By Samantha Tamplin
Traditional African dancers, drummers, poets and a panel of speakers performed at Eastern Kentucky University’s Africa Today event on March 22.
The event was hosted by the African Student Association (ASA) and was held in the O’Donnell auditorium in Whitlock.
There was a meal before the event which offered free food from various African countries, and it was open to anyone who is interested in learning about different cultures within Africa.
The main purpose of Africa Today was to get people involved on campus and in the community and to try to show them what the organization has to offer, said Mandera Jackson, a senior international economies major from Tanzania and ASA’s president.
“Basically, we’re trying to bring what’s going on in the continent up to speed with the current events such as improvement in the growth of Africa,” Jackson said.
After the initial cultural meal, the event began with an elaborate display of students marching with flags from various countries in Africa, followed by traditional Burundi dancers and a panel of African speakers from EKU, the University of Kentucky and Berea College.
The speakers focused on the idea of unity among African countries. They wanted to highlight the progress, promises and challenges of the developing African nations and emphasized that despite the challenges, improvements have been made and that it’s no small achievement.
“Our mission statement is to try and bring the true part of Africa that most people might not know about,” Jackson said. “I’m pretty sure you’ve seen some bad images of Africa, right? I mean, some of it is kind of true, but also there’s this other part that the media doesn’t show you about Africa. They just show you the bad image of it.”
The organization aims to take the focus off of the negative stereotypes and to bring awareness to the positive aspects of the culture in African countries and other countries like them.
“Very often, when people think of Africa, all they think about is poverty, disease — you know — a lot of negativity. So the goal of the association is to try to bring some positive light and show that there’s a lot more to Africa than just everything you see or read in the news,” said Kevely Dumay, a senior international business major from Port-au-Prince, Haiti and the organization’s informal advisor.
The panelists emphasized that since so often being African has been defined for them, it is time for them to take pride in their countries and never forget where they came from.
“History matters,” said Iddah Otieno, professor of African and African-American Studies (AFA) and the faculty advisor for ASA.