A night of African culture

About 200 people enjoyed a night filled with African dance, fashion and food in the Grand Ballroom of Marvin Center Friday for A Taste of Africa.

Selemawit Worku, co-president of the Organization of African Students, said the event is a chance to educate others through entertainment and humor.

“This event was a cultural showcase but with an educational feel to it,” she said. “Dance and music are things that everyone does, but they are good ways to get messages across.”

The theme of the night, “Dispelling the Myth: the Writing on the Wall,” focused on debunking myths about Africa and highlighting the positive cultural aspects of Africa within a global context. OAS sponsored the event.

“We were sitting around telling stories, and we came up with this idea of dispelling myths and educating people on the truths about Africa,” said sophomore Hauwa Okorie.

The walls of the Grand Ballroom were covered with decorative carpets and posters of statements contradicting many commonly held views about Africa. One poster read, “Not all Africans have AIDS.”

The night started by playing a recording of student responses to the question, “What do you think about when you hear the word ‘Africa’?” Answers varied from safaris to disease, and these answers helped to form the basis of the night’s theme.

The night’s nine skits dispelled various misconceptions about Africa. OAS used humor to highlight these negative assumptions about language, transportation and the prevalence of AIDS.

A focus on knowledge then turned to a focus on entertainment as groups such as GW’s Capital Funk integrated hip-hop into the night of African culture.

Three fashion exhibits showcased mixes of classic African designs with a modern edge in both dress and jewelry. The clothing included a mix of northern and southern African designs.

Mary Anne Mokoko, a senior at Howard and a partner in Cote Minou, said of Taste of Africa, “It’s all about breaking stereotypes, raising awareness and having fun.”

This year, OAS tried to make Taste of Africa even more well-rounded and global, organizers said. The music and dance mixed traditional African characteristics with a Latin American feel.

The money raised at Taste of Africa will go toward funding other OAS events. The group fundraises for many charities focused on Africa, specifically for charities designed for AIDS relief. In the early spring, the OAS will come together with other organizations to take part in Africa Week.

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