African American professors propose creation of institute to help developing countries

BRUSSELS, Belgium

Professors at
Howard and Fisk universities are
proposing that an institute without walls
be established by America’s historically Black
colleges and universities (HBCUs) to assist
developing nations in Africa, the Caribbean
and the Pacific islands.

Drawing on the strengths of HBCUs, the
institute would provide technical assistance
on economic, social and educational
programs in the former European colonies.
The help is needed to assist the sixty-nine
nations that make up the African, Caribbean
and Pacific Group of States (ACP) redefine
its relationship with the fifteen-member
European Union (EU), according to Dr.
Robert Cummings, chairman of the
Department of African Studies at Howard
University in Washington, D.C.

“If we put together this kind of
relationship, it will allow us to recognize our
own strengths and share that knowledge with
our brothers in Africa, the Caribbean and
Asia,” Cummings said.
In the coming weeks, Cummings will he
working along with Dr. Raymond A.
Winbush, director of the Fisk University
Race Relations Institute in Nashville,
Tennessee, to write a broad plan for the
institute.

“The expertise at the Black colleges is
already there,” said Winbush, “so why can’t
we look at joint projects with international
businesses to train people for the global
transition that is going on right now.”
Cummings said that he has wanted to
create an institute to link HBCUs with
foreign universities, but not necessarily in
developing nations. The idea, however, can he
easily adapted to assist poorer countries, he
said, adding that he and Winbush will solicit
input from the 116 HBCUs to develop a name
and structure for the institute.

The duo recently discussed the institute
with leading EU officials here at the Lome IV
Convention, named after the capital of Togo.
They were among a small group of American
scholars who attended the conference
organized by the England-based group, Focus
Consultance Ltd.
Issues raised at the conference will he used to
form a new ACP-EU relationship, which will
be up for review in the year 2000. The Lome’
Conventions provide development aid and
privileged access to the EU’s market for ACP
countries.

According to Cummings, the Lome
conventions were designed to help
industrialize ACP countries, hut in reality,
they maintain a neo-colonial relationship that
prohibits ACP countries from trading among
themselves and keeps them in a beggar
relationship with the EU.

The ACP nations are concerned that
plans to acid four additional European nations
to the EU will further diminish their
participation in the Lome conventions.
According to Cummings, Europe its finding
itself in a position where it can no longer
support the ACP countries that aren’t equal
trading partners and where agricultural
commodities are not competitive globally.

Because of that, Cummings believes the
institute can assist ACP nations with
economic development. He encouraged
conference delegates to become self-reliant,
trade among themselves and not always look
to Europe as a market.

For Cummings, benefits derived from the
institute would primarily be economic. For
Winbush, those benefits would be social.
“I don’t want them to stop selling
bananas to Europe, hut they should he able to
say we can take it or leave it,”
Cummings said. “Economics controls
everything. The most racist person in the
world will deal with the person he dislikes if
he can make a profit.”

On the other hand, Winbush sees the
institute as a means to help non-white
Europeans combat biased immigration and
migration policies.
“People here seem timid about talking
about race,” Winbush said. “I think the
general feeling of non-white Europeans its
that they will be accepted. But this is fortress
Europe where they are trying to keep people
of color out.”

Winbush said he sees parallels between
current race relations in Europe and the years
leading up to the civil rights movement in the
United States. Just as in the early days of the
movement, ACP delegates talk about a lack of
organization and identity among people of
color in Europe. He said non-white Europeans
need a symbolic demonstration–like the
defiance of a Rosa Parks or the unity of a
Million Man March–to create a rallying
point for racial issues in Europe.

He also suggested that Black colleges in
the United States could help establish
programs of political activism in Europe
which has no majority black campus.
“Black colleges in the United States
have given birth to so many nationalistic
movements,” Winbush said.

The institute would re-invent the
intellectual triangle that existed between
American, African and European universities
at the beginning of the century, said Edward
L. “Buzz” Palmer, an advisor at the
University of Illinois at Chicago and
co-president of the PEOPLE Programme, a
non-profit organization housed at UIC and
created to stimulate a dialogue between
the leadership of Africa, African
Americans and people of African
descent in Europe.

“The question of the twentieth
century was race,” he said. “The
question of the twenty-first
century will be the distribution of
wealth.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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