The Geographies and Entanglements of Education and Mobility: A Focus on Black Nations and Black Im/migrants, Past to Present — A Closing Argument

The following is an adaption of my dissertation presentation and notes.

The graphic you see features just a handful of photos I was able to locate in the archives, news periodicals, and the commons. The All African Students Union of the Americas in 1957 in Washington DC, a Haitian Student Association in New York in the 1930s, The Ethiopian Students Association in North America in Chicago in the 1950s, and international students at Tuskegee Institute in the early 1900s are featured alongside pictures of students like Sarah Kinson (front and center), Sylvia Wynter, Dr. Sophia B. Jones, Koforowola Ademola, Elise De Miranda, Charlotte Maxeke and others whose complex journeys and stories are the heart of this dissertation. This study focuses on Black international, Black colonial, and Black immigrant students across time and the spaces, the worlds they’ve created.

This dissertation is dedicated to Black international students who fled Ukraine, whose educational dreams are deferred as institutions across Europe refuse them access, entry, or any type of relief for years-long journeys in pursuit of medical degrees. Kwame Nkrumah, Pan-Africanist and first president of Ghana, was an alum of Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania and throughout his matriculation he experienced suffering and joy. I hope they are able to see themselves in his story.

The methods and methodology, as well as ontology of this study are grounded in Black Geographies. Black geographies and geographers center Black peoples’ formations of and relationships within community, culture, society — and situate these formations and relationships within the histories, politics, economies, cultures of space and place.

Me presenting “Living at the Crossroads: Anti-Black Racism, Xenophobia, and the State of Black Immigrants in Trump’s America.”

Researcher’s Background. I’m a writer, researcher, and advocate who was born, raised, and educated in the Washington DC metro area. I attended Chillum Elementary, Hyattsville Middle, and Northwestern High Schools. I’m a graduate of Howard University, with a Bachelor in Arts in African Studies, and also hold a degree in Curriculum and Instruction (with an emphasis on Minority and Urban Education) from the University of Maryland, College Park.

I am also the child of West African immigrants from Ghana and Sierra Leone who are survivors of the traumas of colonial schooling. Many of the novelists, folklorists, filmmakers, poets and dubpoets, scholars, artists and musicians, activists and advocates, jurists and theorists referenced throughout my dissertation are survivors of colonial schooling. Sylvia Wynter, Aime Cesaire, Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou), Kwame Nkrumah…

They were subjected to pedagogical and curricular violence, white supremacist educational governance created a post-secondary education pipeline to Europe, Canada, and the United States throughout the colonial period (1400s to 1960s). However, their narratives and experiences have largely been excluded from the historical record. And this is by design. Through governance, legislation and finance, socialization and education.

Walter Rodney and Africanus Horton discuss this in detail, nearly a century apart.

“Legislation is the framework by which governments achieve their purposes. To politicians and administrators, legislation is a means to attain their economic, cultural, political and social policies. Whatever a person’s aversion to law, a modern state has to legislate in order to accomplish certain political objectives and certain particular public policies.” — VCRAC Crabbe, Ghanaian jurist and legal theorist and educator

Imperialistic legislation, decision-making, and administration, focused on commercialization, Christianization, and assimilation (examples below)

Produced curriculum, instruction, theory and praxis, measurement and evaluation, research and development, and historicization with serious intergenerational and multigenerational impacts and affects that have been overlooked, silenced, minimized, and reduced.

Poet Olive Senior, in her poem Colonial Girls School, describes the realities, impact, and injuries of colonial schooling.

Borrowed images

willed our skins pale

muffled our laughter

lowered our voices

let out our hems

dekinked our hair

denied our sex in gym tunics and bloomers

harnessed our voices to madrigals

and genteel airs

yoked our minds to declensions in Latin

and the language of Shakespeare

Told us nothing about ourselves

There was nothing about us at all

And for centuries, those who were able to advance their studies migrated and continue to do so.

They exist in our real and imagined geographies. In A Raisin in the Sun, published a few years before the independence of Nigeria, Lorraine Hansberry captured what most likely were the sentiments of Black students from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Central America.

“In my village at home it is an exceptional man who can even read a newspaper … or who ever sees a book at all. I will go home and much of what I will have to say will seem strange to the people of my village. But I will teach and work and things will happen, slowly and swiftly.”

“As mobile Black subjects in the Global North in pursuit of higher education, Black im/migrant students found and made home with each other and surrounding Black communities and institutions. Their intellectual and political perspectives and analyses — often aligned across borders and languages with respect to colonial rule — are embedded in their student newspapers, meeting minutes and agendas, poetry, and manifestos. Pan-Africanism, Negritude, ethnic and national identity, gender identity, and decolonization are as present in their work as are their experiences of love, hope, and suffering. They understood the expectations of higher education access and completion, from their families, communities, countries, and the world, and they were agents in determining their educational pathways and aspirations, to the best of their abilities.” [Direct quote from my dissertation]

Moving forward, I’m excited to have one of my chapters accepted for publication in an edited volume. I’m also deeply committed to developing and curating digital content and experiences that are free and accessible to all. Beyond this point, I also intend to look deeper, closer across the so-called Commonwealth. After all, there was just one Colonial department per European nation.

--

--

Nana Afua Yeboah, Ph.D. (formerly Nana Brantuo) is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer & storyteller.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nana Afua Yeboah

Nana Afua Yeboah, Ph.D. (formerly Nana Brantuo) is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer & storyteller.