On Oct. 27, The Black Student League and Heart of Africa came together in an amazing collaboration to spread African culture through the Akwaaba Festival. Akwaaba is a word that translates to “welcome.” It is a Twi word, spoken by the Ahan tribe of Ghana. Everyone gathered in the Gough Great Room, as the event welcomed students, staff and faculty so that they may receive insight into African culture.
The event began with a spoken word piece called “Dear Africa- All The Ways You Must Start Over” performed by Doxa Zannou, a member of Audacity. As Zannou performed her piece, the room remained silent, letting her words pierce the still air. The only sounds that rang out was the echo of her powerful voice and the occasional snaps and murmurs of agreement from the audience.
Zannou spoke out passionately about African culture, while also shedding light onto generational trauma.
“Some ask, how much must humans be dehumanized before they’re not human anymore? And you know the answer to that don’t you? ‘Apes,’ ‘Negros,’ ‘sambos’… all slurs you have been battered with. Sticks and stones broke your ancestors’ bones, and words cut you even deeper,” Zannou said.
As Zannou finished her performance, the crowd’s applause was tamed by Dr. Sharon Gramby-Sobukwe who officially opened the event with a formal welcome and prayer.
“It’s important to always take time to reflect upon culture. Culture is fundamental to any people. I might even suggest that culture is the blood. It is like the lifeblood of any society and any people. It is through culture that people come to express their own understanding and to develop their own capacity to make their way through life as a society,” Sobukwe said.
Sobukwe continued, stating, “[culture] is the way in which we resist oppression, it is the way in which we hold onto and envision for ourselves the means of justice. It is the way in which we create a better world and a better life for all. ”
After Sobukwe’s moving opening speech that allowed the audience to reflect on the importance of culture, African culture was embodied through singing, music, dance and even a fashion show. The first performance was by Angels of Harmony, singing “Let’s Just Praise The Lord” by T.D. Jakes and “We Give Your Name Praise” by The Gospel Four.
“It was an honor preparing for this event. I was honored to be a part of something so important and special like this on campus. To do this meant to me that a change was coming on campus. It opened the door to diversity. It brought a different culture to people’s eyes and helped others see something that isn’t seen or heard about very often. I loved every part it and I can’t wait to do it again,” Faith Green, a member of Angels of Harmony said.
Urenna Marcellus, another member of Angels of Harmony also said that “Being a part of this was a big thing for me, since I’m so far from home, this is like really close to home. My singing is like my gift from God that I do to give back to Him.”
The night went on as The Global Dance Class performed the Zulu Shuffle and Lambah, while Kizomba, Precious Movements, and Afrocentric also performed dance numbers. The fashion show entailed outfits inspired by African culture, modeled by Eastern University students.
“It was pretty meaningful to participate in this fashion show because, one, I hadn’t really showcased anything like this at Eastern, and I feel like this was a good jumpstart, especially because not only is it me walking, but I’m walking and representing something way deep back in my roots,” said Frantzcia Jean, a model for the show.
The Akwaaba Festival was a successful, fun, and interactive way for Eastern University students to either embrace their own culture, or to learn about a culture with which they have had very little experience. The Akwaaba Festival lived up to its name and welcomed students of all different backgrounds and cultures, creating a learning environment based in understanding and awareness.