Binghamton University’s African Student Organization will host a lecture by South African-born writer Mark Mathabane on “Our Common Humanity” as part of ASO’s Black History Month series.
The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14 in Lecture Hall 9.
Mathabane is the bestselling-author of “Kaffir Boy,” an autobiography chronicling his coming of age in the extreme poverty of a South African ghetto during Apartheid.
Daniel Adeyanju, a sophomore majoring in biology and ASO’s educational coordinator at BU, said that the lecture would help bring people together because of its powerful message.
“A common humanity is about an important, dark part in the history of the world,” Adeyanju said. “We have a common humanity that we, even as students, need to be reminded of.”
Mathabane escaped from Apartheid in 1978 at the age of 18 when Stan Smith, the American tennis professional and former Wimbledon champion, arranged a tennis scholarship for him to study at Limestone College in South Carolina.
Since it was published in 1986, “Kaffir Boy” has reached the top of The Washington Post bestsellers list and No. 3 on The New York Times bestsellers list. It has been translated into several languages and been studied in many U.S. classrooms and was added to the American Library Association’s list of “Outstanding Books for the College-Bound.”
Mathabane’s other works include “Love in Black and White,” “African Women: Three Generations,” “Ubuntu” and “The Proud Liberal.”
Adeyanju said that this event will help promote ASO’s purposes of serving the interests of the African student population and educating the campus about issues facing Africa, but was not geared toward any single interest group.
“We’re reaching to people taking English classes, and of all humanities, all races, all creeds. This [lecture] is not only for people of color, but for people of all races,” he said.
Eunice Ochuonyo, a senior in the Decker School of Nursing and president of ASO, said she first heard Mathabane speak when he came to her high school and wanted BU’s community to receive the same message.
“A lot of people don’t know his story,” Ochuonyo said. “Learning through his struggle, anything is possible. It doesn’t matter where you come from, you can achieve anything.”
Ochuonyo said she was grateful for the work of the Africana Studies department, Mathabane’s wife Gail Mathabane and many others in putting the event together. The Student Association and other organizations, such as FINCO Premium Finance, helped ASO raise $5,000 to cover Mathabane’s speaking fee and close to another $1,000 for his flight and other accommodation costs.
“It’s stressful in getting a speaker,” Adeyanju said. “We had to get a speaker who was relevant. We wanted someone from Africa who could bring their perspective. We had to call them … but it was worth it in the end.”
There will be a reception prior to Mathabane’s lecture where attendees can meet the author, as well as a book signing afterward.