City Diplomacy in Advancing Black Racial Solidarity: Opportunities and Implications in the Wake of Social Justice Movements

Principal Investigator:
Shearon Roberts, CPD Research Fellow 2021-23

This project aims to advance research and scholarship around city public diplomacy at a time of social justice movements. Major global events around Black racial solidarity: Ghana’s “Year of Return” in 2019 and the UN's International Decade of People of African Descent (2015–2024) alongside the decades-long work of Black activists has renewed the ways in which people of African descent engage their communities around shared ideals. While the global pandemic may have halted specific plans for economic and cultural exchanges born out of the “Year of Return” and the UN’s Decade of People of African Descent, forms of Black racial solidarity have in fact expanded in 2020 due to global engagement around social justice movements, particularly for people of African descent.

This project specifically maps the work of a new generation of U.S. Black political leaders, particularly Black women mayors and elected officials in primarily U.S. Southern cities, who have spearheaded the effort to engage global Black spaces since 2018. In 2019, New Orleans’ first Black woman mayor LaToya Cantrell visited Ghana to mark the 400-year anniversary of the first slave ship that left this West African nation headed to the Jamestown settlement. These African American elected officials have engaged in new city public diplomacy that has often ran parallel and in contrast to the White House. The work of Black elected officials in the U.S. also takes place in predominantly Black cities in the South, with Republican-led state legislatures. Their work allows them to engage in global public diplomacy in Black spaces in ways that their state or federal actors may not.

This research project aims to add to the work of scholars on the potential of the sister cities model created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a vehicle to engage in global citizen diplomacy. This research project examines how this model has been adapted in marginalized and minority spaces as a form of global engagement by people of African descent in the last four years around racial solidarity and upliftment.