Professor Spreading A Message Overseas Gloria Harper Dickinson Of The College Of New Jersey Is Taking Part In A Program On Black History In France.

Posted: February 25, 2001

WILLINGBORO — Although Black History Month is celebrated mostly in the United States, American embassies around the world also host programs during February to educate others about the role African Americans have had in U.S. history and the influence of the African diaspora on cultures across the globe.

People like Gloria Harper Dickinson, an associate professor and chair of The College of New Jersey's African American Studies Department in Ewing, Mercer County, have been invited abroad to share their knowledge.

Dickinson was asked by the American Embassy in Paris and the American Consulate in Strasbourg, France, to present several black history programs. She left Monday and is scheduled to return early this week.

Her lecture is considered important enough not only for an invite, but her expenses also are being taken care of by the two entities. Dickinson, a Willingboro resident, will present her lecture, "Women of African Ancestry at the 1995 Beijing Women's Forum," at the Verdun Peace Center and Strasbourg University, both located in Strasbourg.

The presentation, which includes slides, will discuss the activities of African women at the Beijing Non-Governmental Organization Conference, the African platform and its implications for African girls.

The Beijing conference offered women from every continent workshops on topics ranging from equal rights and the difference of wages that women receive compared to men, to violence against women and female circumcision.

"The [American] media coverage gave the impression that very few women of color participated in the event," Dickinson said.

"There were very large numbers of women of color," she said, adding that many were from the Caribbean and Africa. "They held about 350 [workshop] sessions in seven days," Dickinson said.

Dickinson's presentation will look at the history of the U.N.'s forums, as well as forums by the Non-Governmental Organization that resulted from the "Initiative of Women from 1975 to 2000," a report submitted to the United Nations by the organization, which believed that the world focused more on military spending than on issues such as poverty, hunger and violence against women.

"Each continent had an area [at the Beijing conference]," Dickinson said. "Each of them had a tent. The African women had one where women could come and connect with one another."

Dickinson was invited to lecture in France after she received an e-mail from a former classmate at Howard University who works in the American Embassy in Paris.

Dickinson received a bachelor's degree in European history from the City College of New York and a master's degree and a doctorate in African studies from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

She generally lectures about Africana literature and religion, black popular culture and women writers of the African diaspora.

"I've always tried to connect with communities of people from African heritage," Dickinson said. "I look forward to meeting African descendants in France."

Dickinson also is the president of the Association for the Study of Afro American Life and History, international secretary for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and a member of the sorority's Educational Advancement Foundation.

Melanie D. Scott's e-mail address is mescott@phillynews.com.

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