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African heads of state and local activists meet at the Schomburg to support the United States of Africa

NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 9/28/2011, 7:04 p.m.

Protestors outside the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture took on supporters of Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade last Thursday, Sept. 22.

The energy was palpable outside compared to the well-orchestrated, self-congratulatory atmosphere inside, where international, national and local activists shared the Schomburg's hallowed space.

Drums could be heard from outside as the stoic atmosphere of the Schomburg resounded with the call for the establishment of a United States of Africa by 2017.

Supporters and protestors clashed verbally outside as they raised their respective issues. One constant throughout was the presence of the glorious flag of Senegal.

"He has been here too long," one protestor told the AmNews. "He is going against the constitution, which says you can only have two terms. He is trying to change it to give himself a third term. And he is trying to impose his son Karim on us!"

Those in favor of the 86-year-old president couldn't be happier that the Senegalese head of state had come uptown. "We love you! Thank you, Mr. President!" shouted supporters as Wade got up to speak.

Always calm and considered, Wade veered from his prepared speech as he reiterated the need for a United States of Africa to be in place by 2017 and emphasized with passion the need to push for closer cooperation between Africa and the Diaspora.

The assorted speakers and audience members in attendance were part of the delegation of African Union and African Diaspora leaders, including members of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, which represents more than 150 historically Black universities and institutions of higher education in the United States, and the National Conference of Black Mayors, whose 650-plus mayors represent at least 48 million Americans. They sat in the Schomburg in an alliance to build stronger ties between themselves, their organizations and networks for closer and more productive relationships between the continent and the Diaspora.

Another issue championed by speaker after speaker, and Wade himself, was combating AIDS and spearheading the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Nations could use the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as an entry point to business opportunities, education, technology, energy, tourism and culture, said conference organizer Dr. Djibril Diallo of Senegal, coordinator, U.S. Committee for the African Renaissance, and senior advisor to the executive director of UNAIDS.

Hosted by news anchor Cheryl Wills, speakers included Dr. Jean Ping, chair of the African Union; the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Dr. Leonard Jeffries of CUNY; Dr. Gilbert L. Rochon, president of Tuskegee University; Dr. Robert Bowser of the National Conference of Black Mayors; and Dr. Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College.

Diallo was applauded when he announced that the African Union will pursue honorary passports for people of the Diaspora and citizenship for Pan-Africanist leader Dudley Thompson.

Dr. Julius Garvey, son of the late Marcus Garvey and executive support of WADU, was recognized from the podium and applauded by an audience that included the likes of the Rev. Herbert Daughtry; activist and cultural performer Nana Camille Yarborough; John Watusi Branch, the chief secretariat of WADU; professor James Small, chair of the Organization of Afro-American Unity; and Medgar Evers educator Dr. Brenda Green.

For more information on the event, contact (718) 523-3312 or visit wadupam.org.