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Africa Roundtable

We visit with Dr. Mary Mbosowo, Willard Pitts, and Dwan Brumfield about Langston's summer abroad program and the impact it has on students' lives.
Africa Roundtable

Rob, Mary, Willard, and Dwan

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Langston University

Show Dates

Show 0932: Africa Roundtable

Air date: August 9, 2009



Rob: Well the Langston University Summer Study Abroad program is an excellent opportunity for students to learn first-hand the impact of colonialism on their lives today, also giving them a more comprehensive understanding of just exactly where they come from.  Joining me now here in the studio is the program’s leader Dr Mary Mbosowo, Mr Willard Pitts, and of course Dwan Brumfield, the producer of today’s show.  Dr Mbosowo, let’s start with you.  How important is the trip to Africa for African-American students?

Dr Mbosowo:  I think this trip is very important for African-American students and for them to discover their roots, and because when I started teaching in an American university which was Tennessee State University in Nashville, I met African-American students who asked me if we had houses in African, if we wore clothes in Africa.  It was so embarrassing, I just got mad sometimes.  But I told them that since they have not really seen African cities on their TV, that they needed to visit Africa which is what led me to start the program at Tennessee State and then Langston hired me, and I started the program at Langston.

Rob:  And it’s often those same misconceptions, Mr Pitts, that is really hurting our country, the United States, economically.

Willard Pitts:  Yes, it is.  Africa is the shopping market of the world.  And there are opportunities available in Africa for all countries.  And if we were to talk about the global economy in America, then we have to include Africa in that discussion.  There wouldn’t be a G 8 summit without the resources that are available in Africa.  It might be a G 4 or a G 2, and so there’s excellent opportunities for all of our nations and for all of our people in America to look to Africa for opportunities economically.  One of the things that we do, when we take the students to Africa we fly into Dakar; that is the gateway to West Africa.  And the distance from Dakar to Banjul is about the distance from Oklahoma City to Denton, Texas.  We could get on I-35 and make that trip in less than three hours.  But because of the conditions of the roads and the transportation, it takes us sometimes 15 to 16 hours to make that same trip.

Mbosowo:  It’s 150 miles.

Pitts:  So, it’s, that infrastructure, it’s critical.  You may be sitting there, and the lights will go out.  And it’s just a normal occurrence.  You don’t think about it.  You don’t worry about it.  Yet, the Gambia River would make the Mississippi River look like a stream.  At its widest point, that river is six miles across.  You can’t see from one side to the other.  We could go in there and do a hydroelectric plant that could light up West Africa, not just The Gambia, but the entire continent.

Rob:  So with the continent so rich in natural resources, what needs to happen from a global perspective for Africa to be able to develop out of where they may currently be struggling?

Pitts:  Africa has to be invited to the table with the world economies, the leading economies.  And a discussion needs to take place about how to allow Africa to utilize its resources to develop its country.  Here in Oklahoma, I don’t think we would be standing here today if we did not capitalize on the value of our fossil fuels, oil, gas and so forth.  They have things in Africa that the world needs.  So, if they could benefit from those resources that they have, then much of the infrastructure, the aid, the economic structure, the agricultural structure, it could be solved.

Rob:  I have never been anywhere where the people have not had more of just like an innate happiness.  I don’t know.  When you returned, we talked about that.

Dwan:  Well you talk about what we learned, what is development and what is underdevelopment while we were there.  And yes, the United States is developed economically to the fullest, but I think that sometimes we’re lacking a little bit in morals and values and there could be some things we could improve on.  Well, there, in that aspect of morals and values and family, they are very developed.  And I think that’s what keeps them strong, in the midst of all the poverty and starvation and the struggles, is the family and their values, and just keeping a smile on your face can change the energy of, you know, where you’re walking, where you’re going, and it resonates and it shines.

Mbosowo:  And I want to add, like The Gambia, it’s almost a crimeless country.  The last murder they had in that country was in 2004.  In 2005, the country, they had no murder; in 2006 up to 2009 when we went there, no murder.  The penalty for rape is almost like, death.  And so you don’t have those things happen.  And we stayed in the tourist district of The Gambia, Kotu, hardly do you see women of the night.  You don’t see women of the night over there.  If a woman practices that, she has to travel to several countries away from The Gambia to do her trade.  So it’s almost like a crimeless country, and they are poor to the bone, but it’s crimeless.

Rob:  Mr Pitts, you get the last word.

Pitts:  The African people look at African-Americans as the richest, strongest, brightest, most intelligent Africans in the world.  And so when they see African-Americans come to their continent, they see their salvation.  They greet you with open arms, and say welcome home.  And it’s not just a phrase.  They literally mean it.  And because of the residual effects of slavery, we have learned all kinds of trades and skills in America.  So it’s imperative that we go home and reconnect, and recapture, and reclaim our homeland, and help our people to develop.