The U.S. Mission to the African Union welcomed Jerome W. Jones, Jr. and Jeromyah Jones, father-son visual artists from Richmond, Virginia, in May to showcase more than a dozen pieces of their art in commemoration of Africa Day 2023. The Joneses participated in the African Union’s Africa Day Ceremony on May 25, making them the first Black American artists to exhibit their work in the Great Hall of the African Union Commission’s Conference Center.
The AU captures the important role the African Diaspora play in the development of the continent in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the very framework that established the union. In fact, they refer to it as the “sixth region,” following the North, South, East, West, and Central regions of Africa. The Joneses continued this tradition of exploration and dialogue on themes of Pan-Africanism with their art and engagements with the AU.
The Joneses presented “I AM 400,” a large piece commemorating 400 years of African American history. It includes 69 portraits of notable pioneers of the African American community, including Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe, Stevie Wonder, and trailblazing NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
The father-son art team joined the AU’s Africa Day exhibition at the Great Hall in Addis Ababa alongside art from 33 AU member states. They engaged with AU Commission Chairperson Faki, AU delegations, and African artists about the importance of Pan-Africanism in contemporary American culture.
The Joneses also participated in a number of other events during their visit to Addis Ababa. They joined a panel discussion at the launch of the Pan-African Wing of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. USAU made a significant financial contribution to its refurbishment in 2022. They also co-produced a collaborative art piece with young artists studying locally and held a talk on Pan-African art at the Oda Medemer Africa Art and Sculpture Space.
The African Diaspora in the United States is a source of strength. It encompasses African Americans, including descendants of enslaved Africans, and nearly two million African immigrants who have close familial, social, and economic connections to the continent. The African immigrant community makes significant contributions to America’s growth and prosperity. Last year, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the creation of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States (PAC-ADE), which will enhance the dialogue between United States officials and the African Diaspora.