Africa Week, an annual series of events that looks to promote awareness of the accomplishments of the African continent and its people and culture, starts today at CSUN.
The celebration of Africa Week will start early today and last through Friday night, with various cultural performances, lectures, discussions, open forums, banquets, and a fashion show. The weeklong event is organized by the African Studies Interdisciplinary Program, the Pan-African Studies Department, and the African Student Organization.
“We try to give CSUN and the community a taste of Africa – (to) learn and understand the culture and break the stereotypes,” said Francis Appiah, president of the ASO, adding that organizers will also try to disseminate information about the Pan-African Studies Department to attendees.
The opening ceremony will take place today in the University Student Union and will feature traditional drumming and dancing in which Appiah, among others, will have a chance to perform in front of CSUN students, faculty and staff.
Lako Tomgum of Claremont College will lead a presentation on genocide in Africa on Oct. 27 in the Oviatt Library.
Daphne Nitri Quenum will lecture on “Changing Mindsets: Ending Female Circumcision through Literacy Education” on Oct. 28 in the USU.
According to Appiah, organizers invited other colleges and universities to this year’s celebration, adding that organizers are expecting a large number of attendees.
ASO invited students from Fullerton College, Santa Monica College, University of California, Berkeley, CSU Bakersfield and Long Beach State to this year’s celebration. The organizers also promoted the events to East Coast schools, such as Georgia State University and Penn State University.
Appiah added that East Coast schools have shown interest to have their own version of CSUN’s Africa Week.
The event started four years ago when Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department, first started his job. Spencer-Walters said he is hoping that the event would continue even after he is no longer chair of the department. He said organizers and professors are interested in educating the campus and sharing the jewels of Africa with those interested.
“It is important to bring authentic perspective (to others),” Spencer-Walters said.
Peter Nwosu, chair of the Communications Department, said the time set aside for Africa Week demonstrated the university’s commitment to intellectual diversity, which contributes to the Diaspora, or scattering of people with a common background.
“Every time different faces and perspectives are presented, is an enormous contribution, which helps to bridge cultural gaps and promotes understanding – commitment is demonstrated through the events,” Nwosu said.
The annual event features different aspects of African life with a focus on educating the campus and the community about the continent’s culture, history and people.
“We want people to see Africa, take a closer look at the culture, history, and understand people’s way of thinking and people’s struggles,” said Marvin Boateng, vice president of the ASO.
Nwosu said the Africa Week celebration, as well as those events sponsored by other groups on campus, will increase understanding of other people’s cultures and erase misconceptions and stereotypes. He said that oftentimes people ignore differences instead of embracing and understanding them.
“The challenge of diversity in an increasingly interdependent world is the ability to manage differences until differences no longer make a difference,” Nwosu said.
Appiah said part of the celebration would be dedicated to raising funds for hunger relief in Niger. He added that it has been an ongoing concern for the ASO, but that their efforts were overshadowed by the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.
He said there is will be a silent auction during the fashion show, which will take place Friday night in the Satellite Student Union, and attendees are able to donate at that time.
Boateng said the hunger relief in Niger project is important to the organization, and that while the celebration features entertainment and storytelling, one of the main purposes is that people here are thinking about people back home.
According to Spencer-Walters, organizers were overwhelmed by the support they have received from various departments in campus, including the administration.
“I am grateful for the administration and their continuous support, the faculty, students and members of ASO, Social and Behavioral (Sciences College), as well as deans and chairs – their support is very encouraging,” Spencer-Walters said.
Joanne Angeles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.