In 2010, State Senator Curren Price (D-26) authored a joint Senate Resolution to declare October as California’s Pan African Business and Trade Month. It was a great idea that got chewed up in the nasty state budget battles last year. Unofficially, however, we, the people, still see it that way–October is about the African Diaspora in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other parts of the state.
In the City by the Bay, for instance, during October there is a busy schedule of activities sponsored by the city’s Museum of the African Diaspora, including the exhibition of the superb African American book collection of Leimert Park’s own Alden and Mary Kimbrough, and Folktales and Dancing Across the Diaspora.
Here in Los Angeles, the seat of advocacy for the Decade of the African Diaspora, as reported in Our Weekly several times, we still miss Mr. James Burks’ African Marketplace, which for many years brought outstanding African arts, crafts, musical theater and fabrics to Angelenos.
These days, Burks is working with the two business-cultural giants of October in L.A., Ernest Dillihay’s “Shaping Black Culture in the Diaspora: An Ark for the 21st Century,” and the even larger and far-reaching Pan African Global Business and Trade Conference organized and coordinated by Rev. Al Washington, the Africa-USA Chamber of Commerce, and the Sixth Region Diaspora Caucus (SRDC). The latter, now an internationally recognized non-governmental organization of some influence, started in Los Angeles.
Because of the major renovations now occurring in Leimert Park’s Vision Theater Complex, “Shaping” this year will re-focus on a smaller program than usual. This is its seventh year of operation, and it remains one of the principle celebrants of Los Angeles’ unofficial International African Diaspora Day, Oct.9.
The day was declared four years ago by a coterie of African descendant artists, musicians, scholars, thespians, critics and culturalists who see Los Angeles as a continuing center of African Diaspora creativity. The day fits right into October as African Diaspora Month, and “Shaping” will present an inside view of the status of African Diaspora culture in Los Angeles. It will include interviews with cultural artists and celebrities, an important lecture to illuminate the dimensions of the Decade of the African Diaspora, its continuing Siggi Dimanche Series on Francophone perspectives, as well as an intensive look at the Horn of Africa and its challenges and triumphs. The Shaping programs begin at noon on Saturday and Sunday at 3349 W. 43rd Place. They are free to the public.
The second year of the Pan African Global Business and Trade Conference will really be a big deal this go-round, although its inaugural launch in 2010 was no slouch. Supported by Senator Price, the African Union (Ambassador Amina S. Ali, the AU’s principal representative to the U.S., standing for 54 African countries, is one keynote speaker), and numerous commercial interests, this gathering is a magnificent opportunity to learn about Africa in an entirely different way.
It will be held again at California State University, Dominguez Hills, in Carson, from Oct. 13-15, and it will again reinvigorate the desultory dialogue between continental Africans and members of the African Diaspora. Included in the conversation of panel presentations, exhibits, displays and reports will be a diversity of business, commercial banking and tourism representatives, including our own L.A. Harbor associates. Our San Pedro and Long Beach ports still account for more than one-third of the commercial shipping in the U.S.A., and bringing Africa and the African Diaspora more into that mix is a current priority for L.A. Harbor interests. Other sponsors include UCLA’s Globalization Center-Africa, the L.A. Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy, and many more.
This conference will produce very practical and programmatic strategies, not just lip service and intentions. This is a how-do-we-get-it-done gathering, not a talkfest. The follow-through and strength of this conference can and should be measured by its operational outcomes. You can stay up with current information, including the very substantial conference itinerary, by going to its website at, www.panafricanglobaltradeconference.com, and by working with the resulting projects.
For example, it is already known that some conference participants will establish a Pan African Business and Trade Center in Los Angeles, as a reference model for the rest of the African Diaspora. There will be training opportunities in international commerce, internships, economic networking, and very serious business going on. For those interested in concrete steps to move Africa and the African Diaspora ahead, this is the conference to attend. It’s no bull.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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