“African Nights” focuses on brighter side of Africa

Jessica Cole

“African Night”, presented by KASA on Friday, packed the Kent State Ballroom. Traditional African food was served while guests enjoyed a live performance by world renown singer Miriam Chemmoss and a stand up act by comedian Michael Blackson. In addition,

Credit: Ron Soltys

When most people think of Africa, the starving children and dilapidated huts from many infomercials often played on television are what come to mind, but there is another side to Africa.

The Kent African Student Association wanted to share this side of Africa with the students of Kent State through “African Nights,” an event held Friday night in the Student Center Ballroom.

“Africa is a continent of diversity,” said Christopher Williams, Pan-African studies professor and key-note speaker. “It is a continent that spans human existence and has done so much good for humanity.”

Africa counts for more than 20 percent of the earth’s land space, and with close to 900 million people, Africans are the second largest group of people on the face of the earth, he said.

But the continent is “zigzagging,” Williams said.

There is a leadership crisis in Africa because its independence has only come in the last 50 or 60 years, he said. This is why there has been so much fighting in Africa and why so many people are dying of starvation and disease.

Williams said he believes an African renaissance can occur but only through the collaborative efforts of both the continental and dispersed Africans.

“African Nights” focused on the positive things Africa has to offer. Members of KASA shared their culture through fashion, food, art and entertainment.

The entrance to the ballroom was lined with African art, and flags from different African countries lined the back of room. Guests were provided with tables draped with red and white tablecloths, creating a very intimate atmosphere in a very large room.

KASA adviser George Garrison began the night with a few words of inspiration.

“I have a message to the young people here: Get to know each other — each other’s history,” he said. “The ties that you make now will serve you well in the future.”

Garrison went on to encourage the “elders” to mentor young people and pass on their wisdom.

R&B singer Miriam Chemmoss, called “the queen of African music” by Vibe magazine, was the first to perform. Her music can be heard on MTV and Kiss FM, as well as a few other radio stations in the United States and in Africa. She began her performance by having everyone join hands as she sang a prayer in Swahili.

After Chemmoss’ performance, it was time for dinner and a slideshow. Traditional African foods were provided for everyone, and images were displayed on a big screen to show a positive side of Africa. There were images of colleges, resorts, skyscrapers, housing developments, hotels, castles, mansions, waterfalls, mountains and beaches.

Michael Blackson, self-proclaimed “African king of comedy,” also performed, cracking jokes about the differences between American and African culture.

“He was hilarious,” said Tameka Easley, senior justice studies major. “I’ve seen him in the movies.”

A man with a feathered headdress and an outfit made of leopard-print material and different furs led the audience in tribal chanting as he danced across the stage. He was an opening act for a band called Disengo Musica, from Congo, which also performed that night.

There were three different fashion shows throughout the program. The first displayed traditional African fashions, which KASA members brought from each of their countries. The second show displayed traditional outfits with an urban twist, and the third displayed the African colors — red, yellow and green. KASA secretary Stella Sulle explained the symbolism behind each color: red for bloodshed, yellow for gold that was stolen and green for land that was ruined.

Toward the end, members of The Black Queen performed a dance that represented the struggle of slavery.

KASA President Helen Abdushukur was pleased with the night’s turnout. “I’m amazed,” she said.

Students really seemed to enjoy the event.

“The fashion shows were excellent, the food was great and I really enjoyed the performances,” said Rochelle McCrayer, senior educational studies major.

“It was a fun night for everyone to come together,” she said.

KASA members enjoyed the night as well.

“My favorite part was even though tonight was ‘African Nights,’ I saw many different faces,” KASA member Ace Undiandeye said. “I saw Asians, Indians, blacks, whites, Latinos. That really touched me.”

The best-dressed awards for the night went to Kent State students Hussainatu Bah and Arnaud Cabore.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Jessica Cole at [email protected].