News & Events
The world's second most populous continent was the topic at BSU last week, as the institution sponsored its fifth annual Africa Awareness Week. The schedule featured nearly five full days and nights of activities, including music and dance performances, extensive film viewings, student panel discussions, African food, and lessons on speaking Swahili.
The theme of this year's programming was African women. Many of the events addressed the often underestimated contributions of African women in their societies, said Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Louise Badiane, who organized the week with Dr. Sandra Faiman-Silva, professor and chairperson of anthropology.
"African women are the backbone of their families and communities as they undisputedly participate in both the formal and informal economic sector," said Dr. Badiane. "African women are also bridging the gender gap that negatively affected them for many years in the areas of education, politics, health, law and other sectors of development. I hope this event will help the BSU community understand the crucial roles of African women in the 21st century."
A highlight from the week's schedule was an interactive student panel discussion, "Let's Talk," where BSU's female African students were front and center discussing education, teen pregnancy and issues facing all women today.
Panelist Comfort Nyeswah, a BSU junior who hails from Ghana and now lives in Worcester, aimed to highlight the importance of women pursuing higher learning. "I wanted to give a sense that women can make a difference if they first get an education," she said. "It can be their outlet to the world."
Organizer Olatowon Staveley of Newton, president of the African Student Association, said the panel aimed to bring students together for a free-flowing conversation about important issues surrounding women and open up perspectives about Africa. "Not a lot of people are aware of what's going on and there's a stigma, where the word 'Africa' is associated with negative things," she said. "With this discussion, we try to change that."
Fellow panelist Habibatu Bayoh of Boston, whose family moved to the United States from Sierre Leone in the 1990s, also took her opportunity on the panel to advocate for education. "Coming from West Africa, I always knew how important getting an education was," Ms. Bayoh said. "Being a junior at a university -- I never thought I'd be here."
She emphasized how important education is for personal growth. "What you learn today will make you a better person tomorrow," she said.
The week also featured keynote speakers, who discussed issues in the continent. Dr. Timothy Longman, director of the African Studies Center at Boston University and author of Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, delivered an informative and often critical lecture about human rights campaigns in Africa. (Read his full story here.)
Pearl T. Robinson, a filmmaker and activist delivered the week's second keynote address, titled, "African Muslim Women and Civic Islam."
Dr. Badiane said an increased number of BSU students participated in the planning and presentation of this year's celebration. They sponsored a bazaar and an event that focused on the subject of empowering women.
Additionally, in the Kelly Gym there were African dance lessons and African drumming performances led by Taranga Step Group, while across campus in the library's Heritage Room, storyteller Raouf Mama wove tales for a crowd of campus community members. Traditional African food was served throughout the week at various events.
Sampling some of the African buffet served in the Council Chambers after her panel discussion that marked the end of AAW, Ms. Nyeswah aplty summarized the week-long celebration. "This African Awareness Week is about empowering women in education and globally," she said.
AAW was sponsored by several BSU departments: African Studies, Anthropology, Middle East Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Foreign Languages, Music and Dance, and Conference and Event Services. (Rob Matheson, '07, University Advancement; top three photos by Doris Galli)
VIDEO: A photo slideshow featurig scenes from African Awareness Week 2012, including dance lessons led by Taranga Step Group, storyteller Raouf Mama, African food and lessons on speaking Swahili. (Photos by Doris Galli)