McGuffey Hall became the setting for music, dancing and a feast of traditional African food this Saturday evening as the African Students Union hosted its annual Taste of Africa event. Held every year before Thanksgiving break, the event is meant to share African culture with the Miami community.
Described by the organization as “Thanksgiving with an African twist,” the event started 15 years ago as a way for African students who couldn’t fly home to celebrate with others.
According to Dr. Yeboah, geography professor and faculty advisor for the African Students Union, at the time the event started there were only five or six African students attending Miami University. They were among the only people left on campus while everyone else went home for the holidays.
“The organization was created as a way for African students to support themselves in the American experience,” said Yeboah.
Today, most members of the African Students Union are second-generation migrants, born in America with African heritage. The event has evolved from a small dinner to a large event of over 100 people coming together to learn about and celebrate African traditions.
According to Dr. Yeboah, the event serves the purpose of giving representation to the African community.
“In this era of ethnic nationalism and the rebuttal against globalisation, it is very important for organizations like this and events like these that they offer,” said Yeboah.
President Crawford and Dr. Renate Crawford, were among those in attendance. This was their second time attending the event.
“We try to attend as many events held by student organizations as possible,” said President Crawford. “We love events like this that bring different cultures together.”
When asked what he has learned through attending the Taste of Africa event, President Crawford responded, “Well, in addition to the food being spicy, which is fantastic, it’s neat to see the students talk about where they’re from directly, and to see where their ancestors are from. It’s neat to hear those kinds of stories.”
Renate also talked about why she enjoys attending the Taste of Africa event.
“Events like these really build community, and it’s just phenomenal to see the students learning from each other,” she said.
The event began with the members of the executive board introducing and giving a brief background on themselves. They then held a game of “Family Feud” as an icebreaker to get everyone involved in the event. Each side of the auditorium was a team and answered questions related to Africa and African culture.
Next was a performance by the Miami University Gospel Singers, or MUGS. The seventeen singers sang two traditional gospels as the audience clapped and sang along.
The African Students Union dance team then gave a performance featuring modern music with a mix of contemporary and traditional African dance moves. The dancers wore black clothing that featured patches of African patterns. This high-energy performance had the audience cheering along the entire time.
Mona-Mae Juwillie, a member of the dance team and the Public Relations chair for the past two years, said the organization includes a variety of different events as a way to highlight the different aspects of African culture.
“We strive to show Africa in a light that’s not talked about very often,” said Juwillie. “A lot of ignorant assumptions are made about the continent, and we want to show our love for our motherland.”
After the dance came the main event: the food.
The members of the organization and their families volunteered to cook traditional African food, featuring dishes from Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia. They set up several large tables full of plantains, rice, lamb, fish, kebabs and more. As Dr. Yeboah had warned the crowd, some of the food was very spicy, a staple of African food.
Music was played throughout the feast and people danced, talked and laughed while they enjoyed their food. When the event came to a close, the attendees left with full stomachs and a better understanding of African culture.