African Nite encourages positive view of continent

Dan Haugen

Daniel Achina, president of the African Student Association, hopes attendees of Saturday’s fifth annual African Nite learned as much as they laughed.

For the first time, Achina said, education outweighed entertainment on the agenda. While the event, held at Willey Hall, was hosted by Def Jam comedian Michael Blackson, its keynote speaker was noted Sierra Leone scholar and journalist Hilton Fyle.

Fyle spoke of the importance of having pride in one’s native culture, and how that can sometimes be tough for Africans in the United States because media often focus on negative stories coming from the continent.

“It’s difficult to hear positive news from Africa,” Fyle said. “We have to find a way to beat that. We need to turn the spotlight on what’s good in Africa.”

He also cited lack of education – not AIDS – as the biggest problem plaguing Africa today.

Achina agreed with Fyle’s take on U.S. media.

“There’s not a lot of coverage of the people and the culture,” Achina said. “If you watch the Discovery Channel, all you see is safaris, but there’s a lot more to Africa than that.”

That’s where he said African Nite can make a difference – by showcasing art, food, music, dances and other aspects of African culture traditionally overlooked by media.

Blen Shoakena was one of several students who participated in the event. Throughout the evening, she and two others presented a series of short newscasts featuring stories about Africa.

“The whole idea was to have positive stories about different parts of Africa,” Shoakena said.

Attendance was lower than expected, with only approximately 250 people compared to 1,000 who came last year.


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