UNION, NJ-Kean University presented a vibrant celebration of African History and culture on Tuesday, February 23 in Downs Hall. The event, Illuminations: Africa’s Past & Present, highlighted the contributions of African leaders. Foreign dignitaries, including The Honorable Tete Antonio, Ph.D, Ambassador of the African Union to the United Nations and Adao Nascimento, Ph.D., Angolan Minister of Higher Education, were in attendance. The informative, educational and entertaining program featured the Steven Sabet Band, the Waka Waka Dancers, Kean’s Acapella Choir and a fashion show by local designer Melchionna. The event was organized by James Conyers, Ph.D. and Lisia Aikens of Kean’s Office of Africana Studies.
Phillip Connelly, Executive V.P. for Operations at Kean University, opened the program by highlighting Kean’s commitment to global education. Kean has been recognized as one of the most diverse campuses in the nation by Diversity Inc. magazine.
“Our Kean community of nearly 15,000 students, as well as our faculty, staff and alumni, represent a microcosm of the world,” said Connelly. “We at Kean recognize the importance of global education and we are working to create cross-cultural experiences for our students.”
Antonio described the current economic and cultural development in Africa as “Africa Rising” and explained how this is a departure from the “afro-pessimism” of previous eras. Antonio went on to explain what he called the “African paradox,” the disparity between resources and wealth on the continent.
“We have to resolve the paradox between a rich country and a poor population by opting for a resource based industrialization,” said Antonio.
Antonio received his master’s degree from the University of Kiev, Ukraine and studied preventative diplomacy at Columbia University. He began his diplomatic career in 1990 and served at his country’s embassy in Addis Abba from 1993 – 1997. In 2005, Antonio served as advisor to the president of the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“Thank you Kean University for bringing me back home,” said Antonio. “I consider myself part of this family. I always remember Kean University and I was keen to come back.”
Nascimento highlighted five major challenges facing Angola’s education system: the consolidation of strategic vision for management and development, regulation, improving institutional capacity and quality, implementing best practices and establishing a system of checks and balances.
Over 200 people attended the event, including Kean students, faculty, staff, local officials and high school students from Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy in Elizabeth.