On Friday afternoon, a flash mob descended on Cross Campus. The participants were members of the Yale African Students Association seeking to raise awareness for Africa Week, a series of events the organization hosts annually to celebrate and share African culture with the broader Yale community.
“We want people to engage past stereotypes and past news that they see about Africa,” said association Publicity Chair Malaika Aryee-Boi ’19. “We want them to have a more contemporary appreciation of where we come from.”
The theme for this year’s Africa Week, which will run through Saturday, is “Tomorrow in Africa” and explores the future of the continent by examining its culture and its history. The activities include an Africa-themed trivia night, a gala featuring traditional and modern cultural dishes, a discussion with African ambassadors about the future of pan-African politics and a talk about the future of sports in Africa with Masai Ujiri, the president of the Toronto Raptors.
Othmane Fourtassi ’19, the vice president of the association and chair of Africa Week, was particularly excited about a new event this year — on Saturday night, performance groups from Duke, Wesleyan, Brown and Yale will come together for an intercollegiate cultural performance featuring music, dance and a fashion show.
Friday’s activities began at noon and included a choreographed dance routine set to African music, a jigsaw puzzle of the continent and flags from Africa’s 54 countries. While the event took place in Commons in the past, Fourtassi said he hoped that moving the event to Cross Campus would get the word out to more people. All those interviewed said they hoped the flash mob would increase awareness of Africa Week and get the entire Yale community excited about the upcoming events, which are open to everyone.
Africa Week is designed to both celebrate African culture within the African community and share that culture with others, according to Ewurama Okai ’17, a Woodbridge fellow and former member of the association. She said this sharing happens not just through the performances, speeches and music, “but also through the joy and smiles that happen when the [African] community gets together.” This year in particular, she noted, the week is designed to encourage students to think critically about the future of the continent.
While Okai emphasized the celebratory nature of the week, Fourtassi said the activities can help combat what he sees as a misrepresentation of African issues in mainstream media. The media presents a one-sided story of the continent as a place in need of help from other nations, he argued.
“[We hope] to showcase and share what Africa is all about and give an alternative story, one told by African students to counter what we see in the media,” he said.
Laura Koech ’21, a member of the association, said she has high hopes for the week ahead.
“I’m excited that we get a chance to share where we are from, and who we are,” she said. “[It’s exciting] to see people come and celebrate their inner African culture.”
The Yale African Students Association was founded in 1966.
Niki Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org