Building Bridges

Is there a “respectful” way to film vulnerable populations? Can we report on subjects without tacking onto them our own prejudices and assumptions? In this section we civically engage at an individual level towards culturally and socially different environments and people to share knowledge and experiences. In doing so, we raise issues such as our own position of power as observers upon these populations and find ways to overcome them through communication and exchange.

Pass the Tech

Pass the Tech was born in a Development Communications class at AUP. The students took on an assignment where they collected used laptops and sent them to Hatua Likoni, an NGO in Mombasa, Kenya, which follows and supports students from secondary school to university. Afterwards, they were challenged to create an organization that would ensure the sustainability of their efforts. In its current iteration, Pass the Tech aims to send 100 used and refurbished laptops to Mombasa each fall, so that the program’s students have laptops for their university studies. Take a look at the video below titled "Kenya's Digital Divide: Empowering Mombasa's Youth" through which you get to experience first-hand the impact of this student-faculty collaboration. 

Obruni: Black Expats in Ghana by Sarah Mahgoub

Exploring the theme of “African Roots Tourism”, this short ethnographic documentary follows two American young women expats trying to integrate during a year abroad in Ghana. During ten days in the spring 2017, I followed Lina Salam and Sydni Kynard around as they experienced their daily lives while living in Accra, the capital of Ghana. I wanted to understand how they were perceived by the locals, and how they perceived themselves as outsiders in a place they felt they belonged to. In the case of Lina and Sydni, I wished to explore the experience of Black individuals (specifically those of lighter complexion) who do not get to be considered as Black or African “enough”. This lead me to question the importance for the local community to categorize these expats in a way that did not necessarily fit with their expectations. Through my interviews with Ghanaians, I understood that these categories referred much less to race than ethnicity and social class.

Ghana has been seen by the African and Black community as the “mecca of Africa” due to its history of being the first emancipated African country from colonization by the British in 1957, and due to its initiatives to be the “United States of West Africa” by Kwame Nkrumah (lead in 1960-1966 as first president of the Republic). Known previously during colonization as the Gold Coast, the country’s Pan African movement was fathered by Nkrumah, a man who befriended WEB du Bois, Martin Luther King and various other significant African American figures whom he met and even welcomed to Ghana. He is known to have said that “peoples of African descent” were African and “belonged to the African nation”. His position has inspired many Black expats in Ghana who have an Afrocentric perspective and, like the two young women I followed, seek to discover their African roots. Lina Salam and Sydni Kynard explained how they resented being labelled as foreigners by being called “Obruni”, and were not given credit or respected enough for their “Africanness”. Lina, especially, shares her background growing up in the U.S, and explains how she struggled to know herself fully due to her multiple identities as an African and as a Black American.

By following these girls and beginning to de-construct their lives in Ghana, I explored the relations and power dynamics between foreigners and Ghanaians, shaped by the shifting and blurry contours of the notion of “Africanness”. As my friends were not exactly perceived as being “African”, I found myself asking, what does it mean to belong to a group when you belong to the African diaspora? What of those with no knowledge of their exact ancestral roots due to the erasure by the colonizers? Where do these people belong and if they really can never know, can they “choose”?

Bizü: “Making Distant Introductions” (More)

Bizü has sought to create an international digital community that reduces extreme behavior. Bizü is about “making distant introductions”. It is a digital space where cultures are shared and learned – where people of all walks of life can interact and learn from one another. It is the cultural epicenter where people and life can occur.