Alumnus to Speak on US Relations with Africa
Haskell Ward with Julius Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania

Alumnus to Speak on US Relations with Africa

Haskell Sears Ward, an expert on development and one of the first UCLA graduate students in African Studies, will focus his Thursday afternoon talk on what Africa and the United States have meant to one another for the past 50 years.

By Jennifer Carcamo for The Daily Bruin

HE DIDN'T SEE it coming, let alone expect it to change his entire life.

Initially a pre-med student at Clark College in Atlanta, Haskell Sears Ward said he embarked on a new journey and traveled to Kenya in 1962 – a trip that forever changed his life goals and proved to be a transformational experience.

Upon arriving back in the states, Ward said he decided to participate in UCLA's African studies program through graduate school to learn more about Africa's relationship with the rest of the world, especially the U.S. On Thursday, Ward will share his insight on U.S.–Africa relations here at UCLA so that others can understand the past 50 years of Africa's development in relation to the world.

Professor Edmond Keller, chairman of the political science department and former director of the African Studies Center, said he first met Ward during a fellowship program and knew him through the work he did after getting his master's degree from the African Studies Center.

Ward was one of the first students to receive a master's degree from UCLA for African studies and was one of the first Peace Corps members to travel to Africa, Keller said. Ward's lifework after graduation studying Africa has helped him obtain a greater understanding of African relations, and his lecture is reflective of that.

Early in college, Ward said he participated in student sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement and protested alongside black icons such as Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. Ward was recruited to go to Africa by a close professor and soon enough found himself in Ethiopia.

Before his departure in 1962, Ward said he met with President Kennedy, who told him to look for Tom Mboya, a labor leader from Kenya who became known as a symbolic icon for the African people. Sure enough, Ward said he got to work with Mboya in the Kenyan airlift that brought Kenyans to the U.S.

When he came back to the U.S., his dreams of becoming a psychiatrist were no longer in his future plans, and instead he decided to join the Peace Corps. Ward said that the Peace Corps required him to complete training at UCLA before departure.

"I never thought a campus could be as elegant and luxurious as UCLA," Ward said. "I fell in love with UCLA. ... It was a mystical experience for a little guy like me who went to a school in a little wooden schoolhouse."

In 1965, Ward said he was admitted into UCLA and became one of the first students to take part in the African studies program. Ward credits UCLA for his developed ideas on African culture and said they were heavily influenced by university professors. He encountered black icons such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) and Michael Warren.

Since his graduation from UCLA, Ward has been involved in many projects that will strengthen the relationship between the United States and Africa, said Reed Kramer, the chief executive officer of AllAfrica Global Media. Kramer said that at AllAfrica Global Media, the largest media distributor from and about Africa, he has followed Ward throughout the years reporting on his most up-to-date projects.

Currently, Ward is working with a company called SEACOM to help install fiber optics communication systems in Eastern and Southern Africa with Europe and Asia, Kramer said. Ward said the project has been in its developing stages since he became senior vice president of SEACOM and will finally be launched this year.

"He is a caring person," Kramer said. "He cares for the economy and the people of Africa and has a wide understanding of what's happening in the continent."

Ward was invited by the African Studies Center to lecture Thursday at 4 p.m. Keller said it will be a reflective presentation on how the U.S. has become involved in African relations and what its role has been up until now, especially with the election of a black president.

He will focus on current issues concerning the African community and what it means to the U.S., to the world and to globalization, Keller said.

"He has had a long and industrious career, and we just wanted to share his rich life after his student days at UCLA," Keller said.

Published: Wednesday, April 01, 2009