KASA celebrates African heritage

Kyle Roerink

Traditional clothing, dancing and food on display at the event

VIEW photos from the event.

Miss Yellow ran around backstage, cool, calm and collected, waiting to dance. The outfits she designed graced the bodies of six other women who were ready to perform in front of more than 200 people to celebrate the 29th annual Africa Night.

The clothes had traces of Kenyan, Congolese, Senegalese and Nigerian in their patterns. A few of the dancers, feeling some butterflies, practiced their moves for the traditional Nigerian “click” dance, which symbolizes a woman who wants to be wed.

When the curtains swung open, the seven dancers gracefully moved their hips and dipped their shoulders to a thundering rhythm and an upbeat melody. Miss Yellow – also known as Abda Omotade, a junior at Kent State – danced with a bright smile on her face. The show began, and the rich traditions of Africa’s heritage erupted on stage.

Last night, students and faculty packed the Student Center Ballroom to see African culture with their own eyes. After the dancing, female models of all backgrounds and skin tones worked the runway and fashioned brocades from Guinea, Senegal. Other women wore urbas and ashoks, and the men modeled dashikis.

Afterward, audience members and participants in the event tasted traditional African cuisine to end the cultural celebration.

Africa Night allows Kent State to visualize African culture, said Tristin Holmes, president of the Kent African Student Association. He said this year’s theme, Back to the Roots, was meant to represent Africa as more than a depraved continent.

“We’re honoring where our people come from,” he said, “while still trying to rid of the negative stereotypes (that Africa) is one big desert, and everyone lives in shacks. We want to dispose of that myth because we also carry the tradition where we are now.”

Junior nursing major Uche Adigwe said a group of people is probably having an America Night somewhere in his homeland of Nigeria. He said he did not want people to be confused about the purpose of the event – people don’t wear a batik every day.

“We have the traditional foods, we dress up, and it’s to show people that Africans do the same things as everyone else in America: celebrate,” he said. “We get the wrong picture of what is seen on TV. (Africa) is not like what’s on the Discovery Channel.”

In his speech to the crowd, George Garrison, a professor of Pan-African Studies, said Africa gave the United States gifts of labor, education, technology and music, which provided America the opportunity to become the wealthiest nation in the world.

“Africa has given many things to the world, and it’s been hidden, for the most part, as a result of the way we do history throughout the industrialized, throughout the west,” he said. “The exact history of Africa has been lost. It has been reclaimed, though, in the past half century, and we’re beginning to … reclaim that very important legacy of Africa.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].