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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Celebrating the Diaspora

On Wednesday, February 27, a group of students and faculty gathered in the office of the Black Student Center to partake in an open house event billed as “a festive celebration of the African Diaspora.” Festive it was, as well as serious and thought-provoking. Making the most of a limited space, the coordinators of the Black Student Center, Akiba Abaka and Riche Zamor, assisted by secretary Sylvia Beevas, presented a lively forum for cultural celebration with an emphasis on diversity and activism.

The event was designed both as a celebration of Black History Month and as a way of welcoming people to the Black Student Center.

“We’re holding this event so students can know that we’re open again and for them to get a sense of what we’re about now and how things are going to be changing” said Zamor, “We want the Black Student Center to become more of a resource center for not just Black students but anybody who may have questions about Black culture. We’d like to have it be a place for students to study, to get information about the different colleges and programs that are available to Black people within the community, and a place for people of other cultures to find out more about Black culture. If there are issues on campus that students feel aren’t being dealt with, if they need advice or need to be pointed in the right direction, we want to be here for them.”

Abaka, coordinator of the center, agreed, adding, “It is really a passion, it’s not just a job…we spread self-esteem, we love ourselves and we love people.”

She went on to say, “We have a computer you can use. We have a lot of career information on our bookshelves. We have a reference library, and, by the way, if you want to make donations to our library, we are looking for books.”

The term “Diaspora,” as Abaka clarified, “refers to Pan-Africanism, which includes all the countries which have descendants of the dispersement caused by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade: Brazil, Central America, the Caribbean, the United States, all the countries in the continent of Africa. These are the people of the African Diaspora. We here at the Black Student Center endorse Pan-Africanism. We exclude no one.”

While attractions at the event included free food and raffle prizes, creating a welcoming, informal atmosphere, the focus was on the celebration of African culture: a wide array of performances including dance, African drumming, and spoken word poetry served not merely to entertain but to inform the attendants of a rich cultural heritage, one that is very much alive today.

The performances began with Millicent Riggins, coordinator of the McNair Fellowship Center on campus, who sang two Negro Spirituals. Her performance of “Were You There?” was both haunting and lovely.

While these songs served to create a link to the cultural past, a connection to a more contemporary artistic movement was made when Joneen Simpson took the stage to present two impressive, intelligent spoken word pieces. Focusing on the social-historical position of African-Americans, Simpson’s work derived its inspiration from life experience and expressed its observations with pointed wit and self-assurance.

The performances were followed by a keynote speech given by Professor Tony Vandermeer of the African Studies Department, who is also faculty advisor to the Black Student Center. Vandermeer’s speech encapsulated the themes of the meeting – acceptance of diversity and social activism.

Vandermeer began by emphasizing the importance of cross-cultural recognition of Black History Month, saying, “There is the idea that it is on Black people to celebrate Black His