Students celebrate African Night

HOUGHTON – No, Sandra Owusu doesn’t have a pet lion. And, as she also clarified for an audience Saturday night, she doesn’t speak “African.”

But she and the rest of Michigan Technological University’s African Students Organization helped share their cultures with the community during the annual African Night program.

Owusu said the night is both to educate people and so they can enjoy themselves.

“Just as long as people have fun, that’s what we want,” she said. “Have fun, learn something.”

Unlike most years, this year was not organized around a particular theme.

With the death in December of South African civil-rights leader Nelson Mandela, the program was expanded to include a tribute from Shezwae Fleming, director of Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

People started off the night with a dinner of foods from Ghana, Cameroon and Ethiopia, including kelewele, a Ghanian snack of fried, sliced plantains.

Emerald Gary, a fourth-year accounting and finance student from Detroit, was one of those coming through the line with a plate of delicacies. African Night is something she loves, she said.

“It’s a great event, to support diversity on the Michigan Tech campus,” she said.

The night also included student dance performances, the reading of a poem, and several performances from the Congolese Drum with Dance Ensemble.

Another feature was the African fashion show, where students modeled clothes from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and more, as well as designs from Ghanian designer Jennifer Akese, a high school friend of Owusu’s.

“You’ll get to see so much color, you won’t believe it,” Owusu said, in a statement soon proven correct.

At the event, students moved onto the dance floor for Nigerian hip-hop. The party then moved to the Continental Fire Co. for a night of songs popular in African clubs.

Ankita Mandelia, a second-year graduate student in environmental engineering, had friends in the student dance performance.

“I liked the Ethiopian dance the best,” she said. “It was something students did that was traditional.”