Campus & Community

Gates receives European Culture of Peace Award

4 min read

Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been awarded the European Science and Culture Award from the City for the Cultures of Peace in Berlin. The award is given in recognition of his fight against the abuse of human rights, racism, and discrimination, and efforts on behalf of the victims of oppression. Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, was recognized for his books, films, and teaching regarding the history of Africans and African Americans and for his support for the struggle for equal rights in the United States.

The City for the Cultures of Peace/Cité des Cultures de la Paix/Cité der Friedenskulturen is an international network of distinguished scholars and scientists from a variety of disciplines, including artists, musicians, social workers, and other professionals. It was established as a response to the two world wars and genocides of the 20th century to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to develop new solutions and strategies to confront problems facing contemporary societies around the world.

The 2007 award ceremony was the culmination of the Cultures of Peace Forum, “Personal Engagement in History and Society,” which took place June 13 and 14, and focused on the deterioration of human rights in many African nations, the dire plight of street children, strategies to prevent genocide, and the ongoing struggle against all violations of human rights. The award ceremony was held in a palace known as Reichstagspräsidentenpalais, on the premises of the German Parliamentarian Society, which comprises members of the German and European parliament. The palace, located across from the German parliament, the former Reichstagspalais, often hosts state presidents and is regarded as a symbolic center of German parliamentarian power.

In addition to Gates, Nobel Prize laureate Wole Soyinka was also awarded the European Culture of Peace Award for Civic Courage and Defense of Human Rights. Soyinka, the president of the African Community of Culture, received the award for his courageous decades-long opposition to human rights abuses and his advocacy of equality and democracy, both in his native Nigeria and internationally. The forum also featured a conversation between Soyinka and Gates about their efforts in African countries and the United States to combat racism, discrimination, and the abuse of human rights.

“The European Culture of Peace Awards honor key cultural mediators who stand up for peaceful conflict resolution, build bridges between heterogeneous peoples, and inscribe the idea of peace into the consciousness of the present,” said Professor Amy-Diana Colin (University of Pittsburgh and Moses Mendelssohn Center, University of Potsdam), founder of the City for the Cultures of Peace and representative of Pro Europa, in her opening address.

Cultures of Peace Awards were also given to Yvonne Bezerra de Mello (Brazil), the founder of the children’s foundation Projeto Uerê, who received the European Culture of Peace Award for Social Engagement; human rights expert Pierre Sané (Senegal/France), assistant director-general for social and human sciences, UNESCO, who received the European Culture of Peace Award for the Combat of Human Rights Abuse; Florence Sitruk (Switzerland/Germany), renowned harp player, who received the Elias Parish Alvars Award for Music as a Culture of Peace; Baccari Suso (Germany), Gilbert Diop (Senegal), and Akin Fansom (Nigeria), who were awarded the Förderpreise awards for music and culture of peace.

The Berlin Forum was organized by Colin with the support of the City for the Cultures of Peace, the Zeit-Foundation Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, The Regent (Berlin), the Cultural Studies Seminar and African Studies Seminar at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, the European Cultural Foundation: Pro Europa, Joseph-Radowitz-Events, and Comcat Design.