Students find their roots at Afro-Caribbean Night

During the 11th-annual Afro-Caribbean Night, male dancers representing Eritrea don and wave the Eritrean flag around the female dancers. Photo by Chimera Van Ornum

CORRECTION: The article originally left out Ethiopia in its list of countries represented at Afro-Caribbean Night.

“Sankofa,” from the Akan language of Ghana, translates

to “going back to one’s roots” or “traveling home.”

The African Student Association traveled through cultural traditions of various African and Caribbean countries during Afro-Caribbean Night, an annual cultural event that showcases numerous dances, spoken-word performances, and a fashion show.

“It’s a cultural, educational, fun event that people can come to every year and be a part of every year and really show the world what our culture really entails,” said Ethiopia Berta, the event’s president.

The night of celebration highlighted the importance of understanding traditions from one’s country of origin and incorporating that understanding into one’s identity. Countries represented were the Dominican Republic, Uganda, Jamaica, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Ghana, Congo, Nigeria, Barbados, Trinidad, and Ethiopia.

The event featured several traditional dances, during which students passionately swayed to the beat of the music. Near the end of the show, many audience members joined in the dancers, both smiling and shimmying in unison.

In addition to the appreciation of culture through dance, the event also featured a documentary of a group of students who studied abroad in Ghana and their expression of thanks toward the opportunity. Students discussed the ways they were changed and how the experiences they had brought a new passion and enthusiasm to spreading understanding of cultural ties.

“We came back and we were so close,” said Sierra Stewart, president of Black Student Union. “It was family. It created the relationships that we have now as student leaders of color on campus,”

The fashion show was another expression of heritage. Students modeled a spectrum of bold and bright traditional African clothing through the ages. Fabrics with intricate designs; large, gold accessories; colorful headdresses; and patterned, purple dresses filled the stage as students proudly strutted for the audience.

Bringing a more serious tone to the show, spoken-word artists reflected on issues of inequality and the portrayal of African-Americans in the media.

“I’m tired of the media portraying Africans as if we’re helpless. As if it weren’t for the oh-so-great Westerners, we’d still be savages,” Slwan Logan and Hamda Yusuf rhymed.

Whether through spoken word, dance, fashion, or poetry, students expressed the significance of going back to one’s roots as a fun and elucidating journey.

“I was really able to understand that my ancestors were in unlivable conditions and having to be at the will of Europeans and kidnapped to come to America,” Stewart said.

Reach reporter Allie Choy at

news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @arriechoy

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