Africa week hits GW

Students sponsored a week of events to raise awareness for critical issues in Africa and celebrate African culture last week.

Events included an African dance class, discussions about AIDS and genocide in Africa and an African art exhibit. Books for Africa and the Organization of African Students also sponsored other events throughout the week, such as setting up a refugee tent in Kogan Plaza.

The week of events coincided with a yearlong book drive to raise 20,000 books for a library in Nigeria. The groups also worked to raise money throughout the week to build a new library in Africa.

“We want to show Africa in different lights and different aspects represented throughout the week,” said senior Chi Olisemeka, president of the Organization of African Students. Other student organizations, the University and non-governmental organizations also contributed to the week of events.

“There’s so much negative connotation with Africa relating to neediness. We want people to get a more realistic perspective to Africa, more to the culture,” said Hanan Mario, a member of the Organization of African Students.

Andrew Novak, a senior majoring in international affairs with a concentration in Africa, participated in the African dance class Tuesday at the Mount Vernon Campus Pub and Grill.

“I’m not a native African or Latin American,” Novak, a former Hatchet editor, said. “I’m an uncultured American with no experience in moving my body. I hurt in places I never knew I had before.”

The groups also sponsored a panel discussion about the effect of AIDS on Africa’s youth Wednesday.

Students, former students and people from organizations such as Africa Action, Family Health International and Student Campaign for Child Survival all spoke about AIDS. In 2003, 2.9 million people died globally from AIDS, according to the Student Global AIDS Campaign Web site. Africa has the highest concentration of infected people.

Saif Rahman, a 2003 graduate, spoke on behalf of the Student Campaign for Children Survival and told students “we live in a broken system and we don’t have to accept it.”

Senior Kaytee Riek, a member of SGAC, recounted the impact of student participation in major social movements.

“We can influence policy and by influencing policy we can change lives,” Riek said. She also had every student in attendance write a letter to their state representative to demand more support for AIDS relief.

There was also a panel discussion about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Speakers talked about how relief efforts in the international community have been widely criticized.

Events at the end of the week included brunch with African cuisine, an internship fair and an art exhibit of Sudan. The groups also sponsored a fundraising dinner in the Continental Ballroom where African dance troupes performed throughout the evening.

A soccer tournament took place on the final day of Africa week. Proceeds from the tournament will be put towards purchasing maps for the library in Nigeria.

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