Students get a “Taste of Africa”

Ariel Themm, Staff Reporter

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The Center of Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) hosted its “Taste of Africa” event on Friday, Feb. 2 in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms as part of African-American Celebration Month.

The event featured African and African-American cuisine along with singing, dancing and spoken word performances. Roughly 80 volunteers were recruited to help with a variety of jobs such as greeting, serving food and helping with the activities offered.

Since it was open to the public, CMI’s goal was to host a family-friendly event with activities including craft tables. Because of this, all the performances that were featured had previously been reviewed to ensure that the material used was appropriate for all ages.

“In the past, we’ve had Nigerian students come together and perform various singing and dancing traditions of their culture,” the CMI retention coordinator,  Denise Jones, said. “Since that group graduated, we’ve stopped looking for outside sources and focused more on OU students’ community. We had a newer group from OU called the Abstract Dancing Company join in the celebration as well.”

The food spread featured Ethiopian food such as Tomarri Cabbage Curry, along with soul food like catfish and collard greens. There were also vegetarian options to ensure that all guests felt included.

“I am really happy that this event is getting attention and I feel very optimistic about it since it seems to be more inclusive,” Said freshman Chieme Nwachukwu. “I first came to America in 2006 from Nigeria and it was a different shift in everything. I had to adjust to the American culture and quickly get acclimated, yet I still faced bullying in schools for things like my accent. I think an event like this could remind me of where I grew up, of my home. There are over 100 different languages and cultures in that beautiful continent, which stressed the importance of having authentic displays through food and dancing.”

The focus of the event was to help the community learn about and celebrate the African-American culture. CMI hoped that through the event’s blend of historical, cultural and popular entertainment, guests could enjoy and connect with the performances.

“I think if next year they could incorporate a masquerade that would fit perfectly for their theme of Africa,” Nwachukwu said. “There’s nothing that Africans like more than getting together for a party.”

However, he still believes the sentiment of the event is important for encouraging diversity on campus.

“I think it’s great that there’s a whole month to celebrate people of color, but I’m more of an advocate of it being a 365 day deal with more representation for people of color all the time, while adding an extension of that to Africans too,” Nwachukwu said. “In terms of minority, I’m African, so I don’t see lots of representation for my culture. This event is really encouraging because it only adds to me being proud of my heritage.”