|Nicole C. Lee will head TransAfrica until next week, when she steps down.|
Nicole C. Lee is the first woman to head the organization. She now will work to bring peace to Colombia and awareness to girls kidnapped in Nigeria
by Frederick H. Lowe
Nicole C. Lee, the first woman president of TransAfrica, the oldest African-American foreign policy organization, today announced that she is resigning after eight years on the job to pursue her other passions, which are many.
Lee submitted her resignation to actor Danny Glover, who is chairman of TransAfrica’s board of directors. It is not known who will succeed the 38-year-old Lee, who is a native of Buffalo, N.Y. Glover’s spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
“My resignation is not a surprise,” Lee told The NorthStar News & Analysis. “I don’t believe in dynastic leadership. It’s been eight years. I don’t want to stay to long.”
She joined TransAfrica, which is based in Washington, D.C., in 2008 as director of operations. When the organization’s president at the time, resigned, she like others applied for the job. But unlike the others, she landed it.
Under Lee’s leadership, TransAfrica lobbied Congress for causes that benefited African and Caribbean nations. She also oversaw the modernization of the organization’s communications infrastructure. Most recently, Lee, a human rights lawyer, brought Ugandan gay rights activist Dr. Frank Mugisha to the United States to meet with rights leaders concerned about Uganda’s anti-gay policies.
Lee also helped organize a memorial service in December at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for Nelson Mandela. Vice President Joe Biden participated in the service for Mr. Mandela who died in December.
TransAfrica, which was founded in 1977, was inspired by the anti-apartheid movement. At the memorial service, Lee said she felt had come full circle, which led to her decision to resign.
She plans to clear out her office next week, but she won’t be sitting around. Lee plans to become involved in the peace process to end the 30-year war in Colombia.
American television has presented the war as one against the Colombia’s drug cartels, but the reasons behind the conflict are much more complicated, involving paramilitary organizations and Farc or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Peace talks are being held in Quito, Ecuador.
“There is an international effort to achieve peace in Colombia,” Lee said.
In addition, African Americans should pay more attention to Colombia because 26 percent of the country’s population is descendents from African slaves compared to 14 percent of the U.S. population.
Afro-Colombians live along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and the drug growers are moving in on their lands, Lee said.
She also wants to participate in a summit of African leaders President Barack Obama is hosting in August in Washington.
Another pressing concern is recent events in Nigeria.
Lee wants to bring more attention to the 234 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped April 15 in Chibok, Nigeria, by the Islamic militant group Boko Harem.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has not addressed the kidnapping directly, according to several news reports.
“Can you imagine if 234 girls had been kidnapped from a French school? It would be all over the 24-hour news, but it is barely mentioned here,” Lee said. Recent reports said 43 girls escaped their captors, but 187 are still missing (see today’s video).
As for TransAfrica, Lee called TransAfrica a wonderful organization and she will enjoy being a part of it now — as a member.