Tastes of Africa

By Kaylee Kean

The Oakland University Center for Multicultural Initiatives held its annual Taste of Africa Gala Friday Feb. 7 to celebrate African and African American culture.

The event, which took place in the banquet rooms of the Oakland Center, ran from 4 to 7 p.m. It was open to both students and non-students.

The gala was and is one of many events celebrating the annual African American Celebration Month, or Black History Month, which runs from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20.

There was free food, entertainment and vendors selling handcrafted jewelry, clothes and art. Everything was based on African and African American culture.

Food included catfish, Caribbean jerk chicken, Jambalaya, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie and more.

Each table in the room was set up with two to three flags from different African countries.

 

Telling a story

The gala was co-sponsored by the OU Student Congress, according to Cassie Hock, OUSC legislator and part of the OUSC multicultural affairs committee.

“I think it’s a great turnout,” Hock said. “It’s really pretty high energy, the food’s really good, the performers are really good.”

Entertainment acts included a dance performed by the African Student Association, music by band Agape Nation and a performance by the OU African Drum and Xylophone Ensemble.

“It’s important that we tell our stories because they are the bind, the glue, for our families and our community,” said storyteller Ivory Williams during his act.

Theo Manning, OU senior and saxophonist for Agape Nation, said he has been playing for the gala since he was a freshman.

He started out as a mentee for one of the CMI’s programs and is now a mentor.

“I really enjoy the Taste of Africa,” said Manning. “I really look forward to it every year. It’s a great experience to hear music, eat good food and just have a good time with friends.”

 

Sharing a culture

Emily DeLano, CMI committee member and service learning and leadership coordinator for the CSA, was in charge of coordinating all of the volunteers and “making sure that the flow of the program works.”

There was a good turnout for volunteers, according to DeLano.

“I used to work at Grand Valley and this is something different that I haven’t seen before,” said DeLano. “Understanding African American history is extremely important. If we don’t understand our past and history, how can we move forward and solve new issues?”

There was also a kids’ table hosted by the Golden Key National Honor Society with educational arts and crafts.

The Golden Key NHS participated last year as well, according to Vice President Scott Shermetaro.

Shermetaro said that this was his first year working at the gala.

“I think it’s a very neat cultural experience for everyone,” said Shermetaro. “There’s a lot of variety of things going on which is very cool.”

A schedule of the remaining African American Celebration month events can be found at oakland.edu/aacm.

TContact CMI director Omar Brown-El at [email protected]