US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



Update from the #MidDecadeSummit

Nov 30, 2019

On November 13, we hosted the #MidDecadeSummit at Howard University to mark the halfway point of the International Decade for People of African Descent. The Summit was co-sponsored by the US Human Rights Network, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, and the European Network of People of African Descent.

The primary goal of this event was to facilitate a convening among IDPAD leaders, academics, and activists across the diaspora to acknowledge the halfway point of the United Nations proclamation of the IDPAD and discuss the Decade’s themes of recognition, justice, and development. Panelists, with participation from attendees and online viewers, discussed issues that impact people of African descent and addressed the work that needs to be done to meet the Decade’s stated objectives.

We were so excited and energized by the dynamic conversations led by our incredible panelists, the questions posed by our engaged audience, and the chatter around the multilingual livestreams. The strength of solidarity and the dedication to action moving forward around topics including reparations, cultural strategy, human rights advocacy, and decolonization was palpable! Please see notes below on the plenaries.

We look forward to providing you with a link to the post-conference report soon, for your feedback and comments, in addition to the various statements in regards to the PAD Declaration and Permanent Forum drafted as a result of the Summit. Read more about the Summit and our wide array of guest panelists from around the world at 

To stay up to date with PAD work facilitated by the US Human Rights Network and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, please visit


Event Overview Notes

Plenary I Overview - Looking to the Past
Moderator: Salimah Hankins (Deputy Director, US Human Rights Network)
Panelists: Mireille Fanon-Mendes France (Frantz Fanon Foundation), Cristian Baez (Lumbanga), Melissa Varswyk (Chairwoman of IDPAD Summit, Guyana), Modi Ntambwe (European Network of People of African Descent), Wade Henderson (counsel to the Leadership Conference Education Fund)

  • The panelists discussed their work regarding the Decade and the empowerment of African descendants in their respective regions.
  • Mireille Fanon-Mendes France spoke on the crisis of mass incarceration of African people throughout the diaspora.
  • Modi Ntambwe, showed gratitude to the work of grassroots organizations that have done work within local networks to make change happen globally
  • Melissa Varswyk spoke to the need to bridge the diaspora with the continent of Africa, making Africa the transit hub and allowing for an African Union passport to be distributed to diasporans
  • Wade Henderson spoke on restorative justice efforts in the United States and how the Decade must promote reparations claims
  • Coalition building as a strategy 

Plenary II Overview - Planning for the Future
Moderator: Sakira Cook (Justice Reform Program Director, The Leadership Conference Education Fund)
Panelists: Luis Ernesto Olave (REDLAD), Marcos Rezende (Collective of Black Entities of Brazil), Justin Hansford (Executive Director of the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights), Ana Luiza Silva (Human Rights Specialist, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), Kwesi Shaddai (Global African Congress UK)

  • A question posed to candidates by moderator Sakira Cook: There are 5 years left in the Decade and there have been challenges around funding and the mode of achieving meaningful change for the long term. What is your vision and what are the priorities for the next 5 years of the Decade? How do we move forward together to make the next 5 years meaningful to our communities?
  • Justin Hansford stated that the Decade is a great concept as an organizing tool, and it creates urgency and a concrete benchmark.
  • We must make sure that the Decade is recognized formally through aggressive advertisement
  • Ana Luiza Silva stressed the importance of having a legally binding document to pressure states to action
  • Luis Ernesto Olave spoke on the fact that Information is not reaching the places we need within the diaspora
  • In South America, Afro tribal groups have been included in state Constitutions for protection, as in the case of Chile
  • Connecting the Decade to everyday people
  • Marcos Rezende presented a powerpoint presentation focusing on inequality and issues of race, gender, and social class in the context of the implementation of the Decade in Bahia, Brazil
  • Kwesi Shaddai suggested refocusing the Decade using the framework of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
  • Discrimination (CERD) and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPPA)
  • Possibly submit shadow reports
  • More capacity for grassroots organizations to pressure the government to adhere to global reparations for people of African descent

Plenary III Overview - Reparatory Justice
Moderator: Justin Hansford (Executive Director of the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights)
Panelists: Nkechi Taifa (N’COBRA), Chevy Eugene (Caribbeanist/Scholar), Esther Ojulari (Doctoral Candidate, University of London), Crista Noel (Women’s All Points Bulletin)

  • Nkechi Taifa articulated how the kidnapping and enslavement of African people was an act of war in which we are entitled to damages, reparations
  • Chevy Eugene spoke on the need to politicize the youth in the Caribbean around the issue of reparations, specifically on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparation Commission’s (CRC) 10-point Reparation Action Plan
  • Esther Ojulari described the violations of human rights in Afro Colombian and indigenous communities and the necessity of restoring dignity for violated groups through a decolonial approach
  • Esther addressed the political fear of the issue of reparations by states because of the narrow understanding of reparations as a lump sum. Although compensation is a necessary component of reparations, redressing the historical and contemporary injuries of institutional racism and structural discrimination goes beyond basic monetary compensation or a lump-sum payment. Healing may include systemic change, education, criminal justice reform, and economic development.
  • Crista Noel stressed the need for people to use the growing lucrative marijuana industry as part of a reparations claim
  • Crista told the traumatic story of the Chicago police tortures that took place in the 1970s and 1980s, and how a comprehensive package was developed for reparations for the victims
  • Crista also focused the discussion on acknowledging the trauma and murders of women by police violence, such as Rukia Boyd and Sandra Bland

Breakout Session Overview - Using the Decade for People of African Descent
Facilitators: Kerry McLean (National Lawyers Guild), Adediran Olaiya (Doctoral Candidate, the University of the West of England), Isabelle Valery Mamadou Blanco (2016 PAD Fellow)

  • Facilitators and audience members openly discussed whether the permanent forum should be under the Human Rights Council (HRC) or the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).