I have always sought to promote knowledge, understanding of and appreciation for a region of the world that obviously does not receive enough attention in our curriculum: Africa. It is one of the regions of my expertise and I am particularly gratified that I feel an appreciation on the part of those who know me in this community for the leadership I have quietly yet constantly brought to bear upon the attention that should be drawn on this vacuum in our process of learning in this community. I am not just talking about teaching courses on Africa, or the Caribbean. I am talking about things such as using my contacts and expertise to bring musicians and speakers to campus. I have brought writers from Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, and a speaker and a musician from Ghana. During the 1999/2000 academic year, I applied for and got a Fulbright Grant to bring Dr. Benedict Der of the University of Cape Coast (Ghana) to teach history here for a year. Faculty benefited from the semester-long seminar that he held on the history and culture of Africa. Of course, this would not have been possible without the strong support of the Dean of the college at the time as well as the office of the Corporate and Foundation Relations.
Africa is the most marginalized continent in the curricula of colleges and universities in the United States of America, and this in spite of the reality that about twelve percent of the population of the country is of African descent. Some institutions are certainly doing better than others in addressing this anomaly. As an Africanist (and not just as an African), I am gratified to see the amount of interest that faculty in various disciplines at this college have developed for the continent and its people. An example is the enthusiasm that a number of colleagues manifested by attending all the seminars that were organized by the Fulbright Scholar (Dr. Benedict Der) who taught at our college during the 1999/2000 academic year. Naturally, this interest has a very positive influence in what they do in their own courses and how they influence students to be more interested in the African continent and African peoples. But for a change in administration that occurred in the office of the Dean at Gustavus soon after Dr. Der taught here, we would have had an exchange program with the University of Cape-Coast (Ghana) which would have been very beneficial to both institutions.
I prefer to do things quietly. That is my style, and that is the approach with which I am comfortable. A Dagara proverb admonishes us in the following terms: “A koli kyâpulé puÉ na a tîîkpeh mi be” [ it is in the tiny bottles that one usually finds the most potent medicines]. The moral of the proverb is that fewer words often convey more sense; the person often regarded as insignificant is the one who achieves great things, and behind the scenes.