Welcome

We would like to acknowledge that at Simon Fraser University we live and work on the unceded ancestral and traditional territories of the səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ ( Tsleil-Waututh ), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) Nations.

The African Studies Working Group (ASWG) connects students, faculty, and other members of the SFU community through Africa-related research and events. Everyone is welcome to join and contribute.  

 

The African Studies Working Group (ASWG) condemns the ongoing racist violence and injustice perpetrated against Black people. It is beyond time for all of us to actively oppose the systems of oppression and inequality that continue to endanger the lives of Black people. Being inactive is part of the problem. Learn more, use your voice, and support where you can.

Scholars affiliated with ASWG have sent a letter to SFU's President expressing our concerns and calls for SFU to take further actions guided by Black faculty, students, staff, alumni and other members of the broader community.

Statement from the SFU African Students' Association on the Use of Violence by the Burnaby RCMP Against a Black SFU Alum: page 1, page 2

Toolkit for anti-Black racism at SFU, prepared by student organizers.

A list of actions and resources intended as a starting point for anyone looking to begin incorporating anti-racist activism in to daily life has been compiled in part from suggestions by members of the EDI Advisory Council, SFU African Students' Association, SFU Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry, and the Canadian Association for the Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment in Higher Education (CAPDHHE) listserv.  For more, see: Resource and calls to action against anti-Black racism and violence.

 

News

Members needed for Canada-Africa Young Scholars Coalition  

The Africa Institute launched a new program, Canada-Africa Young Scholars Coalition (CAYSC). This program is open to undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and other trainees of African heritage or identity from across Canada, as well as allies. The coalition aims to provide a platform for centering mentorship and academic support for young African and Africanist scholars.

To become a member please send an email to africain@uwo.ca

A New Direction for U.S Foreign Policy in Africa  

A new publication by Dr. Jason Stearns of SFU's School for International Studies and Dr. Zachariah Mampilly of Vassar College provides sharp analysis of the new directions needed for U.S. foreign policy in Africa. As the authors reason, "If Democrats win in November, it is time for a progressive reset in relations with Africa: a new foreign policy, centered on economic justice and the democratic aspirations of the continent’s youth." Find the article here.

Current research and experiences of people identifying as African, Caribbean, and/or Black in BC

ASWG has been asked to disseminate information about the following two current studies being conducted by other organizations. 
 
1) The African Ancestry Project is a research and dialogue project which aims at exploring issues around identity and allowing for a better understanding of ways in which identities are formed, sustained, and shape lived experiences of Black people of African descent living in British Columbia. Research will be conducted through a survey, interviews, and focus group discussions and findings will be captured in a report that will centre the stories of participants. Learn more about the study here.

2) Public Health researchers at SFU are involved in a survey research project to better understand the experiences, barriers, and thoughts related to participating in research from persons who identify as African, Caribbean and/or Black (ACB). Knowledge gained from this survey will inform strategies to engage ACB communities in research, educate researchers and healthcare providers in allyship and anti-racist practice, promoting equity in health research and programs for ACB communities. Learn more about the study here.

PhD candidate, Gisele Umviligihozo, examines COVID-19 preparedness and response in Sub-Saharan Africa

Gisele Umviligihozo, Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) PhD candidate and Sub-Saharan African Network for TB/HIV Research Excellence (SANTHE) scholar, has published a commentary on the impact of COVID-19 entitled “Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic: A perspective of early career African scientists”. Umviligihozo led a group of early-career health research scientists from Africa to collaborate on this piece, which is published in the Wellcome Open Research journal undergoing peer review. The article documents public health interventions implemented in seven SSA countries including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana.
 
Her article showed how essential it is to consider specific factors when designing interventions and planning research activities in particular locations with specific contexts. Umviligihozo plans to apply this approach to her current research work and help define future research priorities. She also hopes to see SSA countries implement a public health response that utilizes the strengths of early initiated interventions.
 
Learn more here.

Welcome Dr. Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek  

SFU ASWG warmly welcomes Dr. Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek as the 2020-2021 Ellen and Warren Tallman Writer in Residence with SFU's Department of English.

Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek is an Acholi poet. Her 100 Days (University of Alberta 2016) is a book of poetry that reflects on the meaning of memory two decades after the Rwanda genocide, and was nominated for several writing prizes including the 2017 BC Book Prize, the Pat Lowther Award, the 2017 Alberta Book Awards and the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry. It won the 2017 IndieFab Book of the Year Award for poetry and the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry. Otoniya’s poem “Migration: Salt Stories” was shortlisted for the 2017 National Magazine Awards for Poetry in Canada. Her poem “Gauntlet” was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize and her most recent book, with the same title, is from Nomados Press (2019). She lives and works on the unceded, ancestral and traditional lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh in Vancouver, Canada.
 

You can learn more about Otoniya Juliane Okot Bitek and her work here.

Congratulations, Natasha Mhuriro!

ASWG is delighted to congratulate Natasha Mhuriro, president of the SFU African Students' Association, on being recognized by SFU's Senate Undergraduate Awards Committee with the London Drugs 60th Anniversary Student Award. This award is granted to graduate or undergraduate students in any faculty whose volunteer activities have made a significant contribution to the development and/or improvement of campus community life. We could not agree more with the decision to recognize Natasha with this award and we are grateful to Natasha and her ASA colleagues for all the work they have done at SFU and more broadly.

Benedicta Bawo interviewed Natasha Mhuriro to learn more about her experiences with the SFU African Students' Association. Read that feature here.

Lacking Race-based Data on COVID-19 in BC

Professor June Francis (SFU Beedie School of Business), director of SFU’s Institute of Diaspora Research and Engagement, has raised attention to the lack of race-based data being collected on COVID-19 in British Columbia and Canada. As Francis stated in an interview with The Tyee: “The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on how the lack of race-based data has caused us to be so inadequate in our responses and to target these responses in appropriate ways to address the specific needs of vulnerable communities.” For more, see the interviews Francis has given to The Tyee and CBC Radio’s The Current.

Emergency Black Community COVID-19 Fund

A fundraising campaign to provide low-barrier, emergency, micro-grants for Black people in BC who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 pandemic has been initiated by SFU's African Students Association and others. You can learn more and donate here.

SFU Researchers on COVID-19 and Africa

SFU researchers have been actively contributing to analysis of how COVID-19 might impact Africa and how Africans have relevant experiences and expertise for others to learn from in this pandemic. Here are some recent highlights:

Susan Erikson (SFU Health Sciences) wrote the articlePandemics show us what government is for’, published in Nature Human Behavior. To learn more about Susan Erikson's work, read Benedicta Bawo's interview with Susan here.

Jason Stearns (SFU International Studies) co-authored two articles entitled 'COVID-19 on the African continent’ and What can the United States learn from the Democratic Republic of Congo?’, in The Lancet and Medical Anthropology Quarterly. For more analysis of COVID-19 in the DRC, see this media advisory.

Erik Werker (SFU Beedie School) co-authored with Mounir Siaplay, former Deputy Governor for Economic Policy at the Central Bank of Liberia, a blog post for the Centre for Global Development entitled ‘An Epidemic and a Commodity Price Rout at the Same Time? It Happened in 2014’.