The week before Thanksgiving Break, the Wesleyan Association of African Students (ASA) hosted a series of events for Africa Week 2018, including a film screening, a late-night food sale at Ubuntu House , Indaba’s second annual conference and Ariya’s popular cultural showcase.
The series of events kicked off with the screening of the film “I Am Not a Witch” by Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni on Tuesday 13 November. On Thursday night, a late night food sale was held at Ubuntu House on Lawn Avenue. featuring home cooking from across the African continent.
Another hit was this year’s Ariya, which took place on Saturday night in the Crowell Concert Hall. The event featured a showcase of dance, music, oral poetry and fashion.
The Argus spoke with Ferdinand Quayson ’20, public relations manager of the ASA. Quayson is the accomplished founder of the Young Achievers Foundation in Ghana, which he established in 2016 to help northern Ghanaians access higher education. Asked about the planning process for this year’s Africa Week, Quayson said the ASA recognizes the popularity of the Ariya showcase and is keen to organize an entire week to celebrate African culture.
“[We] felt we needed more than a day to showcase what Africa has to offer, ”he wrote in a message to The Argus. “We thought this would create a wide range of platforms for students from Wesleyan and other surrounding schools to meet and explore various issues related to the continent.”
He sees Africa Week as the perfect way for ASA to make itself known to the Wesleyan community, allowing members to share their cultures and origins.
“Being a small group on campus, we see Africa Week as a way to share our culture, perspectives and ideas with the rest of the Wesleyan community,” he wrote. “Wesleyan is a school that prides itself on its cultural diversity. As such, holding Africa Week adds to this rich ideological and cultural environment that exists here in Wesleyan.
The most informative event of the week was the second annual ASA Indaba conference held at Russell House on Saturday morning. Quayson described how they selected the panelists in line with the theme of this year’s event: African Change Actors.
“The speakers who have been selected this year embody the theme of the conference,” he said. “Some of the panelists were people using the arts to change perceptions about LGBTQ [individuals] in Africa. Others used poetry to highlight issues such as racism, migrant rights, human trafficking and sexual assault. If Africa is to move forward, we need people with creative ways to solve some of the continent’s entrenched social and economic problems. As such, our panelists this year were chosen for their unique approach to the issues facing our continent. “
The conference consisted of three panels: Africans in STEM, African Women Change Makers and Social Entrepreneurship and Social Activism in Africa.
Africans in STEM featured speakers Stacy Uchendu ’17, an alumnus who is currently researching biochemistry at Yale, and Ariana Pather, from South Africa, who is studying for her Masters in Public Health at Brown and is conducting research. about HIV in his country of origin. The couple discussed the rich and varied experience Africans have in STEM fields, but widened their conversation into the future, particularly STEM developments in Africa and the advancement of Africans working in STEM fields.
Pather explained the value of having indigenous Africans doing research that directly affects the continent.
“Coming from a country and having your parents there, growing up in a place and being linked with family there makes you a much greater expert on that place than just studying it,” she said. declared. “I knew I had something to offer the field.”
The African Women Change Makers panel included the following panelists: Catherine Labiran, MA student in African Studies at Yale, published poet and human rights advocate; artist’s bay b. Bop, a Colombian Zimbabwean-South African student and founder of Thou Shalt Not Art Collective; and Faith Chumo, activist, current Yale student and vice-president of the Yale African Students Association. The women passionately discussed their fields of activism in Africa, as well as the controversies and nuances of volunteering in Africa. They also highlighted the power that fellowship and mentoring can give to ambitious young women of color. bay b. Bop made a powerful statement on the growth of African female leadership.
“Although I think it is important to determine whether African countries are ready to engage in women’s leadership,” she said. “What I find beautiful in the world we live in now is [women] happen anyway… and are incredibly disruptive in the best possible way. I think even this work in itself will force our diverse and respective countries to recognize systems that just were never meant to allow certain people to exist within them… and then we can talk about dismantling those systems. and why these systems exist.
The panel on Social Entrepreneurship and Social Activism in Africa featured Toto Kisaku, a successful Congolese playwright who examines the use of artistic activities in impoverished and oppressed African communities; Quayson, whose aforementioned Young Achievers Foundation educated Ghanaian high school students on scholarship opportunities and higher education possibilities; and Ibrahima Amadou Niang, Yale Greenberg World member from Senegal, head of the country office of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa in Guinea, and creative activist. All founders of their own social initiatives in Africa, the panelists discussed the work required to practice productive activism in today’s political and social climates on the continent.
Meredith Olin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.