AFFILIATION: The Ubuntu Institute for Community Development
Molefi Askari is a community organizer in Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina and a 10 year member of the US Human Rights Network. He co-leads a dedicated, intergenerational group of men and women rooted in the Southeast, who are committed to building awareness of the human rights framework and how it can be applied locally to advance social justice. Molefi was born and raised near the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Spartanburg, S.C. where he learned the value of service to family and community. His rural upbringing and years of experiences in cities and communities throughout the Carolinas continues to fuel his deep commitment to the southern U.S. within a wider worldview.
Molefi was a top-ranked wrestler in high school and is a former U.S. Marine, followed by his post-military career in management in the thriving SE auto manufacturing industry. He founded his first entrepreneurial venture, an African-centered bookstore, “Higher Learning Culture and Survival Center", and this dedication to working with others to fill gaps in the community, providing Black studies and educational resources and events while building shared knowledge and self-reliance has never waned. His next venture was a popular spot, JazzPoetry Garaj; an eclectic open-mic poetry venue to provide a community gathering space for cultural experiences, study groups, and lively discussion on how to support and improve the community.
After a successful career at Michelin and BMW, from which he retired, Molefi shifted from founding bricks and mortar community spaces to exploring ideas and ways to build peoples' capacity and create a more just world long term. This resulted in The Ubuntu Institute for Community Development and its conference, CHRONIC - The Carolinas Human Rights Network Conference (see link). He credits attendance at a US Human Rights Network conference in Atlanta years ago, for inspiring his transformation to a human rights organizer.
His current focus is on building with, and for, others with the goal of exposing the local community to the idea and practice of human rights, building a network of people to understand and advance this work, and help as many people as possible in the city, surrounding community, and region to see their current work as human rights work. Molefi has expanded his circle of influence and reputation regionally and nationally, collaborating and learning more about access to justice movement work and connecting with a range of southern focused groups including Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), N'COBRA, Black Workers for Justice, and other organizations focused on African and African diaspora self-reliant solutions, to larger global organizations like Amnesty International and The US Human Rights Network where he participates primarily with the US Human Rights Cities Movement and recently co-wrote a stakeholders' report to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights through the Network's call for submissions on Structural Racism. Molefi's favorite quote is "Tell no lies; claim no easy victories" (Amilcar Cabral).