On Friday, May 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. the Bellevue College cafeteria was transformed into a platform for education and experience of African culture. Hosted by the African Student Association and led by BC student Shalom Kassa, Africa Night was an event packed with African dances, speeches and cuisine. The event was open to students for $7 or $10 at the door.
During the event, students from Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and many more countries performed cultural dances. In addition, foods from different parts of Africa were served by Tamu such as injera, a soft sourdough-risen flatbread from Ethiopia, vegetable samosas, a popular appetizer from East and South Africa, mandazi, sweet fried dough from East and Southeast Africa and more. This year, instead of having representation from specific countries, Kassa decided to show different regions of Africa.
“Because Africa is a large continent, it’s really difficult to find students that can represent the many cultures,” said Kassa about organizing the event, “Most of our students here are Congolese. Last year, we had a lot of Ethiopians, but even in Ethiopia we have about 80 tribes.”
One of the key events of Africa Night, which was also central to last year’s, was the fashion show. Students modeled clothes from Ethiopia, Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Angola. “We try to represent every culture for the modeling,” said Kassa.
In addition to exhibiting the diversity of Africa, Kassa wanted Africa Night to also bring pride to those who are African. There were speeches from Jean D’Arc Campbell, dean of International Education and Global Initiatives and Paul Arithi, director of the Disability Resource Center. Campbell spoke about his experience overcoming his impoverished village in Congo and immigrating to the U.S. for education. “I climbed the mountain,” said Campbell about him not only receiving his Bachelor’s, but also his Master’s in student affairs and diversity. Throughout the speech, Campbell spoke about his confidence as a Congolese.
Moreover, there was a spoken word poetry titled, “Dear Africa,” performed by Joy Okot-Okidi. The piece, according to Okot-Okidi, is about her hardships and pride as an African American woman with roots from Uganda. “It’s me writing a letter to Africa and talking about the struggles of being a young African woman, a young Uganadan woman and a young African American woman,” explained Okot-Okidi. In the poem, she spoke about her struggles as an American trying to connect with her Ugandan culture without being able to speak the language. “It’s really hard finding the balance and figuring out where you fit in,” shared Okot-Okidi.
This year marks the second annual Africa Night. “We had about 300 people and it was really successful,” recalled Kassa about the first Africa Night that was held on May 28. At that time, Kassa was only an event coordinator, but by spending a year at Washington State University, which hosts an Africa Night yearly, she had an idea about how to organize such an event. Similar to this year’s, BC’s first Africa Night featured cultures from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and many more countries of Africa.
For Kassa, Africa Night helps close the school year for the ASA. With the end of a school year, new members will also be elected for the ASA. Kassa invites BC students to join and participate in the organization to prepare for next year’s and to continue spreading pride of being African.