Africa

Nigel Taylor, the principal investigator for the VIRCA project, checks the stems of cassava plants at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

As botanist Nigel Taylor moves through a greenhouse kept to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent humidity, he checks the stems of young, potted cassava plants.

“You can see it there, OK?” Taylor said, pulling one forward. “We’re getting lesions on the stem, this plant’s quite badly infected.”

Call it manioc, tapioca or cassava — this starchy, tropical tuber feeds millions of people around the world. In many parts of East and Central Africa, farmers are experiencing declining yields of cassava due to brown streak virus, a plant disease that can render a crop inedible.

For the past decade, scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur have led a project that tries another tack: genetically modifying cassava plants for disease resistance.

'Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical' dancers and singers held a pop up performance at UMSL's Millennium Student Center Monday.
Provided by UMSL campus photographer August Jennewein

When Niyi Coker considers Africa’s contributions to modern music, he can’t help but think of Miriam Makeba, the acclaimed South African singer and activist who introduced international audiences to the continent’s sounds.

It’s impossible to separate Makeba’s art from her activism, said Coker, a professor of African-American studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In a life that was heroic and tragic, the singer suffered three decades of forced exile from her homeland for challenging its racist policies and injustice.

When Makeba died in 2008, she left an incredible legacy, said Coker, a native Nigerian who wrote “Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical.” Its first performance in the United States takes place Thursday at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

St. Louis-based author Ridley Pearson.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis-based author Ridley Pearson has written over 50 suspense and adventure novels but his latest, “White Bone,” is tackling an issue that is close to him: illegal wildlife poaching in Africa.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Freiweni Mebrahtu was 13 when she first got her period. Growing up in Ethiopia, it was something her four older sisters never, ever brought up. When she went to school and asked her friends, they all vehemently denied that menstruation existed.

Her experience is not singular.

Clockwise from top left - FF. Jeff Weffelmeyer, FF. Jessica Jackson, Capt. Garon Mosby, FF. Chris Tobin and Capt. Larry Conley.
UPI | Bill Greenblatt

Five members of the St. Louis Fire Department are on their way to Kenya.

Captains Larry Conley and Garon Mosby, and fire privates Chris Tobin, Jeff Weffelmeyer and Jessica Jackson will join 20 other firefighters from across the U.S. and Canada for the first-ever All-Kenya Fire Academy. The academy, a project of Africa Fire Mission, will bring together firefighters from across that country to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, for 10 days of classes.

From "Soko Sonko"
Washington University

The journey of finding yourself, the possibility of a pregnant man and a madcap trip to a hair stylist are all themes in this weekend’s African Film Festival at St. Louis’ Washington University.

The African Diaspora Council Inc. is holding its first annual Nelson Mandela celebration this weekend. The event marks Nelson Mandela's 96th birthday. 

The African Diaspora Council’s event includes a dinner, a cultural performance, a 6K run and a soccer tournament.  

The tournament, which is scheduled for Saturday evening, will feature four teams representing different countries.  The teams will consist of players of varying African descent and other local community members.

(via Flickr/Intenational Center for Tropical Agriculture)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur $8.3 million to increase the nutritional value of a staple crop in Africa.