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Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in Africa and the Diaspora

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Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in Africa and the Diaspora 

Virtual Dialogue Event 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 

8:00am-9:30am EDT (GMT-04:00)


Co-hosted by:

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Media Partner:



8:00AM - Welcome remarks & introduction of dialogue


• Dr. Cassandra Veney, Professor and Chair, Dept of International Relations, US International University, Kenya (USIU)
• Dr. Upenyu Majee, Manager, Ubuntu Dialogues Project, African Studies Center, Michigan State University

8:05AM - Opening Remarks:

Dr. Pero G. Dagbovie, University Distinguished Professor & Associate Dean, The Graduate School, Michigan State University - Reflections on the Black Historical Experience


8:20AM - Jabbar R. Bennett, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Michigan State University

8:30AM - Norman Duncan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Pretoria, South Africa

8:40AM - Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President International, Kings College London, United Kingdom

8:50AM - Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto, Professor, Dept of History, University of Brasília, Brazil

9:00AM - Sharron Reed-Davis, President, Black Student Alliance, Michigan State University

9:10AM - Q&A Session

9:25AM - Monique Kelly, Assistant Professor, Dept of Sociology, Michigan State University

Cassandra Veney.png Dr. Cassandra Veney

 Dept. of International Relations, US   International University-Africa, Kenya




  • Dr. Cassandra R. Veney is Professor and Chair of the Department of International Relations at the United States International University-Africa. 
  • She is the author Forced Migration in Eastern Africa:  Democratization, Structural Adjustment, and Refugees (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007).  She is the editor of U.S.-Africa Relations:  From Clinton to Obama (Lexington Books, 2014), co-editor of African Democracy and Development:  Challenges for Post-Conflict Nations (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012), Leisure in Urban Africa (Africa World Press, 2003), and Women’s Scholarly Publishing in African Studies (Africa World Press, 2001). She has written scholarly articles and book chapters on forced migration in Africa, human rights and gender in Africa, U.S.-Africa relations, U.S. immigration and refugee policies on their effects on African and African descended people, and women in the new African Diaspora in the United States.
  • She is a member of the advisory board for Palgrave-Macmillan’s Contemporary African Political Economy Series (CAPES); and she is a member of the editorial board for Africa Insight Journal.

Upenyu Majee.jpg Dr. Upenyu Majee

 African Studies Center, Michigan State University






  • Upenyu Majee is Project Manager for the Ubuntu Dialogues project, a partnership between the African Studies Center at Michigan State University and the Stellenbosch University Museum at Stellenbosch University, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He also teaches an Africa and the World undergraduate course.
  • Prior to joining MSU, Upenyu served as Academic Coordinator for the Mandela Washington Fellowship; as Lead researcher with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes on the African Humanities Map project; and as Academic Lead with the PEOPLE Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and as a High School Teacher and Principal in Zimbabwe.
  • He holds a joint PhD in Educational Policy Studies and Development Studies, and master’s degrees in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Linguistics from the University of Zimbabwe. His research interests include knowledge and institutional decolonization in African higher education and in north-south partnerships.

Pero Dagbovie.jpg

 Dr. Pero Dagbovie

 The Graduate School and Dept. of History,   Michigan State University




  • Pero Gaglo Dagbovie is University Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Dean in the Graduate School.  His research and teaching interests comprise a range time periods, themes, and topical specialties, including black intellectual history, the history of the black historical enterprise, black women’s history, black life during “the nadir,” the civil rights-Black Power movement, African American Studies, hip hop culture, and contemporary black history.
  • His books include Black History:  “Old School” Black Historians and the Hip Hop Generation (Bedford Publishers, Inc., 2006), The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (University of Illinois Press, 2007), African American History Reconsidered (University of Illinois Press, 2010), Carter G. Woodson in Washington, D.C.:  The Father of Black History (The History Press, 2014), What is African American History? (Polity Press:  Cambridge, UK,  2015), and Reclaiming the Black Past:  The Use and Misuse of African American History in the Twenty-First Century (Verso Books, 2018). 
  • He is the next Editor of The Journal of African American History.

Jabbar Bennett.jpg Dr. Jabbar R. Bennett

 Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer,   Michigan State University




  • Dr. Jabbar Bennett serves as Michigan State University’s vice president and chief diversity officer where he reports directly to the president and is a member of the executive leadership team. Dr. Bennett is also a professor of medicine in the College of Human Medicine at MSU.
  • Prior to joining MSU, Dr. Bennett served as the inaugural associate provost for diversity and inclusion, and chief diversity officer at Northwestern University.  Previously, he worked as associate dean of the Graduate School, and associate dean for diversity in the Division of Biology and Medicine at Brown University.  Dr. Bennett has held administrative appointments at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  He has also served on the faculty at Harvard, Brown and Northwestern university.
  • Dr. Bennett received a BS in biology and minor in Spanish from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and earned a PhD in biomedical sciences from Meharry Medical College.  He completed postdoctoral research training in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and is an alumnus of the Harvard University Administrative Fellows Program, and Massachusetts Education Policy Fellowship Program.

Norman Duncan.jpg Dr. Norman Duncan

 Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Pretoria,   South Africa






  • Norman Duncan holds a professorship in Psychology. He is the former Dean of Humanities at the University of Pretoria. On 1 August he assumed the position of Vice-Principal/DVC Academic at the University of Pretoria.
  • He obtained his qualifications in Psychology from the University of the Western Cape and the Université Paul Valérie (Montpellier III, France). His research and publications are primarily in the fields of racism and community psychology.
  • He has co-edited a range of volumes, including ‘Race’, Racism, Knowledge Production and Psychology in South Africa (Nova Science Publications, 2001) and Developmental Psychology (Juta/UCT Press, 2009). He currently serves as one of the lead researchers on the Apartheid Archives Research Project, a cross-disciplinary, cross-national study of the enduring effects of apartheid-era racism on people’s lives currently.

Funmi Olonisakin.jpg Dr. Funmi Olonisakin

 Vice President, International Kings College,   London, United Kingdom



  • Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin is Vice-President and Vice-Principal International and Professor of Security, Leadership & development at King’s College London and founded the African Leadership centre (ALC).
  • She was Director of the Conflict, Security and Development Group (CSDG) at King’s College London. Prior to this, she worked in the Office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. Olonisakin has positioned her work to serve as a bridge between academia and the worlds of policy and practice.
  • Her most recent research has focused on “Reframing narratives of Peace and State Building in Africa” and on “Future Peace, Society and the State in Africa”.
  • In January 2015, Professor Olonisakin was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General, as one of seven members of the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture. She serves on the board of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Chairs the Africa Regional Advisory Committee of the Open Society Foundation.

Ana Flavia Pinto.jpg Dr. Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto

 University of Brasília (UnB)




  • Ana Flávia Magalhães Pinto is an adjunct professor in the Department of History at the University of Brasília (UnB). She received her PhD in History from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), which resulted in the publication of the book "Escritos de Liberdade: literatos negros, racismo e cidadania no Brasil oitocentista" [Writings of Freedom: black writers, racism and citizenship in nineteenth-century Brazil].
  • Dr. Ana Flávia has developed research articulating knowledge in the areas of History, Communication, Literature and Education, with an emphasis on political-cultural performance of black thinkers, black press, abolitionism and experiences of black freedom and citizenship in the slavery period and post-abolition in Brazil and elsewhere in the African Diaspora.
  • She is a member of the Black Historians Network, and coordinator of the Regional Center-West of the Emancipations and Post-Abolition WG of the National History Association (Anpuh).

Sharron Reed-Davis.jpg Sharron Reed-Davis

 President, Black Student Alliance, Michigan   State University





  • Sharron Dynasty Reed-Davis is a Senior from Detroit, MI, studying Political Science-Pre Law and Human Development and Family Studies, with a minor in Law, Justice, and Public Policy. Sharron has been involved in various organizations including, but not limited to: Akers Hall Government, Crowning Young Queens, and recently finished her 2nd term as the President of the Black Students’ Alliance. She has also just started in a new position as Chair of The CORES & COPS Coalition (Council of Racial Ethnic Students and Council of Progressive Students). 
  • Sharron believes in equity and justice for marginalized and minority people, especially Black People, and plans to make that a career wherever that path may take her. As a leader and activist Sharron has worked diligently to advocate for the rights and needs of Marginalized students, with a focus on the Black Community. 

Monique Kelly.jpg Dr. Monique Kelly

 Dept. of Sociology, Michigan State University






  • Monique D. A. Kelly is a Dean’s Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University. Her research broadly focuses on racial and ethnic identities, attitudes, and inequality, as well as on immigration processes connected to those social dynamics.
  • Her current research agenda uses both qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate race, colorism, stratification, and inequality comparatively within the Anglo-Caribbean and the larger black diaspora.


Racism and other longstanding inequities came to the forefront in the US in summer 2020 and prompted a global outcry against racial injustice. People from across racial and other divides rose up in protest in every US state and in countries in Africa and the global African diaspora in solidarity with the US, but also against injustices in their own countriesEven though there has been progress and symbols of racial reconciliation in some countriesuntil there is recognition that systemic racism exists, and is still deeply embedded in the very structures and fabric of many social, political, economic, educational, judicial, and religious institutions, reconciliation will still remain an ideaWhile not new, the call for racial justice has taken on a new urgency and is having an impact on institutions and sectors of all types— including higher education, as they are tasked with empowering critical thinking in students, many of whom were part of the 2020 protests in the US. This dialogue will provide the much needed opportunity for the leadership and other experts at universities across the globe to come together for sustained discussion of how higher education is—or ought to be—responding to this moment of racial reckoning.  

The dialogue will focus specifically on the nature and responses to racial injustice in Africa and the diaspora in the US, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. A panel of leaders will share their perspectives and responses in a frank discussion of the ways in which higher education institutions may unknowingly perpetuate structural racism, the current global race relations and its role in increasing racist actions, and examine what should be done to create meaningful change. We will examine issues that affect diaspora populations, as well as the legacies of apartheid and colorism and how they play out in the context of university policy priorities. We will also look at how faculty and students at universities are being prepared to address race and ethnicity issues in and outside the classroom and the ways in which we must meaningfully ensure student voices and advocacy are part of the solution in institutional change.