By Ashley Thomas
The College’s Association of Students For Africa (ASFA) is bringing culture, food and buoyancy to a campus with diversity on the rise. The association was started in 2014 by five friends who hoped to bring a piece of home to campus for students who couldn’t find it elsewhere.
“It created a home away from home for many of us,” senior business management major and Event Coordinator Esther Osei said. “It created a space for many students who come across the continent of Africa to share their experiences.”
As hard as college can be, having a place where students can feel understood by their peers can make the road to success that much easier. According to Osei, ASFA is able to help bridge the gap for struggling students.
“I got involved with ASFA because of the family-based atmosphere the club showcases,” sophomore chemistry major and ASFA Public Relations Officiant Oreoluwa Nubi said. “I come from an African home, and seeing this club on campus made me feel like I was at home and super comfortable.”
The organization currently has 46 active members and puts on a number of programs throughout the year.
“For students who aren’t African, it (gives) them a platform to learn about our experience and, at times, the similarities resonated with their culture,” Osei said.
ASFA events serve as large social functions where students are given the opportunity to learn about African culture from their peers. Events like Africa’s Best Dance Crew and the annual Akwaaba banquet are anchored in bringing the college community together, as well as spreading positivity throughout campus.
The second annual Akwaaba banquet was held this year on Saturday, April 23. The Decker Social Space was packed with students and faculty that night, most of whom fully adhered to the dress-to-impress policy and were eager to see what ASFA had planned for this year.
Judging by the number of people dancing, the organization did not disappoint. Performers donned traditional African garb, which they showed off in the event’s Best Dressed Runway Show.
The five-hour event included music, spoken word poetry and keynote speakers. The ASFA dance team gave a bold performance that landed them a standing ovation from the crowd. A chair-climbing guest performance by the Zuzu Acrobats Inc. troupe from Kirkland, Wash., only added to the overall liveliness of the night.
“This event serves as our welcoming platform to the entire TCNJ community,” Osei said. “We are extending ourselves and saying, ‘Come get to know us and the culture we love.’”
Events like Akwaaba are just a slice of what ASFA brings to the College. According to Orsei, the organization’s mission is to increase awareness of African culture and help diversify the campus environment.
“I really want this organization to make strides in continuing to break down stereotypes and help others celebrate and enjoy the African culture,” Nubi said.
Akwaaba means “welcome” in the West African country of Ghana, according to Nubi. By naming its annual banquet after the word, ASFA hopes to emphasize to students one of the organization’s main points — that all are welcome to join.