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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Africa Weeks expanded

By Emily Koester
News Editor

Friday, November 16, 2007

St. Olaf's Karibu club and Diversity Celebrations Committee teamed up this November to sponsor Africa Weeks, a celebration of African culture that ran from Nov. 5 to Nov. 18. Guests and St. Olaf students presented their insights, skills and traditions in honor of the Africa Weeks' theme, "Africa's Got Talent."

Never before has Africa Weeks run this long. "Last year it was only one week long, and when I was a freshman it was a only a weekend," said Karibu co-chair Ladeisha Bhide '09. "It's exciting to have two weeks."

Holding a two-week event meant that Karibu and DCC had to present a fairly wide program. Among new speakers this year was English professor Joseph Mbele, who read poetry on Tuesday night, and Charles Dennis, who spoke on how to address Africa's needs.

"Every issue that Africa faces today was not given by God," Dennis said. "It is the greed of mankind that's facing the continent today."

Dennis went on to emphasize how non-African countries tend to use Africa for its resources without giving back to the continent. "This is another form of colonizing and exploitation," Dennis said. "What is different now than in the colonial days?"

Dennis ended his speech with a call for students to address the world's concerns as well as their personal and national ones. "Let's be global in our thinking," he said.

Organizers emphasized that in addition to growing aware of Africa's needs, it is important for St. Olaf students to celebrate Africa as well. "We are a tiny population, but we do share a lot of tradition and belief," Bhide said.

Public relations co-director Jessica Steinbach '08 pointed out that people often forget about the need to celebrate.

"When you read the news, or even just in day to day life, the images we see from Africa are usually starving people, AIDS statistics or images of civil warfare," Steinbach said. "Karibu wants to remind everyone that there is also a lot of beauty and joy in Africa as well."

St. Olaf students had the opportunity to celebrate Africa through their personal contributions during a Wednesday talent show in the Lion's Lair, an event designed in conjunction with the Cultural Union for Black Expression, to underscore the theme of "Africa's Got Talent."

"We thought it would be a fun way to highlight some of the wonderful ideas, and fascinating people that have come from Africa -- including our own St. Olaf students!" Steinbach said.

Bhide noted that a favorite event among students was Ghanan dancer and drummer Christian Adete, who performed Nov. 7.

Throughout the performance, Adete taught St. Olaf students new dance steps and even invited the attendees to join in the performance. "Adete got the whole audience up on stage," Bhide said.

Though much of Africa Weeks served as a means for celebration and education, facets of the program were geared towards charity. "We're trying to raise money for the Agape orphanage in Ethiopia," Bhide said. Bhide's fellow co-chair Nardos Teslfalidet '09 will be going to Ethiopia to work with the orphanage this January.

Steinbach noted that Africa Weeks is different each year and that organizers are always looking for new speakers and ideas. Organizers also hope to get more students involved in events.

"In the end, we would just like to get as many people as possible involved with AW, even if it's just attending one event," Steinbach said. Students interested are invited to attend meetings held every Thursday at 6:30 in the Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach office in Buntrock Commons.

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