WASHINGTON – The nation’s oldest African liberation organization kicked off its centennial celebration Monday with a look back on the historic importance of freedom during the anti-apartheid movement.

Howard University hosted the inaugural commemorative African National Congress Conference 2012, a three-day conference geared toward educating participants on the history, legacy and the movement to build on the African National Congress’s slogan “Unity in Diversity.”

Day one consisted of a panel discussion that educated participants about the African National Congress’ century-long struggle for African liberation, the anti-apartheid movement and the role of Americans in the liberation struggle as the committee marked its 100th anniversary. The panel was composed of three faculty members from Howard University.

Greg Carr, chair of Afro-American Studies at Howard, talked about the important link between South Africans and African-Americans in the African Diaspora, specifically related to the anti-apartheid movement.

Carr said he hoped to gain more awareness about what is going on in South Africa and the U.S., “particularly in education for me, as well as ways that we can partner to gain awareness of each other.” Carr holds a doctorate in African-American Studies and has been a professor at Howard for 11 years.

The African National Congress is the oldest liberation organization that has spearheaded the struggle against racism and oppression by organizing mass resistance, mobilizing the international community and taking up the armed struggle against apartheid.

Nelson Mandela, the most visible symbol of the ANC fight, was released from prison after more than 27 years in 1990. He was elected president of South Africa in 1994.

The purpose of the conference is to review contributions made by historically black colleges and universities and historically disadvantaged institutions to the human rights struggle in the U.S. and South Africa. It will also examine how to address inequities that still exist because of past discrimination, develop solutions and cooperative research programs between African-Americans and South Africans in education and economic and social achievement.

The conference ends Wednesday and was to feature keynote speakers Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the U.S., and Mduduzi Manana, South African deputy minister of higher education and training. The conference will also include discussions about educational policies, roles of arts and culture, racism and mental health, women in sciences and constitutional reform in South Africa.