Viola Davis, the acclaimed actress, producer, and author, has been appointed as one of the first members of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement, a new initiative by the Biden administration to strengthen ties with African communities in the U.S. and abroad.
The council, which was announced in December 2022 during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, will provide guidance and recommendations to President Joe Biden on a range of issues, such as promoting trade and investment, enhancing cultural and educational exchanges, advancing social and political rights, and addressing health and security challenges.
Davis is among the 12 inaugural members of the council, who represent diverse backgrounds and expertise in government, business, academia, sports, creative industries, social work, and faith-based activities. They are all leaders of the African diaspora, which refers to people of African origin or descent living outside the continent.
The other members of the council are:
- Mimi E. Alemayehou, a former executive vice president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and a senior advisor to the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.
- Rosalind Brewer, the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance and the only Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company.
- Helene D. Gayle, the president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust and a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Patrick Hubert Gaspard, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa.
- C.D. Glin, the president of the PepsiCo Foundation and global head of social impact for PepsiCo.
- Osagie Imasogie, the founder and senior managing partner of PIPV Capital, a private equity firm focused on life sciences.
- Almaz Negash, the founder and executive director of the African Diaspora Network, a platform for diaspora engagement and collaboration.
- Chinenye Joy Ogwumike, a professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Sparks and the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association.
- Ham K. Serunjogi, the co-founder and CEO of Chipper Cash, a cross-border payment platform for Africa.
- Kevin Young, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and a poet laureate emeritus of New York State.
- Rev. Dr. Silvester Scott Beaman, who will serve as the chair of the council. He is the bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and delivered the benediction at Biden’s inauguration in 2021.
The White House described Davis as “a critically revered artist, activist, producer, philanthropist, and New York Times best-selling author.” She is widely recognized as one of the most talented and versatile actors of her generation, having won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. She is also known for her advocacy for women’s rights, racial justice, and child hunger.
Davis has expressed her pride in her African heritage and her connection to Africa. In 2016, she traced her roots to Sierra Leone through DNA testing and became an honorary citizen of the country. She has also visited Ghana and Nigeria with her husband and daughter.
The council will meet periodically with President Biden and other senior officials to provide input on U.S. policies and programs that affect Africa and its diaspora. The council will also engage with African leaders, civil society organizations, businesses, and diaspora communities to foster dialogue and collaboration.
The council is part of Biden’s broader strategy to reinvigorate U.S.-Africa relations, which have been strained by China’s growing influence and Russia’s meddling in the region. Biden has pledged to support democracy, human rights, economic development, health security, climate action, and peace and stability in Africa.
The council’s appointment has been welcomed by many African Americans and Africans who see it as a recognition of their contributions and potential. They hope that the council will help bridge the gaps between Africa and its diaspora and create more opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit.