A banging of drums ushered in the start of Africa Week and celebrated the opening, which was held at the USU on Monday. Francis Appiah, a member of the African Students Organization – which planned the events for weeks – wore traditional African clothing as he banged on his drums. After, he asked a volunteer from the audience to help him say a prayer with libation for the events that were to take place this week, during which the alert audience was instructed to say “Ashe” – roughly translated as whatever you believe will happen – after each blessing. The loudest “Ashe” came after Appiah asked that the students fare well on homework and midterms.
“It’s Africa week, it’s your week,” Appiah said before giving the stage to the Pan-African Studies Department Chair Tom Spencer-Walters. Spencer-Walters started his introduction by welcoming everyone in several different African languages. Shortly after, he introduced Provost of Academic Affairs Harry Hellenbrand. “He always finds time ? He’s always been at every African event,” Spencer-Walters said.
Hellenbrand thanked the college and said the organization of Africa Week is “a real testimony to group work and solidarity.” He also praised the diversity of the topics covered.
“It’s a wonderful learning event. Here in the US, we live in a plastic cocoon where media distractions, stereotypes and the current administration make it very difficult to see Africa fully.”
ASO president Marvin Boateng took the stage after that and declared Africa Week ASO’s pride and joy.
“It’s a chance to tell our story – the misconceptions of Africa, its problems, hope, future,” he said.
He added that the various events scheduled this week would keep people up to date on what is happening in key places in Africa, such as Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda and the Congo.
CSUN lecturers, guest speakers, panel discussions, workshops and documentaries fill the Monday through Friday schedule. Speakers include CSUN religious studies professor Dr. Mutombo Nkulu-Nsengha; CSUN professor of anthropology Suzanne Scheld; Keidi Obi Awadu, founder of LIBRadio.com Radio Network; Lako Tongun, Ph.D. from Claremont College; and Dr. Daphne Ntiri, professor at Wayne State University and former consultant for UNESCO. Topics covered include the genocides in Rwanda, Darfur and Northern Uganda, bolstering the economy in Africa with new businesses and presentations from Joan Hecht, author of “The Journey of the Lost Boys,” and Dr. Bedford N. Umez, author of “Miseducated to Feel Inferior.”
Professors Nkulu-Nsengha and Scheld will speak in a panel discussion on Wednesday regarding the intersection of religion and globalization in Africa and the intersection of capitalization, urbanization and globalization in Africa, respectively.
“Africa is a very misunderstood country. Why?” asked Scheld, who does field work in Senegal and will also discuss the marketplace in Senegal at the panel.
She is interested in the fact that Africa has been thoroughly researched and explored, yet the continent is still stereotyped as “uncivilized” or “behind” in Western eyes.
Nkulu-Nsengha would like to dispel misconceptions about Africa, also. He said that each person would take away something different from the lectures. Non-African students attending the lectures will try to learn about Africa; meanwhile African students will likely have knowledge about the topics covered.
“It depends on the issues discussed. Each person has a different background and will bring different things to the table,” Nkulu-Nsengha said.
Africa Week began with a lecture by Edmond J. Keller, Ph.D., a political science professor at UCLA and director of the UCLA Globalization Research Center – Africa, at the opening on Monday. Before discussing conflict management in Africa, he said the Pan-African Studies Department planned a very “interesting and educational” program and asked that his lecture be food for thought in which his remarks were meant to frame people’s mindsets when attending other lectures this week.
“Young people need to be aware so that in their own small way they can make a big difference,” Keller said.
Africa Week will culminate in a festive banquet with authentic African food, drum circles and a fashion show displaying traditional African clothing.