African Student Union: Preserving and promoting the African heritage

phillips-2Friday night, the Youngstown State University African Student Union will dance, eat and celebrate their culture at African Cultural Night held at First Presbyterian Church from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Each year, the African Student Union will plan and promote its annual cultural night that usually takes place toward the end of fall semesters. This year, the theme “Preserving and Promoting the African Heritage” was chosen by the organization.
Christopher Atem, president of the African Student Union, said that African Cultural Night is the biggest event the organization plans each year.
“I’ve been involved with ASU for three years and each year the festival gets bigger,” Atem said. “This year, we are expecting approximately 250-300 people, and we are very excited about that.”
Atem also said many YSU students have turned out to participate in the festival over the past few years.
“It’s really great to see so many students come out,” Atem said. “The festival is really great to educate students about different cultures and also see everything our country has to offer in terms of heritage and culture.”
In past African Cultural nights, the African Student Union has served African foods, welcomed drum circle groups to perform and invited the YSU campus and Youngstown community to join its celebration of the African heritage. The group will be expanding its plans from years past and will incorporate recipe cards for the food table and a fashion parade of African clothing. There will also be readings from African poetry and dramatic plays.
Edwin Opata, a member of African Student Union, said the main goal of the night is not just to celebrate the heritage of African students, but to educate the community about what their home country is like.
“A lot of people have funny ideas about the African culture,” Opata said. “We want to shed light on what we do in Africa and showcase everything we do to celebrate our heritage.”
Opata said that something he is excited about this year is the use of recipe cards that will be next to each dish served at the event.
“A local favorite from my country is fufu and that is going to be served on Friday,” Opata said. “It is what Americans over here call mashed potatoes.”
Another addition to this year’s festival is a performance by the Harambee Dance Group of Youngstown. The group specializes in different styles of African dances of unity and peace.
Atem said that students and the community are invited to dance with the group during the festival.
“We want everyone to take part and dance the different styles that the Harambee will be demonstrating,” Atem said. “Everyone is invited to join in whenever they feel like it.”
Sydney Sims, a junior telecommunications major, said she will be attending the festival for the first time and is excited and enthusiastic to attend.
“I want to experience something new,” Sims said. “I want to see what it is like to be a part of a new culture that I’m not usually exposed to.”
Sims also said that she hopes that she can take something out of what she will learn Friday night after the festival is over.
“We are made up of many different and unique people that come from many different backgrounds,” Sims said. “We should have an opportunity to get to know a little more about each other’s cultures. This is really a great thing for YSU and also what college should be teaching us.”
Tickets for African Cultural Night will be on sale the rest of the week in Kilcawley Center for $5 for YSU students and Youngstown community members and $10 for faculty.