Adotei Akwe

This week I lost another one of my pillars.

Jennifer Davis passed away on Wednesday and I am at a loss for words.

Jennifer gave me the first job of what would become my career as the Research and Human Right Director of the Africa Fund and the American Committee on Africa in 1988.

Jennifer was the most principled person I have had the luck of working with. Even as she worked toward larger strategic goals — and fighting for Africa’s liberation and ending Apartheid were indeed long bitter struggles — she always paid attention to how something was done so that the principle was not lost, that that those on the front line were heard and empowered and that a movement was built along the way.

Jennifer was diminutive and slight. She suffered debilitating migraines and dreaded the spotlight and yet she generated such respect from her peers that she became a leading Sangoma for progressive solidarity groups and activists focused on Africa. When she was awarded the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo by the South African Government in 2009 among the surviving anti-apartheid era activists the question was why it took so long.

But that does not capture all that Jennifer was. She was the historian who would come up with an obscure reference about an African leader or a colonial practice she was the one who had the cheeky sense of humor would pop up in the middle of a discussion of politics and grassroot mobilization.

Jennifer was a mentor and a dear friend and always remained the head of a family of eclectic people who bonded over working at a small organization devoted to struggle for justice and freedom in Africa A principle she exemplified in her everyday life.
I hope to see her again to reflect on political transformation in Africa and the United States and make sure she knows what a rich legacy she has left behind.

There is a quote from the antiapartheid struggle that best captures her strength

“Now you have touched the women,
You have struck a rock (You have dislodged a boulder!)
You will be crushed!”
Jennifer Davis was a rock

Aluta Continua!
Rest in Power

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