In 1989, during the annual meeting of the African Literature Association held in Dakar, Senegal, a group of women members of ALA met to discuss the necessity of formalizing the relationship between a women’s caucus formed in 1988 and the organization at large. Among the attendees at this meeting were incoming ALA president Anne Adams, past president Mildred Hill Lubin,and future presidents Eileen Julien, Abena Busia, Irene D’Almeida, Carole Boyce Davies, and Thelma Ravell-Pinto. Other attendees included Rashidah Abubakar , Susan Andrade, Brenda Berrien, Fahamisha Patricia Brown, Sue Houchins, Keiko Kusonose, Micheline Rice-Maximin, and Pam Smith. Irene D’Almeida and Huma Ibrahim were elected as co-chairs of the caucus. At the 1990 ALA Business Meeting, in what would become almost a ritual, the Women’s Caucus reminded future conference conveners that as a formally constituted body the Women’s Caucus should be provided time and space for a business meeting and inclusion of panels and other events in the conference program. The Women’s Caucus of the African Literature Association was established formally in 1991 at the annual conference in New Orleans. Phanuel Egejuru was conference convener. The conference theme was “Nwanyibu. . .Woman Being.” The first WOCALA luncheon included on the conference program was a part of this meeting. The first official call for members was published in the Spring 1991 issue of the ALA Bulletin. The objectives of the Caucus can be found in Article I, Section 2 of the By-Laws as published in the ALA Handbook. They include the following:
- To establish a network of scholars, teachers, artists, cultural workers doing work on womenAfrican and African Diaspora Literatures and artistic and cultural production,
- To promote scholarship on African women’s writings, art, and cultural production in general, and
- To offer a collegial network for the advancement of women in the African Literature Association.
Carol Boyce Davies was elected WOCALA’s first president, serving for three years after which the by-laws were amended to require all officers to serve two-year terms. Thelma Ravel-Pinto was its first treasurer and became the second WOCALA president. Subsequent presidents were Debra Boyd, Fahamisha Patricia Brown, Oty Agbajoh-Laoye, Arlene Elder, Anthonia Kalu, Ada Azodo, and Helen Chukwuma. At the time of the founding of WOCALA, only three of sixteen ALA presidents had been women. Since then, sixteen of 38 ALA presidents have been women.
Current officers of the Women’s Caucus are:
- President: P. Jane Splawn
- Past President: Joya Uraizee
- Vice-President: Thelma Pinto
- Secretary: M.J. Simms-Maddox
- Treasurer: Blessing Ogamba
The Women’s Caucus Luncheon features a presentation by an African or African-diaspora writer, scholar, and/or other cultural worker. Traditionally the luncheon also recognizes publications by its women members.
Membership dues presently are $25 per year ($10 for graduate students and Africa based scholars). Additional donations are welcome. To become a member please fill out this form, print it out, and send it, with your check, to: Fahamisha Brown, 178 Castleton Avenue, Apartment 1-6, Staten Island, NY 10301, USA. Alternatively, you may bring the completed form to the ALA Conference and hand it, along with your check, to Blessing Diala-Ogamba.