UL Holds Int’l Conference -Launches Diaspora and Migration Studies

MONROVIA – The University of Liberia yesterday, Tuesday, February 15, 2022 kicked off its two day international conference commemorating the 71st Anniversary of the premier state run higher institution as part of the national bicentennial event under the theme “The UL Renaissance” at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Monrovia during which time a new academic Citadel called the Center for Diaspora and Migration Studies was launched.

In his special statement delivered at the occasion, the President of University of Liberia, Prof. Julius J.S. Nelson, Jr said he was excited that the event is taking place at the time when the nation was celebrating the bicentennial and described the University of Liberia as an integral part of the nation’s long history. He said despite the challenges facing the institution over the years, it has however being fulfilling its obligation to the nation, contributing to its socioeconomic development and building the capacity of its human resources.

He said the launching of the Center for Diaspora and Migration Studies is in response to the need to link the history of the country to its past and leverage on the location of its citizens across the globe especially the Americas where freed slaves migrated from to establish Liberia. He said the center will be a highly rated academic arena that will entertain research and propound solutions to contemporary issues affecting the country and its people.

Delivering his address while launching the center, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, Professor and Chair, College of Liberal Arts and Africology, African American Studies, Temple University, USA challenged Liberia to assume its rightful place as the modern assertion of a true integration of this continent in a Pan -African way, stressing that one does not define history but one’s history defines the person and the task for everyone is to make a new future grounded on African ideas and values.     The well-known international scholar who was originally named Arthur L. Smith Jr upon birth and after his education with a doctorate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles he travelled to Ghana where his name was rechristened to Kofi Kete Asante by the Asantehene Opoku Ware II. He said he later added Molefi out of solidarity with the South African struggle for liberations and that the Ghanaians in Akyem, Tafo, enstooled him as the Kyidomhene of Tafo, Nana Okru Asante Peasah and that another traditional ruler, the Amiru of Gao, Hassimi Maiga made him a Wanadu in his court. “I later discovered through DNA that my immediate ancestors originated among the Yoruba in Nigeria and the Nubians in Sudan”, he said of his origin.

Giving credence to his belief in the African identity, Dr. Asante said Pan African is not merely a theory and a slogan, but a practice. He noted that the African Renaissance is a concrete practice of Pan Africanism and state that there is no country on the African continent best prepared by experience and history to lead such a renaissance than Liberia. “Liberia is prepared, also, by its ideological, security, economic, and social history with the United States”, he said.

“You here in this fabled country, through a history of courage, and devotion to the idea of a universal African community have demonstrated more than most nations the acceptance of people from other communities.  It is no wonder that the University of Liberia has become the fertile ground for the idea of African Diaspora Studies. This pivot will allow you to advance a thousand-fold and bring many other people and nations to honor the work you will do”, he noted.

Touching on the Bicentennial celebration he said two hundred years of Pan African community through trials and tribulations, on the powerful bicep of Africa, Liberia is launching a truly Afrocentric initiative describing the event as a glorious history and a sentinel country Liberia is.

“It is the respect for the rule of law that will enlarge opportunities and freedom and make this proposal for a program in Migration and African Diaspora Studies practical, real, and beneficial for the nation and the world. It must not be based on ethnicity, region, and creed, but on the collective sense of what is African. Of course, it is not a closed system, and we can always debate the principles of Africanity”, he stated.

On what should be the outlook of the Center for Migration and Diaspora Studies, he said it must be beyond ethnicity, color, religion, and language in its acceptance and analyses of the African diaspora, adding however that to be beyond ethnicity and color does not mean to ignore who you are, your heritage and traditions, but to accept the same from, and for other people.

He also said that the Center should be fiercely Afrocentric, grounded in classical African texts, articulating a common narrative of excellence and victory, asserting the liberation of women, while understanding a global Africa as the producer of knowledge, and dedicated to resisting all forms of domination.

One of the major highpoint of the event was a panel discussion on the topic, “Deed for Monrovia” which was delivered by renowned Liberian history Dr. C. Patrick Burrowes who recently discovered the original land purchase agreement between the settlers and the indigenous chiefs that was once reported missing and could not be found.

In his presentation, Dr. Burrowes lamented the lack of interest in the study of history starting with parents who sent their children to higher institutions to specialize in other areas and shun history as a discipline.

He stated that there are more misconceptions and distorted narratives about the history of the country and there is an urgent need to arouse the interest of the citizens, especially scholars to seek means to correct them if Liberia is to have the right history to rely on.

He cited the story of how it has been erroneously reported that Captain Robert Stockton put some indigenous leaders under gunpoint to force them to sign the land sale and purchase agreement between the settlers and the indigenous owners of the land where as facts emerging from research , including his have proven that the said land deal was signed the following day peacefully after the terms and conditions were agreed upon the day previous.

Distinguished panelists were Dr. William E. Allen, Chairperson of the History Subcommittee for the Bicentennial celebration and a leading authority on Liberian and African Histories, Dr. Herbert Brewer, another Liberian writer, Dr. D. Elwood

Dunn, a renowned Liberian scholar who has written so publications on Liberia , Dr. Cassandra Mark-Thiessen, a researcher on African-American History and Aaron Weah, a Liberian pursuing his PhD in the UK.



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