The walls in McGuffey’s auditorium were lined with flags representing Africa’s 54 countries as the African Students’ Union hosted their annual Taste of Africa event Saturday evening.
This year, ASU partnered with Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Lambda Mu Chapter, the first nationally recognized historically black sorority. The event featured music, dance, food and stories of African students’ experiences at Miami.
Each year ASU organizes a feast representing a variety of countries. This year there was food from Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya and Eritrea, with a menu including jollof rice, doro wat, curry goat and samosas.
The theme of the night was “The Journey,” and to emphasize this, ASU created a video documenting several students’ experiences travelling from Africa to the U.S. Many stories echoed one another; they came for a better education or to have a chance for more opportunities in the workforce.
One such student was Irene Kabinga, a second-year architecture graduate student from Tanzania. Kabinga is an international student who decided to come to the United States for her masters after completing her undergraduate degree at a university in her home country. She was offered a scholarship to study at Miami, so she took the opportunity in hopes of receiving the best education possible.
Kabinga says while she has enjoyed her time in the States, she misses Tanzanian cuisine.
“My favorite part of Taste of Africa is the food. I don’t get this kind of food here a lot,” said Kabinga. “I used to like pizza, but I’m already sick of it.”
In another video, ASU member Akosua Boadi-Agyemang, an international student from Botswana, described some of the struggles she encountered when she arrived at Miami. She discussed her peers asking her what it was like to grow up in a hut, illustrating the misconceptions many Americans have about Africa. Another international student from Kenya said she experienced similar situations, and was shocked that some students did not know that Kenya was a developed country with cities and cars.
Juniors Eric Laub and Johnny Barrow also came to Taste of Africa, despite having no affiliation with the group or its nearly 40 members.
“I saw the poster and saw free food,” said Barrow. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I came and I was very delighted.”
Neither Barrow nor Laub have attended an ASU event in the past, but were immediately attracted to the atmosphere.
“I liked the energy of the dance,” said Laub. “People seemed to be really into what was going on, and I think that made the event a lot more enjoyable.”
The stories of their peers’ efforts just to be able to attend the same university also touched them.
“I liked hearing about people’s journeys and their struggles,” said Barrow. “It was nice to hear their voices.”
The ASU Dance Team performed a medley of dances, led by dance coordinator Arnold Kamazima. Kamazima, in his third year as dance coordinator, said the group serves to highlight the importance of dance in African culture.
“A lot of people know a big portion of African culture is food and language, but music and dance are also really big parts,” said Kamazima. “We make it a point to have different dances from different countries and the diaspora, and we focus on modern dances.”
While Kamazima has no formal dance training, he says it is an important way for him to express himself.
“What I love about African dances is, even though we’re all doing the same moves, everybody has a different style and facial expressions,” said Kamazima. “It’s all about being yourself.”