Thursday 25th May 2017,
The Denisonian

Exploring the identity of Africans in the U.S.

ELAINE CASHY

Managing Editor Emeritus

Ranging from Zumba classes to discussions with Mauritanian activists, the African Student Association (ASA) hosted a variety of events in celebration of My Africa Week last week.

International studies and women’s and gender studies double major from Accra, Ghana and ASA president Anna Teye ’16 states, “My Africa Week’s goal was to ‘foster unity amongst the people of the African diaspora.’ Our aim for the week was to expose the Denison community to the diversity of African cultures and people, and to combat problematic stereotypes of the continent.”

On Thursday, the fourth event of My Africa Week was a screening of a documentary and a TED Talk, and a discussion afterwards. During the screenings, viewers snacked on catered Ethiopian food of spicy chicken, lentils, rice and injera, a spongy-textured flatbread torn apart to scoop up all the flavors piled onto the foam plates.

The 2015 documentary Am I: Too African to be American or Too American to be African directed by Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker Nadia Sasso explores the identity development of first-generation African immigrants, and the tension between maintaining one’s cultural roots while living in the United States.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Dangers of a Single Story” investigates the dangers of a single stereotype of a culture or country, and how the limitations created through this sole perception work to skew the truth of not only the content of Africa as a whole, but also marginalized groups throughout the world.

According to Teye, “The goal of the movies and discussion on Thursday was to explore identity formation and the stereotypes associated with people on the continent [of Africa] and in the diaspora.”

In selecting the movies for screening, Teye said ASA chose these films because “many of our members are in love with Adichie, and most of us thought that TED Talk beautifully explained many of our concerns about the myopic ways that Africa and Africans are perceived in the United States and at Denison.”

“As for Am I,” Teye said, “there was a fundraiser for the film on social media and after we read the description for it, we knew it would spark an in-depth conversation on identity formation, especially since most of our general body members are first or second generation Africans in America.”

The discussion to follow the screenings investigated the bullying of African children in schools in the United States, developing and maintaining pride in one’s African identity despite the constant negativity associated with being African and combatting the single story of Africa as a land with beautiful vegetation, exotic animals and desperate people, instead of a continent with a complex, dynamic identity and people.

Overall, Teye believes “the week went phenomenally well. From our guest activists, to the talks and film screenings, every day of the week was organized and well executed. Even though we had some last minute hiccups for our My Africa Night show on Friday, it was great to see our executive board and general body members band together and work through the difficulties.

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