Taste of Africa event kicks off Black History Month

Alyssa Ochss

After Oakland had just come back to school from a three-day break courtesy of the polar vortex, African music was playing over the speakers, and people filtered into the Taste of Africa event hosted by the Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI) on Feb. 1.

Food was served, which included anything from collard greens to candied yams to catfish Friday, in celebration of African culture and to kick off African American History Month. Coloring pages of prominent figures throughout African American history were spread out among the tables, which was a way to get the guests involved before the big show started.

If anyone needed help or had questions, the members of the CMI were clad in white T-shirts that had Africa on them, and they were ready to help. Omar Brown-El, the senior director for the CMI, said a few words before the first group performed on stage, saying the event was about expression.

“We’re not only hoping Oakland University students come out and understand the importance of African American history and culture, but our faculty and staff do the same in a surrounded community,” Brown-El said.

Several performances were put on including an African drum ensemble with Professor Emeritus Marvin “Doc” Holladay, who had played with many different and prominent jazz musicians, a dance performance by Ja’Laaiyah Gordon and vocal performances by John Randle, Kyran Felder and Parrish “PJ” Roberts. A dance group named Golden Luxury also provided a performance for the audience. They had about six to seven members who performed to a medley of African American artists.

The African Drum Ensemble was the first performance that went live. The group specialized in music from Ghana and included freshman Taylor Herrmann, a vocal performance and anthropology student. It was her first year in the group, and she said she hoped to enlighten people about the culture of Ghana.

“Music is music no matter what, and it is truly the universal language,” Herrmann said. “Having so many different performers here is really cool because I get to see things I haven’t seen before.”

The dance performances were scattered throughout the vocal performances, and each dance brought a different energy to the table. Gordon, a marketing major with a dance minor, danced with a lyrical solo performance to “I Know Where I’ve Been,” a song performed by Queen Latifah in the movie “Hairspray” during a peaceful protest to end segregation.

Gordon said she hoped to inspire others to follow their dreams, and she said she was honored to be a part of it.

“It’s so wonderful as a chance to see the people who paved the way before us and I am so honored to be a part of it,” Gordon said. “I love seeing all the inspiring performances and the wonderful vendors.”

The event ended just before 7 p.m., and many guests seemed to enjoy the event.

If you want to learn more about African American History, visit the celebration month’s website.