Mar 292012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

It was like being in Ghana for a moment.

Twenty-five CSU students sat in chairs lining a room in the Lory Student Center while nine of their peers stood in the center, learning the choreography to a cultural song that a visiting African drum group was playing for them on Thursday.

“When you’re playing African music, and you’re enjoying it, there’s nothing coming across your mind like, ‘Oh, I’m really thinking about this, it’s so sad,’” said Adjei Abankwah, who heads Mokomba, the Boulder-based Ghanaian performing group putting on a show for the students. “No. Everything is enjoyment.”

He and his co-performers were invited by Africans United, a CSU student group who hoped to use the festivities to drum up excitement for their main event on Sunday. They’re hosting Once Upon a Time in Africa that evening from 4 to 9 p.m. in the LSC Spring Creek room and Main Ballroom free of charge. The African culture festival featuring dances, songs, poems, fashion, food and drum performances from nations across the continent.

In a time when conversations about Africa are centered on everything that’s wrong with the place –– like how warlords kidnap children and force them into military service –– the CSU students hope to change people’s perceptions to everything that’s right with the continent that many of them call home.

Aisha Jama, a co-president of Africans United and native of Kenya, is one of those students.

“I think there’s a misconception of what Africa is, especially in this state. There’s a whole misconception of Africans being malnourished with big bellies, always having HIV/AIDS, not knowledgeable, not adhering to a big part of American society, or following American society. So I think African night is … to make people aware that there are different facets of Africa,” she said. “Although there are disadvantages and bad parts of Africa, it is very diverse. It’s a beautiful continent, it’s got beautiful people, dances, culture –– it’s pretty amazing.”

But it’s not simply a night for interested students and community members to wander into the LSC, eat interesting food and become educated about the world around them. For the 52 CSU international students straight out of places like Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, and 408 African-American students on campus, it’s also a chance to keep in touch with roots that stretch across the Atlantic Ocean.

“You have some conversations where only those specific people probably understand, so I like our group because we have those conversations, and we get to laugh and talk about our experiences and share our culture with others,” said Amira Ababio, a Ghanaian, CSU student and Africans United member who’s been in the U.S. for ten years. “And that’s what I think we’re all really excited about.”

The event has been held at CSU for the past eight years, attracting at times upward of 600 attendees. And while it’s an annual event that the average student can only enjoy four times while studying at the university, its aim is much broader than that.

“Most people tend to think, ‘Okay, Africa night, Africa week — one week, one day in the year.’ That’s not necessarily the point. The point is, we should be celebrating all cultures all the time and not relegating it to a specific time and a specific date,” said James Owiny, a Ugandan, CSU veterinarian and faculty advisor for Africans United. “As human beings, we need to be proud of who we are, and be free to express who we are in a manner that’s not offensive to be people. We need respectful of our differences, celebrate and enjoy them.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at

Attend the event

Once Upon a Time in Africa
Sunday 4 to 9 p.m.
Lory Student Center — Spring Creek Room and Main Ballroom
Dinner from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Spring Creek room.
Event performances from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Main Ballroom.
Free admission

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