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“New York Is Like Johannesburg”: Comparative Imaginations of South Africa and the U.S.

Visions and Voices

In celebration of the twenty-year anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s becoming the first president of South Africa elected under universal suffrage, a panel and concert will consider the current condition of both South Africa and the United States, highlighting ongoing global struggles.
In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa elected under universal suffrage. The end of the violent segregationist policy of apartheid two years prior had launched an era of new political possibilities. In celebration of the twenty-year anniversary of Mandela’s election, a panel and concert will consider the current condition of both South Africa and the United States, highlighting ongoing global struggles for an end to police abuse and labor suppression. Hip hop emcee Jean Grae will join journalist-activists from South Africa’s Amandla magazine as well as U.S. historians Robin D. G. Kelley and Johanna Fernandez to discuss contemporary cultural and political conditions shared between two nations whose struggles for civil and human rights modeled the ambitions of a majority world.

About the Participants:

Spawned from two super musically gifted parents, Jean Grae’s powers manifested at an early age. She studied at the LaGuardia Performing Arts School before majoring in music business at New York University. Feeling enveloped by mainstream mediocrity, she went out in search of others with abilities like hers, first under the moniker “What? What?” as a member of the indie group Natural Resource, providing classic singles such as “Baseball” and “Bum Deal,” then with her solo efforts: Attack of the Attacking ThingsThis WeekThe Bootleg of the Bootleg, the 9th Wonder–produced Jeanius and, most recently, the mixtapeCookies or Comas. Grae has been featured on tracks with Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Wale, Lil B the BasedGod, Phonte, Joell Ortiz and a long list of others. Also a producer, writer and director, Grae is currently at work on a sitcom entitled Life with Jeannie. (FacebookTwitter)

Brian Ashley is a staff member with the Alternative Information Development Centre in Cape Town and co-founder and editor of Amandla, a bimonthly South African magazine founded in 2006.

Johanna Fernandez is a native New Yorker and assistant professor of history at Baruch College at the City University of New York. She teaches twentieth-century U.S. history, the history of social movements, the political economy of American cities and African American history. Her forthcoming book, tentatively entitledWhen the World Was Their Stage: A History of the Young Lords Party, 1968–1974, discusses the Young Lords Party, the Puerto Rican counterpart to the Black Panther Party.

Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA. Kelley’s research and teaching interests range widely, covering the history of labor and radical movements in the U.S. and the African diaspora, intellectual and cultural history (particularly music and visual culture), urban studies and transnational movements. His books include the prize-winning Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American OriginalAfrica Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary TimesHammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great DepressionRace Rebels: Culture, Politics and the Black Working Class; and Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America.

Shana L. Redmond is assistant professor of American studies and ethnicity at USC. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships and the author of the forthcoming book Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, which examines the sonic politics performed amongst and between organized Afro-diasporic publics in the twentieth century.

Organized by Shana L. Redmond (American Studies and Ethnicity).