“If you want to travel, pack your bags, but if you want to volunteer, pack your books.”
That statement summed up Binta Ka’s presentation on the potential harms of voluntourism in Africa at the second annual undergraduate research conference in the department of African, African American and Diaspora Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Voluntourism — trips that combine a vacation with a volunteer effort, such as building a hospital or digging a well — have become very popular, but participants are often clueless of the political, social and other long-term implications of their actions, said Ka ’18. By increasing dependency on wealthy countries or undermining local business efforts, these well-intended activities can do more harm than good, she said.
Ka joined fellow students (and one recent alumnus) in presenting work at the March 20-21 conference. True to the name of the department, the topics covered Africa (U.N. peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo), the African American experience (how tracking in schools stratifies students by race) and the diaspora (an Afro-Brazilian favela in Rio de Janeiro).
Danielle Allyn traveled to Bukavu, Congo, to see firsthand the implications of the 2010 U.N. Security Council resolution that brought peacekeepers to the war-torn country. Those she spoke to described the troops as ill-trained and ill-equipped.
After Virginia Riel ’15 discussed her fieldwork conducted at three area high schools that showed how students were often placed on different academic tracks based on race, the student who followed her, Darius Whitney ‘15, quipped, “Thank you, Virginia, for explaining my high school experience.”
Whitney’s paper, “White (Ir)rational Fear of Hip-Hop,” outlined the beginnings of the genre, which was always intended to be larger than music — a movement devoted to peace, love and having fun.
“If the hip-hop you hear on TV and radio today doesn’t sounds like what I’ve been talking about, it’s because it’s been co-opted by corporate America,” he said.
Taylor Webber-Fields ’15 discussed the vital role that a weekly newspaper, The Negro World, played in encouraging black identity and financial literacy in the period between World War I and just after the Great Depression.
Sam Selvesen, who graduated from Carolina in December, returned to campus to discuss the plight of the Alemao favela of Rio before and after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. “I want to offer a different narrative” than the media portrayals of the slums outside the city as places of rampant drug use and violence. “The people who occupy it are the bus drivers and domestic workers that make the city tick.”
The conference opened March 20 with the Dunbar-Stone lecture and a welcome from Karen Gil, dean of the College, who noted that undergraduate research moves students from being consumers of knowledge to becoming creators of knowledge.
Wake Forest law professor Kami Chavis Simmons, a 1996 Carolina alumna of public policy and AAAD, delivered the lecture. In the light of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., in which two black men died during altercations with police, her topic, “The Realities of Racial Profiling and the Problem with Police Accountability,” could not have been more timely.
After providing a brief rundown of racially charged events beginning with the beating of Rodney King in 1991 — an event that affected her deeply as a high school student and put her on her career path — Simmons acknowledged the difficulty of proving racial profiling in its strict legal sense and said that reforms might be more promising via legislation.
She encouraged students to support the End Racial Profiling Act at the federal and state levels and also to “Participate in as many sit-ins, die-ins, teach-ins, vote-ins as you can. Be there.”
By Geneva Collins