Radical African thought, revolutionary youth culture, and Wikipedia

Per Princeton instructor and African American Studies scholar Dr. Wendy Belcher, “African thought continues to be marginalized, even though radical black intellectuals have shaped a number of social movements and global intellectual history. African youths are innovating new models that are revolutionizing the sciences, law, social and visual media, fashion, etc.” She has taught multiple courses on African literature and in the fall of 2018, taught a class on radical African thought and revolutionary youth culture, where she tasked students with creating Wikipedia articles. This post looks at three articles created by these students.

Emmanuel Blayo Wakhweya was an Ugandan politician and economist who served as the Ugandan Minister of Finance under Idi Amin from 1971 until his high profile defection in London in 1975. Born and educated in Uganda, Wakhweya became a district administrative officer after completing his Master’s at Makerere University. He then became the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury in the Milton Obote administration, where his abilities caused him to rise in the ranks until he was appointed the Minister of the Treasury (1969) and then the Minister of Finance after Idi Amin’s 1971 Ugandan coup d’état. Amin wanted Wakhweya to help fix Uganda’s crumbling economy, which was now facing several complications such as high state spending. This chaos would result in Wakhweya defecting about four years later in early 1975, with him stating that he “can’t imagine how the ordinary people are still able to carry on because of the shortages of the simplest essentials of life and the soaring cost of living. Uganda is facing economic catastrophe. Either the economic forces will compel Amin to change his policies or there will be an explosion in the country because of popular discontent.” These actions were denounced in Uganda and any of his relatives that remained in Uganda were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Now exiled from Uganda, Wakhweya moved to the United States, where he worked for the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. After he retired, Wakhweya was able to return to Uganda, where he died in 2001.

Another new article that students created was one on the short lived French literary journal Tropiques, which was founded by Martinican intellectuals such as Aimé and Suzanne Césaire. Published in Martinique from 1941 to 1945, this journal’s issues contained poetry, essays, and fiction and due to the contributions of surrealist André Breton, became a leading voice of surrealism in the Caribbean. Other topics discussed in Tropiques included colonialism, a vital topic for both its readers and writers, as Martinique was controlled by the French State during this time. This Vichy-supported government tried to shut down the journal and even tried to deny it paper for publishing. This did not work, as Tropiques simply resumed publication once the Free French arrived and even released a double issue to make up for the prior censored publication.

Finally, student movements in Uganda are a vital part of the country’s history and culture. Spanning back to the 1930s, students have fought against various forms of oppression and injustice that includes colonial rule and most recently, a tax on social media that critics state is aimed at silencing protesters. Students and instructors at Makerere University have often participated in these protests and in 2016 the university was closed in response to a student and instructor led strike over finance concerns, budget cuts, and tensions over the Kasese Massacre.

For some, Wikipedia is the easiest way to learn about a new concept or topic, which is why contributions by students and instructors using the site as an educational tool can make such a big difference in the world. If you would like to include Wikipedia writing as a learning tool with your class, visit teach.wikiedu.org to find out how you can gain access to tools, online trainings, and printed materials.

ImageFile:Makerere University, Main Administration Block(main building).JPGEric Lubega and Elias Tuheretze, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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