Congratulations to senior Achille Tenkiang for winning the Labouisse Prize for international civic engagement projects

Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017
by heslin

Tenkiang, will travel to Nairobi for his fellowship to tackle the question of cultural production among urban refugees.

"I would like to explore how urban refugees can use artistic methods to navigate urban life, reclaim their own narratives and empower their communities," Tenkiang said.

He plans to work with Fatuma's Voice, a grassroots arts and social justice organization in Nairobi, to organize a series of slam poetry workshops with urban refugee youth. While refugees in Nairobi nominally have access to public schools and hospitals, they do not have a recognized political voice.

"Through this project, I hope to highlight the different configurations of narratives of forced migration and displacement, the factors shaping these narratives, and the embedded power relations that permeate them," he said. "In particular, I'd like to consider how refugees contest the processes, which lead to the silencing and marginalization of their narratives and experiences. This project combines my passion for slam poetry, social justice and African cities."

Tenkiang is also pursuing certificates in urban studies and French language and culture. He was a PIIRS Undergraduate Fellow in 2016 and a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow in 2015. He is co-president of the African Students Association, co-founder of the Black Leadership Coalition, a peer academic adviser at Wilson College, as well as a member of the Umqombothi African Music Ensemble, Ellipses Slam Poetry Team and the Dorobucci Dance Team.

"Achille has impressed me as remarkably thoughtful about literature and politics," said Wendy Belcher, an associate professor of comparative literature and African American studies who specializes in African literature and has taught Tenkiang and worked with him on numerous projects. "In his research, Achille has demonstrated his ability to address a variety of political issues with care, to read texts with nuance and to do very original work. He is an exceptional student, compassionate individual and a focused leader."

Following his fellowship, Tenkiang plans to pursue graduate studies to better understand the social, political and cultural transformations that permeate African cities and their relation to youth and migrant populations.