African U students celebrate their roots

by Stacy Jo

The North Star Ballroom at the St. Paul Student Center came alive with culture Friday as the African Student Association presented its first annual African Nite.
More than 150 people gathered to celebrate each African country’s unique history and culture.
Music, dancing, traditional food and fashions from various African countries comprised the newly formed African Student Association’s premiere event.
The group formed during the first week of spring quarter with two goals: to bring together students of African descent and to increase awareness of African culture among University students. Members organized African Nite as their kick-off event to introduce the group to the University community.
“African students needed to be represented on campus,” said Sharon Ebongu, College of Liberal Arts freshman and African Student Association member.
African Nite featured a wide variety of entertainment appealing to the senses.
The sounds of The Miller Band greeted arriving guests. The band’s guitars, keyboards, drums and maracas played live African music as the 25 African Student Association members prepared for the evening’s events.
After an introduction by emcees Abiola Lawal and Rupel Marshall, guest speakers took the North Star Ballroom’s stage. Both speakers refuted the myth that only one culture exists in Africa. They encouraged Africans in the crowd to be proud of the uniqueness of each African country’s culture.
“Every part of Africa is going to be represented by the African Student Association next year,” said Iyabo Lawal, Institute of Technology sophomore and African Student Association member.
Following the speakers, the group presented a slide show. The slides showed group members as they organized and prepared for the event throughout the quarter.
“It took a lot of hard work and dedication,” said College of Human Ecology senior Natasha Brown who is also a member of the Africana Student Cultural Center.
The Untouchable Youth Drill Team, the Ethiopian Student Association Dancers and the African Student Association’s Mega dancers each presented dance performances. A solo dance performance from Rwanda also entertained the crowd of mostly University students.
During an intermission, a local Ethiopian restaurant tantalized participants with a traditional Ethiopian meal of vegetable stew, beef and flat bread.
For many, the fashion show following the meal highlighted the evening. In runway style, University students modeled clothing from various African countries, including traditional garb from Uganda, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well as the Central American country of El Salvador.
Casual, business and formal wear featured intricately embroidered designs and rich colors. The clothing reflected the African continent’s cultural variety.
“Within Africa, there is a lot of diversity, and we’re here representing that diversity,” said Iyabo Lawal.
As The Miller Band returned with more live music, the floor cleared for open dancing.
African Student Association president Abiola Lawal said the work her group put into the event paid off.
“The success was phenomenal, especially considering we did this in only one quarter,” said IT senior Abiola Lawal.
The group plans to make African Nite an annual event. In addition, members hope to attract guest speakers and promote a welcoming week activity for incoming freshmen in conjunction with other University cultural centers.