VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota professor Mejai B.M. Avoseh was one of two keynote speakers at the “Diaspora Festival Badagry - Voyage to Heritage” festival in Badagry, Nigeria.
“I was pleasantly surprised, honored, and humbled by the invitation,” Avoseh said. “I was also apprehensive of meeting the high expectations of a keynote speech to such a diverse gathering of academics, politicians, traditional rulers and people from all corners of the world.”
“We are truly honored by this invitation and incredibly proud of Dr. Avoseh. This keynote invitation speaks to the extent and impact of his expertise,” said Amy Schweinle, associate dean of research and graduate education at USD.
Avoseh, a professor of Adult and Higher Education, traveled to the coastal Nigerian town of Badagry located in Lagos State from August 23-25. At the festival he presented his research titled “MEDAGBE: Ogu Moral Philosophy for Diaspora Citizenship.”
The Ogu/Egun are the dominant indigenous group in Badagry, which was known as the Slave Port City during the slave trade. The majority of slaves from Western Africa who left the continent from Badagry were bound for plantations in Europe, North and South America, and the Caribbean.
The annual festival, which is meant to be a replica of the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture, is designed to assist those whose ancestors were separated by the slave trade from their traditional homelands in reuniting with their ancestral roots. The celebration, organized under the patronage of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also seeks to showcase the rich diversity of African cultures.
Avoseh, who is originally from Nigeria, said he was honored to take part in the celebration.
“I am grateful to the organizers of the festival for the invitation and sponsorship to be part of this wonderful experience,” Avoseh said.
Some of the attendees at the event were people from the U.S., Brazil, the Caribbean, and Haiti who were visiting the homelands of their ancestors for the first time. All of these “diasporean” people were awarded citizenship in a unique ceremony that Avoseh said was an “indescribable display of culture and history.”