jayawardene said. She said that many tried to the find “the commonalities” between their indigenous faith with Hinduism or Islam. Many converted to these faiths in an effort to fit into society or for economic reasons.

Monteiro-Ferreira also said that many Africans in Brazil also either hid or merged their religious beliefs with Catholicism for similar reasons. Yet those in power found ways to use the Roman Catholic bishops to separate those who practiced indigenous religions from the more socially accepted persons who embraced a more Eurocentric form of worship.

“They created two laws that gave [those enslaved] conditional freedom,” Monteiro Ferreira said. In 1871 the “free womb law” gave freedom at the age of 21 to all born after that date. Then in 1885 there was the law that gave those who were 60 years of age or older their freedom.

The 2014 Molefi Kete Asante Awards went to the Franklin Institute’s Frederick Marcus Nkrumah Bertley for scholarly initiative, author and professor Christel Temple for best scholarly book, scholar Serie McDougal III for research methods, and Journal of Pan African Studies writer Abdul Karim Bangura for best article. Professor Maulana Karenga gave the awards luncheon speech, “The Maatian Intellectual and Remaking the World: Classical and Contemporary Concepts.”

The other keynote speakers included MKA Institute and Afrocentricity International co-founder Ama Mazama and University of Pittsburgh professor Michael Tillotson. Mazama’s address was “Afrocentricity International as Engine for the Activation of African Agency and Raising of Afrocentric Consciousness in the World.” Tillotson’s keynote topic was “Africana Studies in the 21st Century: Accepting Our Ancestral Assignment.”

The Diop Conference was founded by Asante, professor and chair of the African American studies department at Temple University. Asante was the founder of the first doctoral program in Africana Studies. Diop, who passed in Senegal in 1986, was noted for his scholarship on Egypt as an African civilization and the establishment of the first Pan-African Student Congress.

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