The celebration of culture pulsated through the crowd, as the bold sound of the African drums echoed throughout Olmsted. The fragrance of food from a foreign land filled the air. Last Saturday night, the African Student Association hosted its fifth annual African Renaissance Night.
For the last four years, ASA has held African Renaissance Night on Pomerantz Stage, but with attendance growing every year, this year’s celebration moved to Parents Hall. Even with the increased amount of space, it was standing room only.
ASA added a twist this year to increase its audience’s cultural experience by providing traditional African cuisine.
“As you look at the menu and find that there are too many consonants and not enough vowels, try it anyway because it’s all delicious,” said Emmanuel Adewo, who was the emcee for the evening.
The crowd was electrifying and eager to participate in the festivities, especially when volunteers were asked to join on stage to perform with the Afriky Lolo dance group from St. Louis.
“It’s an eye-opening experience where you’re exposed to a different culture entirely,” senior Reynold Lim said. “Their dance and music just moves you.”
African Renaissance Night was not simply a Drake attended event. It was also well represented by the Des Moines community.
“I’ve never heard of Drake hosting anything like this, so it took me by surprise to know that this is their fifth year hosting the event,” Des Moines resident Odessa Peake said. “And the fact that it is free shows a big commitment on Drake’s part and speaks a lot about how Drake supports cultural diversity.”
Diversity was even represented in the performances. There were several performances throughout the night, but the most popular were performances by Drake’s very own Brocal Chords, by the Innah Dance Crew — performing belly dancing styles from North Africa — and by the fashion show, which showcased different print patterns and dress styles from across Africa.
“It was wonderful and authentic; it exposed people to true African culture beyond the stereotypes that they are usually exposed to,” incoming provost Dr. Deneese Jones said.
Drake students traveling to Uganda, a part of the Sustainable Development in Sub-Saharan Africa course, sold artwork by Uganda batik artist Godfrey Kalungi. This May, the sixth group of Drake students will travel to Uganda and will partner with the local non-profit Shinning City foundation for two service learning projects in Uganda. All of the money this group raised last Saturday will go towards building a clinic and purchasing learning materials for special needs children while in Uganda.
African Renaissance Night is an award-winning event. It has been recognized by the Drake community in past years, and it was awarded the “Drake Diversity Program of the Year.” The event has also received publicity in the Des Moines Register.
“It was fascinating, riveting,” said Drake’s first lady Maddy Maxwell. “The whole night was filled with a lot of life, and (you) come out filling great.”