Celebrating Africa

GVL/Brianna Olson
James Williams

GVL/Brianna Olson James Williams

Alyssa Rettelle

“We are celebrating Africa. We’re not falling asleep on Africa. We’re not doing homework on Africa. This is a celebration,” said James Williams, a host at this year’s annual African Student Council dinner and dance. The Grand Valley State University Kirkhof Center’s Grand River Room was packed with staff, faculty, community members and students for Friday’s event.

This year’s event was titled “Adisa: Celebrating the Pioneers of Africa.” The night began with a performance and poem by Diana Rutaremara and the African Student Council singers. They sang various African national anthems in various languages. Following the anthems, Morgan Kelley did a dance routine.

Williams then went on to thank everyone for coming and wanted the room to know that the goal was to highlight Africa.

“Africa was built by many different people from many different countries,” he said. “You start to hear the same names over and over again. We’d like to highlight the unsung people who don’t get enough recognition as they should.”

Additionally, Williams sang an improvised cover of John Legend’s song “Heaven Only Knows.” Throughout the night, there were nine different presentations on different figures in African history. Those presentations covered people such as Musa I of Mali, Tidjane Thiam, Haile Selassie, Margaret Ekpo, Queen Tiye, Yaa Asantewaa, Kwame Nkrumah, Wole Sayinka and Nelson Mandela. Students took the role of these figures and gave the audience an educational, first-person performance.

During the dinner, there was a money drive in order to raise funds for the West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center, a Grand-Rapids based nonprofit organization that was founded in 2006 by immigrants and refugees. According to its website, the organization’s mission is to provide comprehensive educational support and youth development services, and foster cultural knowledge and understanding. They support refugee children and families so they can gain the necessary skills for successful integration into the community.

After the presentations, fundraising, spontaneous dancing, photo booth pictures and dinner ended, there was a DJ and an open dance floor until 11:30 p.m.

The African and African American Studies department at GVSU, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Women’s Center, the Division of Inclusion and Equity, the Cultural Council, the Office of Student Life, the Little Black Box and DJ Fresh Waves also sponsored the event.

African Student Council is a cultural organization located on campus that aims to bring knowledge of Africa to everyone on campus. They do a dinner and dance every semester. People don’t have to be African American in order to join. The organization meets every Monday at 9 p.m.