South African academics visit Flint to see Ubuntu at work here

FLINT, Michigan—The early morning light shines pale as 10 South African university delegates, begin their journey through Flint to see the similarities, differences, and ultimately their home philosophy of Ubuntu put into practice more than 8,000 miles away in Civic Park neighborhood. 

Ubuntu is a South African concept that translates to “I am because we are.” 

“The mere fact that we are here is Ubuntu because we are meeting people, we’re sharing ideas, we’re happy to be here,” said Nana Lupuwana of Fort Hare University in South Africa. “And people here have got that culture of Ubuntu. Everybody is welcoming us. Everybody is smiling. That’s what Ubuntu is all about.” 

The tour of Civic Park’s Ubuntu philosophy is part of an academic exchange fostered by University of Michigan-Flint professor Otrude Moyo since 2011. It is made possible through her work as a Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow. 

“This an idea that has really taken root in terms of how can we resuscitate communities using our African wisdom...and embrace new communities using African wisdom,”said Moyo, who serves as chair of the social work department at UM-Flint.

Related article: See inside Ubuntu Village — Flint's unique community-building effort

The South African troup included both students and faculty, who brought with them insight and expertise into subjects like challenging heteronormativity, social innovation, and community development. 

Fort Hare University is a public university located in Alice, South Africa, that is known worldwide for educating black Africans during aparthied. Revolutionaries including Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe are listed among their alumni.
The reciprocal exchange between South African and UM-Flint students allows for insight beyond what is often shown on television or in the news, Moyo said. The immersion is a way of building a global connectivity said Moyo it’s an awareness that what happens in one place can have positive and negative consequences somewhere else, a staple concept of Ubuntu. 

“We are connected to Civic Park as a department and also connecting that to Eastern Cape,” said Moyo. 

Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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