verene_shepherd_web.jpgCORAL GABLES — Verene Shepherd, a social history professor at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, will give the keynote lecture at a gathering slated for Tuesday to call attention to the International Year for People of African Descent.

Shepherd will speak on the topic, “Harnessing African Diaspora Studies for Economic Empowerment: Uniting the African Family for Development,” during the symposium on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami.

She is on the faculty of the University of the West Indies  and is the Caribbean and Latin American regional member of the United Nation’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

On Dec. 18, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year beginning Jan. 1, 2011, as the International Year for People of African Descent.

“We no longer have to look too hard to prove the glorious and free African origins of black people,” Shepherd said in a summary of the remarks she will deliver. “We do not have to dig too deeply to find evidence of the search for self-worth and economic identity; in fostering a sense of self-reliance; of cultural survival.”

The event, which will also include a panel discussion and a reception, is being planned in collaboration with Ludlow Bailey, project manager of IYPAD-St. Thomas, and Jerome Hutchinson Jr. of ICABA Media Holdings LLC.

“The International Year for People of African Descent gives the world, particularly Afro-descendants, a unique opportunity to draw attention and rally support for important global issues that affect the lives of African Diaspora people in crisis worldwide,” Bailey said.

“It is also a time to celebrate the major achievements and contributions of the African diaspora — their ingenuity, resilience, creativity, intellectual and business acumen,” said Edmund Abaka, director of the Africana Studies Program at the University of Miami, which is hosting the event.

The origins of IYPAD go back to 2001, when the United Nations organized a major World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. That meeting also officially recognized the Atlantic Slave Trade as “a crime against humanity for which reparations are due.” 

Also in 2001, the U.N. created the Working Group of  Experts on People of  African Descent and charged it with “studying the problems of  racial discrimination faced by  people of  African descent living in the Diaspora.”

The IYPAD was formally launched on Dec. 10, 2010, Human Rights Day, at  the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan. 

According to a statement from Bailey, more than 200 million people of African descent live in the “the New World.” They include 75 million in Brazil, 40 million in the United States, 23 million in the nations of the Caribbean and five million in Colombia.

Bailey has been organizing IYPAD events in the Caribbean and the United States. He is working as chairman of the African Diaspora Cultural, Business and Political Council at the University of Miami’s Africana Studies Program.

He noted that President Barack Obama’s administration has “not made the year a priority.”

“Somehow, the U.N. proclamation of IYPAD appears to have been buried in the State Department’s lack of support for the Third World Conference against Racism in New York last September. The U.S. opted not to participate,” he said.

He also accused the media, including the black press, of largely ignoring IYPAD and added that the U.N. itself “clearly did not promote the year as it should.”


WHAT: Lecture and panel discussion on the United Nations designated International Year for People of African Descent
WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 22
WHERE: The CAS Gallery/Wesley Foundation Building, 1210 Stanford Dr., University of Miami campus, Coral Gables
CONTACT: Edmund Abaka, director, Africana Studies Program at the University of Miami, 305-284-3012 or 305-302-9192, or Ludlow E. Bailey, 786-290-7359

Photo: Verene Shepherd