Organizers of Africa Week at West Virginia University hope to help students on campus from the continent realize that the kind of community they experience at home can exist at the University.
Monday, April 5
African cultural and drumming exhibition held across from Mountainlair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 6
Folk tale night and talent show in Mountaineer Room in Mountainlair from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, April 7
Movie night at 106 Oglebay Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, April 9
Panel discussion at 125 Brooks Hall from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 10
Africa Night in the Mountainlair Ballrooms from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is $5 for WVU students with ID and $10 general admission
With a theme of “Reviving the African core values: Community in WVU and beyond,” Edward Brenya, chairman of the planning committee for the African Students Association, said this year’s Africa Week focuses on building that strong community at WVU.
Brenya said he’s observed that in the United States people sometimes don’t greet passersby whom they know, something that would be unusual in Africa.
“We are looking at how can there be a sort of cordial relationship between students; between white, black, green; between every group irrespective of whether you are directly involved with the person or not,” he said. “That’s a sense of community: taking care of each other.”
Starting off with an exhibit on African culture Monday (April 5), the week culminates Saturday (April 10) with Africa Night, which will feature African fare, dance ensembles, a fashion show and a keynote speech by His Excellency Bockari K. Stevens, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United States.
Stevens is expected to speak on community while participants enjoy African favorites, including goat stew, jollof rice, egusi sauce made from melon seeds and served with pounded yam, wache – a dish made with beans and rice, and mandazi and bofloat – similar to doughnuts. The entertainment will include the Balafon West African Dance Ensemble out of Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, Pa., the WVU African Dance Ensemble and performances from other student organizations.
In an effort to promote diversity, the association is relying on volunteers from countries that include Brazil, India and China, said Jacob Sanwidi, president of the African Students Association. A Chinese student will perform the African Union Anthem.
Brenya said the purpose of the week of activities, aside from showcasing African culture, is to answer a question: “How can we come to the middle to understand what we mean by community so that we can build it in WVU?”
A panel discussion on Friday, April 9, will include participants from a variety of backgrounds and jobs to discuss what their ideas of community are.
Following last year’s Africa Night, some participants were interested in getting traditional African clothing. Others left with at least a basic understanding of Africa, which included the fact that Africa is a continent not a country, which Brenya said is a perception he has heard several times.
“Last year for example we had more than 500 people attending, and they enjoyed the food and the music and some people even went on stage to dance with the dancers,” Sanwidi said. “Some people showed their attire ? it was a very great event.”
CONTACT: Jacob Sanwidi, African Students Association
Follow @wvutoday on Twitter.