Remembering Heroes/Heroines: Unique and Collective Strategies of Resistance and Prevention of Genocide in Africa and the Diaspora

Feb. 11-12, 2021
9:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. (CST)
View the recordings below. 

The theme of the 7th Annual Genocide and Human Rights Research Conference is Genocide and Human Rights Research in Remembering Heroes/Heroines: Unique and Collective Strategies of Resistance and Prevention of Genocide in Africa and the Diaspora. This year’s conference will also celebrate the official inauguration of the GHRAD Center. Students, scholars and the general public are invited to attend. 


The conference is free to students, scholars, and the general public. Registration is encouraged.


Day 1, Feb. 11

Emcee: Aissetu Ibrahima

9:30-9:40 a.m. - Introduction by Northeastern Illinois University President Gloria J. Gibson

9:40-10:30 a.m. - Featured Speaker: Bonny Ibhawoh, "Truth, Justice, and Post-Conflict Peace Building in Africa"

10:30-11 a.m. - Jermain McCalpin, "Re-Membering the Past: Memory and Genocides"

11:00-11:20 a.m. - Abraham Mellish, Musical Perfomance

11:20-11:30 a.m. - Break

11:30-12 noon - Al Frankowski, "Sovereign Violences: Anti-Black Colonialism, Genocide, and Post-Genocide Contests"

12 noon-12:10 p.m. - Keynote Introduction by Dr. Katrina Bell-Jordan, Dean of Northeastern Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences

12:10-1p.m. - Keynote Speaker: Mark Mathabane, "In Praise of Everyday Heroes: Strategies for Preventing Human Rights and Human Rights Abuse in African and the Diaspora"

Day 2, Feb. 12

Emcee: Cris Toffolo

9:30-10:10 a.m. - Panel Presentation: Brenda Lett of N'COBRA & Jermaine McCalpin, "Race, Reparations and Reckoning in America" Anti-racism, Activism and Social Justice"
Moderator: Sharon Bethea

10:10-10:30 a.m. - Discussion

10:30 - 11 a.m. - MindLeaps Performance from Rwanda, Introduction: Rebecca Davis, MindLeaps Executive Director

11-11:30 a.m. - Aissetu Ibrahima "Ethnic-Based Genocide in Ethiopia: The role of Faith-Based Institutions in Conflict Resolution and Transformation"

11:30-12 noon - Book Discussion: Alfred Frankowski, Jeanine Ntihirageza and Chieolozona Eze, "Critical Perspectives on African Genocide: Memory, Silence, and Anti-Black Political Violence"

12 noon - 1 p.m. Featured Speaker, Edward Kissi, "Genocide Prevention and Human Rights Protection as a Community, Continental, and Diasporic Obligation"

Speaker BIOS

Keynote Speaker: Mark Mathabane

Feb. 11, 12 p.m.

Mark Mathabane touched the hearts of millions with his sensational autobiography, "Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa." "Kaffir Boy" won a prestigious Christopher Award for showing the resiliency of the human spirit and inspiring hope. Today, the book is used in high schools, colleges and universities across the U.S. and is on the 1999 American Library Association's list of Outstanding Books for the College-Bound. Mathabane lectures all over the country and abroad on the imperatives of our common humanity. 

Featured Speaker: Bonny Ibhawoh

Feb. 11, 9:40 a.m.

Dr. Bonny Ibhawoh is Professor and Senator William McMaster Chair in Global Human Rights at McMaster University. He teaches in the Department of History and the Centre for Peace Studies. He is the Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Restorative Justice at McMaster University, and chairs the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development based in the UN Office at Geneva. He has taught in Universities in Africa, Europe, and North America. Dr. Ibhawoh has also previously worked as Human Rights Research Fellow at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen, and at the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs, New York. He serves on the board of several international NGOs and charitable organizations. Dr. Ibhawoh was previously Associate Dean of Research and Acting Associate Vice-President for Research at McMaster University. His blog, GIAZILO, focuses on human rights, social justice and peace.

Featured Speaker: Edward Kissi

Feb. 12, 12 p.m.

Edward Kissi is Associate Professor at the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and a member of the Africana Studies faculty. He earned his M.A. in History from Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada) in 1991. He earned his Ph.D. in History from Concordia University (Canada) in 1998, working with one of the eminent scholars of genocide studies, Frank Chalk. Kissi was also an Andrew W. Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow in the Genocide Studies Program, at Yale University. Kissi’s research focuses on the history of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, U.S. foreign relations (with Africa) since the 20th century, and the comparative history of genocide and human rights. He is the author of "Revolution and Genocide in Ethiopia and Cambodia" (2006), and a number of peer- reviewed articles and book chapters on genocide, famine, international relief aid and U.S. policy towards Africa in the Cold War period. In 2009, Kissi wrote “The Holocaust as a Guidepost for Genocide Detection and Prevention in Africa” for the landmark United Nations’ Discussion Papers Journal. In 2016, he published "Obligation to Prevent (O2P): Proposal for enhanced community approach to genocide prevention in Africa" in African Security Review, a peer-reviewed journal based in South Africa, and contributed a chapter on “Africa and Human Rights,” (2018), to "The Palgrave Handbook of African Colonial and Postcolonial History," edited by Martin S. Shanguhyia and Toyin Falola. His latest book, "Africans and the Holocaust: Perceptions and Responses of Colonized and Sovereign Peoples," (Routledge, 2020) is a pioneering effort to integrate sub-Saharan African perspectives into Holocaust studies, and incorporate Holocaust content into African history.

About the Conference Topic

In the midst of the horror of genocide and other atrocious crimes, there are always a few who refuse to be immobilized by fear or hatred. There are always those who resist or neutralize the violence committed against targeted groups. Some people respond by speaking out against the violence, even at the risk to their own lives. Others protect and hide co-workers, neighbors, friends, family and even strangers. These are the heroes/heroines whose acts of bravery and kindness go unknown. Given the significance of community in Africa, and Ubuntu philosophy, as well as the importance of solidarity, it is very important to hold up these heroes for their acts of courage and resistance are critical to genocide prevention and to healing conflict in Africa and the Diaspora.

In this conference we remember compassionate individuals who through courage, honor and defiance stood in solidarity to protect those targeted for genocide extermination. In a nutshell, this conference will explore what motivated or inspired these heroes/heroines to act, the specific actions they performed before, during, or after the atrocities and the impact of their actions. We will also examine how we can honor them in order to promote peace and develop strategies of prevention, and motivate others.

To these ends, we invite scholars who work on the stories of thousands of known and unknown individuals and families who hid, protected, and supported those in misery. From these narratives, we seek to identify methods and practices that can prove useful in the future, should genocide erupt again. Some presentations may focus on the misery of genocide but hopefully they will also tease out acts of bravery by those courageous individuals who sprayed the cooling mist of hope to save some in the face of despondency.

Call for papers

Calls for papers for the 2021 conference are now closed.