Celebrate Africa to showcase Pitt’s engagement and encourage more


The Center for African Studies will host its first “Celebrate Africa” event with lectures, roundtables, panel discussions by Africa experts, performances, crafts and a food market on Sept. 16 and 17.

Catherine KoverolaCatherine Koverola, interim director of the center, said planning has involved not only people at Pitt, but also in the African diaspora community, “which is much larger than many people think.”

“The purpose of Celebrate Africa is to elevate for students, faculty and the community, the importance of engagement with the African continent,” Koverola said. “By 2050, over a quarter of the world’s population will be on the African continent, and that has massive implications for economics, trade, migration, climate, just about every aspect of life and society.”

She hopes the event helps encourage students and faculty to be engaged bilaterally, because “we have much to learn from the peoples of the African continent.” Koverola has been going to Africa in several different capacities over the past 15 years. She spent two years in Mauritius as a senior advisor and inaugural provost at the African Leadership University before coming to Pitt in 2019 as president of the Bradford and Titusville campuses. She moved to the Center for African Studies last year. 

“Celebrate Africa has been designed as a way of showcasing our engagement, letting students and faculty know opportunities for engagement and really dispelling myths and engaging in a celebration,” she said.

“Pitt is already engaged. We have faculty doing work in some capacity on the continent in 34 different countries and Pitt is intending to deepen our engagement,” Koverola said. “Celebrate Africa is designed to be a two component celebration of the scholarship and engagement and a celebration of the continent and its people.”

The first day will be a conference featuring sessions by several Pitt faculty and an alumni webinar that will be live-streamed globally.

The keynote speaker will be Pan-African historian Paul Tiyambe Zeleza of Case Western University in Cleveland. He will speak about “Africa’s Trajectory in the 21st Century: From a Historic Pawn into a Player.”

Seminars, workshops and roundtables throughout the day on Sept. 16 will range from “How Industrial Engineers, Trauma Surgeons, Ob/Gyns, and Social Scientists Can Work Together to Solve Wicked Problems in Africa” to “The African Immigrant Experience in Pittsburgh: Community Perspectives.”

The documentary “Keep Quiet or Die — The struggle for Democratic Change in the Congo” will be screened at 2 p.m. in 1500 Posvar Hall. All of the activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16 will be in Posvar Hall (full schedule here).

A reception, ceremonial drumming, the keynote address and a performance by Camera Drum and Dance will follow starting at 5 p.m. in the Frick Fine Arts Building atrium.

The festival on Sept. 17 will feature 10 different countries showcasing their arts and culture, food vendors, a live band, drumming, storytelling and dance workshops for children and adults, along with tours of the Africa Room in the Cathedral of Learning.

Several schools and groups on campus are co-sponsoring the event, along with the Union of African Communities in Southwestern PA.

Koverola said Celebrate Africa is particularly timely because the Center for African Studies recently received funding for the first time from the National Resource Center of the U.S. Department of Education. It was one of six centers under the University Center for International Studies to get this money (see related story).

“We are now positioned to really be able to deploy a lot more resources to support faculty and student scholarship, as well as outreach and engagement with the community,” she said.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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