By David Pendered

A new center to promote cultural and economic exchange with the 55 nations of Africa is being promoted for the Centennial Olympic Park area of downtown Atlanta.

Sen. Donzella James
Sen. Donzella James

Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) advocates the idea of establishing such a center in Senate Resolution 9, which she has pre-filed for consideration by the General Assembly once it convenes Jan. 14.

The proposed center is part of James’ much broader push for the state Department of Economic Development to foster relations with the 55 nations of Africa. The resolution outlines specific roles for Atlanta, Atlanta’s airport, the state port in Savannah, and the state of Georgia to play in the proposed relationship.

Highlights of those roles include:

  • Atlanta and Georgia – Promote the city and state as the gateway for business with Africa, to include the establishment of many clusters of trade, cultural exchange, and research;
  • Atlanta’s airport – Promote the airport as the main center for passenger and cargo traffic between the U.S. and Africa;
  • Savannah port – Promote the port as the main center for cargo shipments between the U.S. and Africa.

The resolution doesn’t request a vast commitment of resources to achieve these goals. It does call on the department to work within its existing resources and legal capabilities to enhance trade and cultural relations with African nations.

The proposed location of the new center – somewhere near Centennial Park – would put it near both the proposed new Falcon’s stadium and the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The legislation does not mention either of those facilities.

The state’s partner in these proposed efforts to promote trade with African nations would be the Africa Heritage Foundation.

Chief Tunde Adeunji
Chief Tunde Adeunji

The foundation now is affiliated with Southern Polytechnic State University, in Marietta. The founder, president and CEO is Chief Tunde Adetunji.

Southern Polytechnic and the AHF established a formal agreement in 2011 that aims to “build bridges between the 55 nations of the Africa Union and the United States, in part through the creation of a network of universities on both continents,” according to a report on the school’s website.

The goal of the agreement is to create a network of universities on both the U.S. and African continents. More than 26 African nations are represented in the student body at Southern Polytechnic, according to the school’s report.

The foundation was incorporated in 2000, according to the Georgia secretary of state. It now is listed as non-compliant, having last registered in January 2011. The foundation was administratively dissolved in May 2008 and reinstated in September 2008 after paying all associated fees and penalties, according to state records.

Senate Resolution 9 begins without fanfare and cuts to the chase immediately.

It opens with a single “whereas” clause, which is somewhat unusual in a Legislature where a longer warm-up is not uncommon:

  • “WHEREAS, it is in the economic interest of this state to promote and strengthen mutually beneficial ties with nations of Africa.”

From this paragraph, the resolution goes on to outline 22 recommendations for state officials to consider in promoting greater relations between Georgia and Africa.

James has taken an interest in affairs related to the African Diaspora.

Last year, James introduced a resolution in the Senate, SR 727, to create a study committee to focus on the threats to the culture, heritage, and land of Sapelo Island – which is home to what the resolution describes as a “significant community consisting of Geechee Gulah people.”

The resolution intended to get a handle on the development of the island, which is Georgia’s fourt-largest barrier island and is located in McIntosh County, just south of Savannah.

SR 727 never made it out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment, chaired by Sen. Russ Toleson (R-Perry). The proposal died at the end of the 2012 legislative session.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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