... was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has a Bachelor of Science from Seton Hall University in international relations and is finishing her M.A in Political Science at Indiana State University. Her topics of interest include, peace and conflict studies, African and Middle Eastern history, as well as economic development. She currently serves as the outreach director in Indiana for African Views.
The African Views framework is designed to support information exchange, cross-cultural communications and collaborative opportunities in a fast pace global environment. Our objective with this framework is to accumulate, aggregate and deploy intelligible resources of voluntary and contributive participants from all disciplines. Our main strategy is to use an improved decentralized framework to overcome immediate and future challenges with regard to the issue of selfreliance and interdependency between Africans, the African diaspora and the international community at the grassroots level.
Making connections is part of the mission of the African Views Organization. African Views hope to resolve the issue of social connectivity not only among Africans in the broadest sense, but also between Africans and the global community. African Views expects that by building social networks, new ideas and cultural information can pass between these respective groups and thus reduce the costs, fiscal, temporal and otherwise, of development. The effort includes, obviously, the Internet.
African Views Organization, or AV, was incorporated in 2007 and is designed to aid the African and Diaspora community in social and economic development. As a non-profit organization, African Views achieves this by aggressively building its store house of resources, particularly those of intellectual value. Having just launched their new framework online this year, they have made exceptional progress building their envisioned network of both online and real world actors.
The framework, located at africanviews.org, is designed to aid in the process of empowering Africa and the Diaspora. By making it an open source tool, the collaborative dimension of the African Views mission has become all the easier to achieve. Registered users can post articles as contributors or, under the Discourse and Debate section; they can pose questions and spark debate via blog entries. The issues covered vary. Users have taken the opportunity to post speeches, questions about the changing role of China, as well as news and events. Users can also include posts that link to other articles and websites. Lastly, users can rate postings and search for specific issues and information.
The blog entries are part of the African Views social network, and like MySpace or Facebook, users can create a profile which includes a picture, and other information. Users can track their own comments and maintain a list of favorite posts for their own use. They can connect as friends, invite others, add videos, or send messages all in a self contained service on the African Views site. This allows users to meet new contacts who share their interest, find them and share very specific information with people working on similar projects, thus elegantly merging the AV site as one of both communication and production.
Currently, the featured article on the site is titled “What is African”. It addresses the questions with a review of the various manifestations of ’African’ features across the continent. Ultimately, African Views defines African as “anyone who can trace part or all their ancestry to indigenous inhabitants of Africa at any point in time”. This is a very broad definition that allows groups in ’forgotten’ Diaspora communities to be included. It is clear that there are large African populations in the Americas and Caribbean. But the definition also includes descendents of Africans in Portugal, Iraq, or any other country. This coincides with a scrolling list tracking the percentage of any state’s given population which can be called African. Thus far the website has only trace information on most African states. However, there are tools in place to add additional information over time. As with other portions of the website, the country information section is open to collaborative input from registered users. The tracking information is not limited, however, to Africa alone. Just like the information on African populations, the data pertaining to states is accepted for nearly every country in the world under country profiles. As a result, users can include information relevant to anyone in the Diaspora or related to African politics internationally.
In addition to the text or country profile, there is also a section for country profile videos, which are posted via Google video and YouTube. These videos cover a range of topics, including news and other programming. When a user finds a video of interest on either of these sites, it can be posted under a country for use through the Africa Views site. Users will be acting as search engines, adding videos under country profiles that a regular search engine might have over looked without the requisite key words; by adding videos they find to be relevant.
The African Views Fair Marketplace tool is another instrument available to AV users. It allows a person to publish their work for free, including articles or ebooks on the African Views site. Similarly, the site makes available an Amazon widget for users to country target products available on Amazon, making it easier to shop and sell related products. In this manner, authors who have materials available on the Amazon site, have a new advertising opportunity for their products and materials. This is particularly useful for researchers or students looking for new material.
Most interesting, however, is the performance review section. This innovation is designed to provide a review mechanism for organizations operating on the ground on African and Diaspora issues, whether they are corporations or non-profits. Given the extensive history of mismanagement and corruption some institutions have displayed in the past, be they public or private, this is a crucial aspect of the African Views framework. By creating a forum for critique, AV has also created a space for feedback which may be of value to the actors themselves, particularly smaller groups who have not yet been given the opportunity for external review of their work.
It is clear that should AV succeed in its mission, the review mechanism has the potential to make a big difference in Africa. Many African countries still suffer the scourge of corruption and mismanagement, both in the public and private sectors. African Views has put the power of critique in the hands of observers in an exciting way. The infrastructure published on the African Views site combined with the various activities the organization has put forward will allow African Views to be a dynamic and positive force for Africa and the diaspora well into the future.
In conjunction with and available through the online framework, African Views expects to build a collection of articles worthy of the academic eye. This effort coincides with the organization’s long term effort to create its own journal in conjunction with the ACEI institutes called the African Views Journal of Intercultural Communication Studies. It is hoped the journal will contribute to improving quality of life in African and Diaspora communities, like its mother institution, primarily through cooperative and cross cultural learning.
Beyond the Internet
Wale Idris is the director of research and strategy for African Views Organization based in Hoboken, New Jersey. It is clear when speaking to him that he is a man of both a positive outlook and character. A former market analyst, he has dedicated his energy to furthering the agenda of African Views Organization, or AV, and the results of his efforts are evident. A graduate of Columbia University, he has used his many talents to aid the organization in growing a new and broad range of activities in support of its cause. But he is quick to reproach any overt focus on him alone. “African Views is a collaborative effort”, he insists.
In Zimbabwe African Views is busy building a support system for a future African Cultural Exchange Institute or ACEI in Gweru. In keeping with the organization’s commitment to working with a wide range of partners, Africa Views proposes that the future facility at Gweru will act as a center for agricultural and cross cultural learning. The ACEI in Zimbabwe will focus on agricultural development and practices but African Views Organization is planning on formatting a number of ACEI’s in the future to address local needs in other countries.
African Views leadership anticipates that the ACEI at Gweru will create an atmosphere of learning for both the local community and students. African Views hopes that the ACEI’s will ultimately become an engaging student program that acts as a venue for study abroad and internship opportunities. In the process, both students and locals can learn from one another. This will be a large part of the AV face internationally. African Views is not an organization meant only for cyberspace.
In the United States among both adults and children, African Views is at work building educational infrastructure in the form curricula broadening the concept of African. In Brooklyn, New York, the organization hosted a day program for 3rd grade students offering them a taste of Africa not limited to drums and nature parks. The program acted as a smaller version of the African Cultural Exchange program. The students had the opportunity to learn about Ndebele dolls from South Africa and watch a presentation on African cultural diversity. The organization anticipates that this basic format will soon be expanded for older students at the middle and high school level by including more challenging material relevant to politics and history. The program for the school at Brooklyn’s PS 107 was a resounding success. The children asked questions and became engaged. The questions they asked made an impression on their teachers and visiting instructors. The educators involved wrote a response letter to African Views, thankfully acknowledging the “team effort” that brought “joyful expressions” from the students. But more important than the delight the students experienced, was the chance each student had to learn of African people and cultures in a positive way showing the common humanity of all people.
This educational effort is in addition to conferences covering timely topics. African Views aims to provoke thought and energize people to act by using conferences and events to stimulate debate. By using the institution of the conference, AV can bring together academics and practitioners with the general popula-tion to open up the floor of debate to a wider audience. For example, at the Hoboken Library, African Views sponsored a conference on the topic of Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake.
At the Haiti conference, there were six panelists, each bringing to bear a different side of the story. During the discussion it was reiterated that only 2 of the 20 donor countries had fulfilled their pledges, a sobering statistic. It was clear after the conference that US policy in Haiti was seen as needing revision, but that the Haitian government itself had great responsibility to bear as well for improving the conditions in that country. On the topic of the Haiti conference, Wale Idris noted that, its achievement was in separating “emotions from practicality”, a prime motive AV has in promoting the conferences.
African Views selects topics for conferences based on relevance to current events but also a need for improved communication, a key word in the African Views vocabulary. This was the motive behind the recent conference on economics and governance in the state of Nigeria which African Views co-sponsored at the Nigerian Consulate in New York. The novelty in that particular conference was in bringing together Nigerians with the Diaspora for a serious exchange of questions and even more serious search for answers. The topics covered ranged from liberalism to corruption, all of which were in the light of 50 years of Nigerian independence.
African Views boasts these accomplishments in partnership with academic professionals, non-profit and public organizations. It sees itself as an organization which focuses attention on topics which are often difficult to discuss, and at times emotionally trying, including but not limited to racism, poverty, and the failure of leadership. The last issue is of particular salience, not only in state governance in Africa but in Diaspora communities as well. Still, AV focuses on facts and information and a forward looking vision. Part of that vision is encapsulated in the conferences and outreach to students, who will ultimately play a crucial role in shaping Africa’s future.
Africa Views also prides itself on the breadth of its activities. When Kasandra Housley, the outreach director in Indiana, was asked if African Views suffered from mission creep she replied, “That is almost the point we try to be open to whatever opportunities present themselves and as a result have achieved a lot”. As is evident in its work African Views remains primarily focused on outreach and drawing attention to issues pertinent to the African and diaspora communities. This outreach has included both private and public organizations but especially students, whom African Views sees as critical to carrying out its mission.
African Views has a long list of projects for the future. Aside from the African Views Journal of Intercultural Communication Studies and the ACEI’s, African Views will continue to seek out new ideas for national and international conferences on contemporary issues. Of particular importance in the future will be the rise of China and the role that country is playing in changing the African landscape. The interest in that particular topic, as noted above, has already been demonstrated in the African Views discussion boards.
In December 2010 the organization launched the weekly radio show called the African View, airing at 1PM on Sundays via Skype. This radio show is the first of many anticipated future projects to be produced by African Views for both radio and television. Currently on the AV website there are some broadcasts available for listening as well as a video on the Nigerian Peoples’ Parliament.
African Views desires in the long term to reach a wide audience through television, and ultimately, to have its own channel on the airwaves. But for now the organization is committed to taking one step at a time. For African Views, 2010 has certainly been a productive year. Already new conference ideas are being circulated and new ideas floated for projects. The organization is off to a fine start for 2011.
Adolf Mavheneka, student, Zimbabwe
The commitment for African values begins with us. Precisely this provides us with the best ever opportunity to deliberate over issues of common interest. The paradox is that Africa has had to do without ‘riparian’ African interests since colonial times. Valued African interests in the socio-economic have been clear for their absence. Thus the networkings, and deliberations afforded by AV creates the best ever opportunity in the history of the continent. It brings back the token for unity ... that has remained the cry of the beloved continent!
Aloke Mukerjee, public speaker and writer, New Jersey, US
When you were talking about Africans in India, at first I thought you were referring to the Dalit. I had no idea about the Siddis. And Oh my God, I also learned about the Jawaras on the AV country video profiles. I think many Indians will appreciate being accepted culturally as Africans because they were born there, especially the ones in Eastern and Southern Africa. I must admit this is a good thing. African Views is authentic and timely. And that is a good thing to support and be part of. Thank you!
Maria D’ALbert, marketing analyst, Brooklyn, New York
From African Views’s African Cultural Exchange program for children on Dec. 2., 2010 I heard a lot of joyful expressions from kids and some good feedback from the teachers too. I think it did what we hoped: Support and enrich the curriculum in ways so that a far away place feels real to them: Echo found that each group had different questionsin the Africa presentation and thought it was going to be fun to have the groups return to their regular classes and share their perspectives (great idea to mix it up!). Robert explained how Animism as a faith believes that drums have the spirit of the animals and trees that they are made from, so when you play you are celebrating with those spirits. The kids made beautiful sculptures/dolls out of recycled plastic and scraps of fabric, buttons echoing the work done by children in South Africa’s Ndebele tribe. I can tell you from personal experience that how you learn about the world when you are young directly affects how you feel about the world and your role in it as you grow up. I hope they are fired up with questions and ideas when you return to talk about it.
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