Next Monday marks the beginning of Africa Week, an annual event which serves to educate and celebrate Pan-Africanism and black culture.
The week leading up to Africa Night is full of events and discussion, and culminates on Friday, March 15 with Africa Night, where students will perform art in a variety of mediums that demonstrate the similarities and differences within Pan-Africanism. Authentic cuisine from different African countries will be provided.
“The idea of having an African Night in itself has a desired impact on the campus community… inviting the campus community to celebrate with PASO… is expected to get people reflecting on the meaning of “diversity”–a term that is used so often, but which is also interpreted in so many ways,” Paschal Kyoore, Professor in LALACS, said.
The events of the week are being hosted by the Pan-Afrikan Student Organization (PASO).
“PASO members are inviting the community to have meaningful conversations that day on a continent that is too marginalized to have meaningful conversations,” Kyoore said.
DeAnna Giles, one of the co-chairs for Africa Night, wants to promote and educate people about PASO and the African Diaspora.
“This year we wanted to not only branch out to other areas of Africa because it is a huge continent but we also wanted to include the Caribbean’s because they are a part of the African American culture as well,” Giles said.
“It was one of those big budget events I looked forward to every year… the event was highly anticipated. Looking back, Africa Night was important to a community… African associations from St. Olaf and Macalester visited our Africa Night… it was important to a community, linking many… without sports or competition,” Baseme Osuamkpe, a Gustavus alumna from the class of 2015, said.
“I got my first runway experience strutting down the runway every year in Africa Night. I also helped with the skits as well,” Osuamkpe said.
Africa Week day one will host “What does my black look like?” with PASO discussing what being black means and “how we view the world through our own cultural lens despite us being viewed as simply black people,” the organization said.
Day two will feature a dance class exploring West African rhythms and hip hop. Day three will follow with an evening of making wrist beads and getting to know the members of PASO at Gustavus.
Day four will feature an open mic night before the final Africa Week celebration on day five.
“[The event is] central… to many, it was a big production that was extremely engaging and entertaining. It gave a small glimpse of the beauty and diversity within Africa,” Osuamkpe said.
“[This year’s theme of Black Eminence] is inspired by the history of Pan-Africanism, and the contributions of African peoples to civilization in its multiple forms and meanings,” Kyoore said.
“I participated in all my four years and no two Africa Nights were ever the same. There’s so much culture, different cuisine to try, different dance to experience, different voiced to hear that represented the ever- evolving regions of Africa” Osuamkpe said.
“As a first generation Nigerian American from Houston, Texas… it was like a homecoming of sorts. I remember eating jollof rice and fried chicken my first year and feeling the embrace I had so missed from my family after being away for so long,” Osuamkpe said.
In the future, Kyoore would “like to see the tradition of good attendance of Africa Night continue… I would like to see those numbers increase every year.”
“I am always surprised to see so much faculty in attendance. It sparks conversations and relationships with some professors that I am still in contact with today,” Osuamkpe said.