Nelson Mandela University: Nelson Mandela University hosts 12th Steve Biko Annual Public Lecture

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Nelson Mandela University will host the 12th Steve Biko Annual Public Lecture with an international multi-lingual educator and genocide survivor as the speaker at the South Campus Auditorium on 12 September at 18:00.

Titled, Building Bridges among the Wretched of the Earth, this is the second longest running Steve Biko lecture, apart from the Steve Biko Foundation/UNISA lecture, and the only one hosted in the late South African activist’s home province of the Eastern Cape.

The speaker is Prof Jeanine Ntihirageza (left), the founding director of the Centre for Genocide and Human Rights Research in Africa and the Diaspora at North Eastern Illinois University (NEIU), Chicago, where she is a professor and TESOL programme coordinator. Former Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) President, Professor Saths Cooper, is the respondent.

Invited guests include the National Exco of AZAPO, as well as other political formations. High schools in the Metro that offer History as a subject have also been invited as Steve Biko forms part of their school curriculum.

Prof Ntihirageza received her undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Burundi and studied in the United States as a Fulbright Scholar obtaining an MA in Linguistics from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She also has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago. Her current research is in African human rights, genocide and refugee studies.

She created the first oral history archive of the 1972 Burundi Genocide, housing more than 100 survivor stories collected in audio and video formats, together with transcriptions and translations. These testimonies will be hosted by the NEIU open-access institutional repository platform (https://neiudc.neiu.edu/) later this year, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation and Purdue University.

Since 2013, Prof Ntihirageza has served as Chair of the Genocide and Human Rights Research Group at NEIU, organising symposia and conferences on genocide and human rights in Africa and the diaspora. She has also presented as an invited speaker at genocide conferences in the United States and Cambodia.

Among other publications, in 2021, she co-edited the volume, Critical Perspectives on African Genocide: Memory, Silence, and Anti-Black Political Violence (Rowan and Littlefield International, 2021), in which her own “Survivor’s Account of the 1972 Burundi Genocide” appears.

A survivor of the 1972 genocide in Burundi in which she lost her father and older brother, Prof Ntihirageza is from a mixed family, with a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. In 2001, she received a Human Rights grant from the University of Chicago to begin working with Sub-Saharan refugee Communities in Chicago.

She has since initiated a number of community programmes, including a Multilingual Learning Centre, and has served as principal investigator on grants from the National Security Agency and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

She also serves as co-lead of the Community Engagement Core for the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative, where she Oversees community-based cancer education and outreach designed for African immigrants.

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