I previously blogged about the segregation of Africana entertainment events in DC, with whites tending to go to more mainstream venues in northern Virginia and downtown DC to hear ‘traditional’ African music, while those of African origins go to venues in NE and Maryland to hear a different set of tunes. With the increasing lip service to globalization and emphasis that many non-Africans in DC place on exploring African cultural products, I find this lingering division to be disturbing.
As we move into Black History Month, my attendance at events this week starkly illustrated that these divisions do not exist only in play, but in intellectual pursuits as well. At a George Washington University event, two white men spoke on historical manuscripts in Mali. The crowd was primarily white; I believe the number of non-whites in the audience did not (or barely) reached the number of fingers on one hand.
At an event at Howard University the next day, two (light-skinned if it matters to anyone) blacks spoke about the role of DC activists in helping end the Apartheid system in South Africa. The number of whites in the audience was minuscule, besides myself, I counted two, one of whom I believe is a student at Howard University.
Given the massive outpouring of sympathy following the death of Nelson Mandela, I was surprised that this evening event did not attract a group more representative of the local audience following African affairs. The campus of Howard University is sandwiched roughly between the happening U Street Corridor and the gentrifying neighborhood of Petworth, which is attracting a lot of young professionals with the international interests and internationally oriented professional positions that DC caters to. I imagine that a lot of individuals with a professed interest in the topic would have been in fairly close proximity and could have attended if they wished.
I encourage all whose interests draw them to these pages to make the effort to get out of their comfort zones. We celebrate our worldliness in America’s capitol and it is unanimously agreed that such a condition is a good thing. Unfortunately, the stark division that I regularly observe at these events seem to make that a hollow celebration. Exchange and learning doesn’t just have to come from travels abroad, take advantage of opportunities closer to home to help the ideals that Mandela epitomized after his release from jail become a reality.