Police brutality, protests and vandalising statues continue both in the United States and South Africa. Exclusively for Culture Connect SA Dr LaNitra Berger, Senior Director of Fellowships at George Mason University in Virginia, was in conversation on Zoom with Melanie Burke, societal change practitioner, based in St James, Cape Town on Thursday, 6 Aug 2020.
Monuments were the target of international protests against racial inequality after George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis on 25 May. As recently as 14 July, Rhodes head was sawn off at Rhodes Memorial, Cape Town, and found nearby in the bushes. #rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall, 2015 – 2016, were the largest student protests in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.
What is happening now in both countries, how do they differ, what are the parallels and how can we address positive change with a broader perspective and #BlackLivesMatter?
Recently LaNitra has been involved many similar online conversations. She is an art historian and her book is just about to be published by Bloomsbury Academic, called Irma Stern and the Racial Paradox of South African Modern Art: Audacities of Color. She is the author of Exploring Education Abroad: A Guide for Racial and Ethnic Minority Participants, by AFSA Association of International Educators who is also publishing her forthcoming book, Social Justice and International Education: Research, Practice, Perspectives. In 2018 LaNitra led a tour to South Africa for George Mason students as part of their Monuments course (Culture Connect facilitated a public art tour for this). She works in the faculty for African and African American Studies.
Melanie is hugely respected for her cross-sectoral work. Kate Crane Briggs of Culture Connect, first met Melanie in 2011 when Melanie was a director of MoDILA – Museum of Design, Innovation, Leadership and the Arts. Subsequently Kate did the Common Purpose leadership course led by Melanie who leads social entrepreneurship and innovation programmes in Cape Town for students at Maryland University, less than a hour’s drive from George Mason University, the other side of Washington DC.
The conversation was convened and chaired by Kate Crane Briggs and moderated by Sanet Tattersall.