Frank Smith, Chair
Eugene Franklin, Vice Chair
Dr. Phyllis Gray Ray, Director
Dr. Gina Wilson Beckles, Assistant Director
Dr. Victor Bouadjio
Ann Chinn, Historian
Sonja Griffin Evans, Cultural Artist
Mark Scovera, National Black Business Support Corporation Advisor
Charles DeBow, III, National Black Chamber, Washington, D.C.
The Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute celebrates the culture and connectivity of the people of the African Diaspora. The African Diaspora being defined as people of African descent who live as cultural and national communities in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, and North America.
The Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute was created in honor of the life of the first person of African descent to set foot on North American soil. Estevanico was born in Azamor, Morocco. When he was a teenager, during the drought of 1520-21, the Portuguese sold many Moroccans into slavery. Estevanico was sold to Andres de Dorantes, and the two joined an expedition to the lands of Florida. It was to be a tragic expedition: Although they reached Florida in 1528, many on the expedition died of illness, injuries and attacks. Many fled by boat, reaching the Texas coast, where they were enslaved. By 1534, only four were alive: Estevanico, Dorantes, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado.
The saga of Estevanico is symbolic and recognizable to all people in the African Diaspora. His courage under duress, his intelligence and survival skills are culturally evident. But most importantly, Estevanico was a product of his faith teachings and his culture. His heritage gave him the pride and stamina to endure and to serve as a humanitarian to those less fortunate. Gifted, he used those gifts in relationships with other cultures for the benefit of the whole. Although enslaved, Estevanico became a leader, an explorer, an educators, a healer and a spiritual ambassador for every culture he represented. And the Pan African Cultural Heritage Institute was created as a way on celebrating his life and many others, and to connect the African Diaspora by showcasing our culture and economic prowess.
Let us celebrate! Village by Village! The Pan African Village! We are One! One Culture, One Heritage! Africa, Europe, Caribbean, South America, Central America, South America, North America. One Village!
Mission: To serve as the “Think Tank” for the National Black Chamber of Commerce Federation and the affiliates of the National Black Business Support Corporation. The Institute will also serve as a research center, in support of chambers, state and local governments, community and economic development groups. Its role will be to perform unbiased research and provide white papers and opinions on cultural commerce issues that affect all cultures, particularly African Americans. The ultimate goal being: to provide research documentation of the problem areas; show opportunities for improvements in those areas, and implementation by local communities to alleviate those disparities.
The History of Pan Africa
Pan-Africanism gained legitimacy with the founding of the African Association in London in 1897, and the first Pan-African conference held, again in London, in 1900. Henry Sylvester Williams, the power behind the African Association, and his colleagues were interested in uniting the whole of the African Diaspora, and gaining political rights for those of African descent. Duse Mohamed Ali believed that change could only come through economic development. Pan-Africanism had expanded out beyond the continent into Europe, the Caribbean and Americas.
Pan-Africanism is a cultural and social philosophy that seeks to unite the people and nations that have sizeable populations of people of African Descent. The purpose being to create opportunities for tourism and trade. The inherent commonality of culture and heritage, increases the viability of continued growth and success. There is a shared need for cultural and ethnic products and services that are of importance to such people, which in itself creates the opportunity for trade and travel. The opportunities are endless for all cultures that are a part of (black) African heritage, and seek their place in their respective nation and as a member of the world’s African Diaspora. We will build that place!