Kent African Students Association honors half century on campus

Freshmen Rafiat Koiki poses during the “54 Shades of Africa” on Friday night at the Kent Student Center Ballroom.

Jalen Sephus

The Kent African Student Association (KASA) reached its 50-year milestone of existence at Kent State this semester. The student-led organization has pursued the goals of teaching cultural and traditional values of Africa others may not know about.

The main goal of the organization is to showcase African culture in different ways, said Irene Womber, a sophomore public health pre-medicine major and KASA event programmer. Womber is from Ghana, and most of the other board members are also from Africa.

“Whether it be through us educating people about what’s going on in Africa, about the different countries of Africa through our poetry and meetings, there is always something to teach,” Womber said.

Haby Diallo, a sophomore political science major and KASA treasurer from Senegal, said that a program like this is much needed for African students who are new to campus.

“One of the reasons of why the organization was founded was to tailor to the needs of its African students to feel like they have a safe place to be,” Diallo said. “It’s to know they are represented and not alone even though there is still a small percentage African students on campus.”

There are no set requirements to join KASA, but Oluwaseun Sunmonu, a senior biology major, said it’s something many people ask when people approach them about the group.

“A lot of people have asked us that all the time, and it’s not true, we are here for everybody and we want everyone to join. We’re very friendly people,” Sunmonu said.

Diallo further stressed that the point of KASA is to teach others about African culture and ways of life, which he believes not many people know.

“We are trying to educate; we’re not saying that every African knows everything about African aspects, but we’re trying to educate are those that are not directly from Africa,” Diallo said.  

KASA has been part of welcoming new students who come to the campus as either freshmen or transfer students. They have been promoting KASA through the summer program, Kupita/Transiciones, Student Organization Fair, Blast-Off and The Black Squirrel festival at the start of each school year. They have flyers posted around the Student Multicultural Center and around the Student Center when their events are coming up and tables to show what the organization is about.

KASA has two major showcases every spring semester called the Face of Africa pageant and Africa Night. This will be the 25th year of the annual pageant, which showcases different talents, traditional African clothing and aspects of African culture. KASA is also considering adding a gala to the spring schedule.

“We wanted to add another big event besides the Face of Africa and Africa Night events,” Sunmonu said. “We want to give recognition and celebrate our members and all the students and faculty that have been with us, and we are looking for April to do it.”

Former KASA E-board member Tristian Holmes was president of the group from 2008 to 2010, graduating from Kent State in 2014. In an email, he said he was thrilled KASA made it to its 50th year anniversary.

“Like any other organization, there were some ups and downs, but KASA made it,” Holmes said. “It is good that there are orgs like KASA on campus with a strong tradition intact.”

KASA makes money by selling jewelry that was made in Africa and through the Face of Africa pageant. The organization also hosts special themed events to raise additional funds such as reggae and African Night parties done back when Holmes was president.  

Holmes also said it wasn’t easy for him and his colleagues to take on the challenge of being leaders of an organization. They had to learn how to do all the little things it takes to run an organization on campus, but Holmes said it was all fun.

“We had to learn to work with each other through each unique personality,” Holmes said. “It was all fun though. We had past E-Board members to make the transition easier … Our faculty advisors, Dr. George Garrison and Babacar M’Baye were very instrumental in our success as well.”

KASA holds meetings every other Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the third floor of the Student Center. Additional info can be found on the organization’s on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram pages.

Jalen Sephus covers African-American diversity. Contact him at [email protected]