CSU Hosts BBC Magazine Forum on African-American Identity

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Columbus State University has been selected by a BBC news magazine, Focus on Africa, to host a July 21 panel discussion on African-American identity.

A top editor of the London-based quarterly magazine and a well-known Kenyan author will be joined on the panel by local representatives at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in CSU’s International House to discuss 'The Changing Nature of African-American Identity and Attitudes towards Africa since the Election of President Obama.'

Refreshments will be served before the panel discussion begins at 7 p.m. at the home of CSU’s Center for International Education, near the University Avenue main entrance of CSU’s main campus. The panel discussion, one of four across the U.S., is free and open to the public.

BBC journalists will use information from the forums to produce radio programs for the BBC World Service in July and August. The U.S. forums were timed to coincide with President Obama’s first official trip to Africa this month. He returned from a one-day trip to Ghana last week.

“The latest issue of our magazine explores the question of African-American identity and linkages with Africa, so our visit to America aims at continuing the debate around this subject,” said Alison Kingsley-Hall, managing editor of the magazine that’s circulated in every African nation where English is spoken, as well as the U.S., Europe and Canada.

Dr. John Studstill, an associate professor of anthropology at CSU, was approached by the BBC and recruited the assistance of One Columbus, which recognizes diversity and promotes racial unity. Vivian Bishop, currently serving her fifth four-year term as Muscogee County’s Municipal Court clerk, will moderate the panel discussion. She’s married to U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop. Panelists for the event will be:

  • Nick Ericsson, who’s both editor of BBC Focus on Africa magazine and a radio producer with BBC World Service news and current affairs, overseeing the BBC’s Network Africa and Focus on Africa programs. A native of South Africa, he’s also worked as a talk radio presenter and producer in Johannesburg, freelance print journalist, public policy researcher for a Johannesburg think tank and school teacher.

  • Mukoma wa Ngugi, a regular columnist for BBC Focus on Africa magazine and the author of Hurling Words at Consciousness and Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change. He is also editor of New Kenyan Fiction and co-editor of Pambazuka News. His novel about an African-American detective investigating a murder in Africa, Nairobi Heat, is due out soon. He’s the son of Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Mukoma, a well-known Kenyan author.

  • Ben Richardson, solicitor general for Muscogee County, who’s also active in the 100 Black Men of Columbus and other civic organizations. An Atlanta native, he’s the first African-American attorney to become president-elect of the Columbus Bar Association and, in 2004, was named to Georgia Trend magazine’s “Forty Under Forty” list of rising Georgia leaders. He was Georgia’s 2008 Solicitor General of the Year, the first African-American male to receive that honor.

  • Dr. John Studstill, a cultural anthropologist specializing in Africa, with experience working in the Congo, Uganda, South Africa and Burkina Faso. He is married to a CSU sociology professor, Dr. Florence Wakoko, a native of Uganda. He was a civil rights activist in Atlanta in the early 1960s and was an early member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

BBC Focus on Africa distributes about 70,000 copies of the magazine, and its pass-along readership is estimated at 420,000.