African week enables celebration and education

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Molly Sweeney

The African Student Association (ASA) celebrated African Week from Oct. 18-23 with a variety of activities around campus. Due to COVID-19, the celebrations looked a bit different than previous years, but all the activities continued to allow African and non-African students the opportunity to celebrate and learn.
The African Week activities consisted of a group photoshoot, a day to learn facts about Africa, African Attire Day, African dancing and activities and a movie night. 
Dr. John Tawiah-Boateng, english professor and advisor to the ASA, explained that because last year’s AfroFest was cancelled in the spring due to COVID, this year’s African Week is especially important. 
“This year’s Africa Week is all the more relevant, as it reminds the entire college of the friendship and cultural diversity afforded by the African Students Association and the local African community,” Boateng said. 
However, COVID has made celebrating Africa’s diverse cultures much more difficult this year.
“In view of the worldwide virus disease, some of the usual activities have been scaled down, while mask wearing, social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols are strictly adhered to throughout the activities,” Boateng said. 
Although there are added restrictions this year, many students believe that it is important to continue to celebrate and educate the Augustana community. 
Etta Brooks, junior and president of the ASA, said that it is important to foster an environment in which people from different backgrounds share their experiences. 
“African Week gave other students the opportunity to interact with us. It allows a multicultural interaction and to get involved with students from a different background. It helps keep awareness towards non stereotypical ideas, or common mistakes that people think Africa is,” Brooks said. “We want to address those issues and let people know what the true Africa is.”
Senior Tatenda Nyoni also believes that African Week is important in creating new relationships. 
“The goal is to make sure, as Africans, to break out and have friends so that it doesn’t feel like I’m going to college in Africa but college in America. So that you get to meet someone from Kentucky, Missouri, all kinds of places,” Nyoni said. 
One of the African Week events was the Afro Sway, an afternoon of African dances. 
Senior Kuzivakwashe Hwema explains that exposure to African culture, such as dancing, is important in creating understanding. 
“When we dance, they don’t think that that is weird, because now it’s familiar to them and they know what it is,” Hwema said. 
An intersection between cultures is an important part of Augustana culture. By making students feel more welcome, a community of respect and acceptance is created. 
“As an African, it makes you feel that you’re present to certain knowledge, that you’re not taken for granted. It makes you feel like the college recognizes and appreciates your culture. It makes me feel more proud. I’m already proud to be an African, but it makes me feel more proud to be an African,” Nyoni said. 
Leaving Africa to come to America for college can be a culture shock. Augustana’s effort, by both the students and the faculty, is a positive step to create a more welcoming environment.
“From Augie’s point of view, it’s really trying to make you feel that we didn’t just bring you here to pay tuition, but we wanted you to have a second home away from home,” Nyoni said. “It makes us feel a sense of belonging and like we matter.”