Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Celebrating Heritage and Culture at Seattle U’s Africa Day

Last week, Seattle University celebrated its seventh-annual Africa Day on May 25, the same day he holiday was being celebrated on the continent itself. African Student Association, in collaboration with the Global African Studies department, celebrated their African heritage with dance, music and a conversation about the pan-African identity with keynote speaker and Seattle U professor Lisa Beckley-Roberts.

“It’s a legacy event for African students to share their culture and share their experience. And be a little bit more visible on campus where we’re not really visible most of the year,” said Miracle Orji, co-president of African Student Association and junior biochemistry and sociology double major.

The night began with opening remarks from Angelique Davis, the director of Global African Studies, which transitioned to musical performances by student groups representing various countries within Africa. The University of Washington Ghanaian Dance Group, the Brazilian originated Capoeira group and the Just Humanitarian Project (JHP) Legacy Group had the audience clapping and cheering along.

Keynote speaker Beckley-Roberts spoke about the pan-African identity, claiming that there is a connection between later generations of African Americans and Africans. This is because years later after the transatlantic slave trade, descendants obtained and kept their memories. Demonstrated through their music, dance and day- to-day lives, they portrayed the heritage of their homeland.

Beckley-Roberts claimed that this has been done subconsciously and consciously for every generation of African Americans. For example, her mother mimics traditional African song when raising a hymn at church. The call and response that is used in African American tradition is also done the same way across Africa. Therefore, Beckley-Roberts believes that repatriation has already occurred through memory.

“I’m interested in really revising and advancing and framing African attitudes and approaches to performances that highlights Pan-African identity and acknowledges that though some people were taken from Africa, people didn’t have Africa taken from them,” Beckley-Roberts said. “We need each in order to heal the legacy of over 400 years… of slavery and recognizing that we all operate with the same grammar is a part of that process.”

International Studies junior and member of African Student Association Ruth Yohannes, said that Beckley-Roberts’ talk was eye-opening. Originally from Ethiopia, she came to Seattle for school and the talk made her think of the African experience in the United States from a different perspective.

“You always think of when African Americans got here in the first place there was a complete disconnect from that point on, but I feel like her talk did a really good job of highlighting that they either consciously or unconsciously kind of kept that cultural heritage that you see until today,” Yohannes said.

Realizing that African-Americans and Africans have a common heritage and celebrating that heritage is what Africa Day is about.

“I think so often Africa, outside the continent, is discussed in such a negative way and I think it’s really a time for those of African descent to celebrate all of our rich culture and history and to recognize it publicly,” Davis said. “And to also recognize the importance of coming together and bridging our differences and our strength in numbers.”

African descent was also celebrated through the Seattle U Wakanda Night which was held last Monday, May 21. Put on by Assistant Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs Tyrone Brown, as a part of Moral Mondays, Wakanda Night showed how the setting of the film Black Panther—Wakanda although fictionalized—took inspiration from various African countries.

Through Wakanda Night, students were able to view images of Wakanda and the characters which showcased the inspiration that was taken from African countries and tribes.

Africa Day and Wakanda Night, though very different in execution, are similar in intent. Despite the negative lens through which the Western World views Africa, it has a rich history, culture and heritage that is visible through these events.

Rania may be reached at
[email protected]

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