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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Inspiring and Passionate: Africa Night at UMB

I wonder if they tried to make it more authentic, but according to the African perception of time, I guess you could say that the 2009 African Night at UMass Boston started right on schedule. The presenters, Milcah Iga and Mario Austin, welcomed the big audience as well as the special guests, and introduced the event as a collective work of African students that exhibited the dynamism of the continent.

After brief welcoming words by UMB’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Patrick Day, and Chancellor J. Keith Motley, her Excellency Amina Salum Ali’s address was meant to be one of the evening’s main features. She is the first female ambassador to the African Union and flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the event. She was welcomed with standing ovations as she walked up to the lectern. Although Ali had been working in D.C. for three years, she confessed that she had never participated in a student activity and affirmed the students that she loved it. The ambassador talked about the organization of the African Union, its visions, and the quest for unity: “We want to create the United States of Africa!” She explained how the organization works and that it is not only important to work towards socio-economic integration, but also to enhance the quality of its human resources. “The greatest gift you can get from someone is their knowledge!,” said the ambassador.

Moving from words to action, next came two amazing African dance and drumming performances. UMB’s own ‘A’ Major Dance Group and another all female formation from Northeastern University rocked the stage with an infusion of traditional and modern African dance and music. The girls were showing a lot of skin in their tribal garbs, and literally knew how to shake their tail feathers! Later on, two Rwandan guys gave an astonishing drumming performance and another dance group from North Carolina contributed to the incredible show which raised the temperature as well as the audience’s hunger for the upcoming acts.

One of the evenings’ most anticipated spectacle was definitely the fashion show. Finally the men revealed some skin as well, although they really need to practice how to walk that walk! While they strolled down the catwalk, smiling bashfully and trying to look as casual as possible, the ladies seemed a bit more confident than their male counterparts. A few took their performance really serious as they sashayed along in almost top model manner. Expressing the continent’s diverse cultures and traditions, the beautiful models presented formal as well as informal African attire. It was a visual pleasure of colors, patterns and styles, even if some of the outfits were so sexy, they would surely cause a stir back in Africa.

Next came a rap group whose message was good as opposed to their performance (to their defense it must be added that they were lacking one mic). Finally, the stage was cleared for the longingly anticipated – especially by the female audience – unofficial highlight of the night: Selection Naturelle. This all-male ensemble of members of the African Student Union made the ladies move closer towards the stage, jiggling and giggling. I didn’t really know what to expect, but when the first dancer appeared on stage, wearing something that looked like a police uniform, I awaited the others to be dressed up as firefighters, cowboys and Indians, ready to undress. But even though my prayers weren’t answered, these guys definitely killed the show. They had rehearsed a choreography that could be described as ‘Tribal Chief meets Chris Brown’ that made the girls in the audience go bananas. In the end, they actually did rip apart their t-shirts and earned a thunderous applause, setting the perfect atmosphere for the after party.

The African Night was a great opportunity to not only enjoy the rich cultural manifestations of Africa’s countries and populations that still shape the identities of many of our students today, but also to learn about current issues in African politics and society. It helped to counter the popular image of Africa as the lost continent by demonstrating that there are strong, determined and passionate young people who engage in the making and maintaining of African unity and cooperation in order to work towards a brighter future. I think I can speak for everybody who attended the show when I say thank you to all African Student Union members, Chancellor Motley and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Patrick Day, UMB staff, and everybody who contributed to this event, for making this a wonderful, unforgettable and inspiring night.