NYASA Conference Goes Beyond the Classroom
On April 1st and 2nd in New York City, an impressive group of creatives within the music and arts industry of Africa and the Diaspora met on the campuses of City College and Columbia University for the 41st Annual NYASA Conference. NYASA (The New York African Studies Association), was founded in 1967 and is a nonprofit membership association dedicated to advancing the discipline of African studies. They promote the visibility and advancement of African studies in New York State and the surrounding areas and offer opportunities for the scholarly and professional development of educators. NYASA also has a mission of enhancing education around the discipline for community members, leaders and activists.
Every year, The NYASA Conference gives awards and recognition to authors, musicians, visual artists and more within the entertainment space. This year, awards included the 2016 NYASA Book Award and the 2016 NYASA Distinguished Africanist Award. The Book Award went to Seth N. Asumah and Mechthild Nagel for their 2014 work, “Diversity, Social Justice and Inclusive Excellence: Transdisciplinary and Global Perspectives”. Honorable mentions for this award were given to Amandla’s own Kofi Ayim for his 2015 book, “The Akan of Ghana: Aspects of the Past and Present Practices” and Abosede George for “Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor and Social Development in the 20th Century Colonial Lagos”, which was published in 2014. This year’s Distinguished Africanist Award was presented to Dr. Deborah Willis, University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Her accomplishments are many, including multiple fellowships, exhibitions of her work throughout the United States and an array of partnerships as a consultant for museums and archives.
The conference boasted several panels and plenary sessions featuring guests who are both experienced and passionate about their subjects. Panels included discussions on Politics in Music, Musical Blackness across Generational Streams, Artistic and Spiritual Narratives of Africa and the Diaspora, Resistance in Political Art & Culture and many more. The panelists were engaging, extremely interactive with the audience and above all, they were often professors, which allowed the audience to truly learn something new with every session. The Conference had a great balance of intense conversation and the chance to take it all in with performances by Taoufik Ben-Amor, Matthew Morrison and Imani Uzuri, the last of whom recently performed at the nationally televised Black Girls Rock! awards at NJPAC. NYASA more than fulfilled its mission during this year’s NYASA Conference – it was a riveting educational experience for all in the field of African Studies.