By Jay Roberson
AS students walked through the golden streamers in the doorway of the NJM Community room on Feb. 16, they were transported into the vibrant continent of Africa filled with upbeat music, the smell of well-seasoned food and a community ready to celebrate their heritage.
Rider’s African Student Association (RASA) hosted the “Taste of Africa Banquet” to bring together their community as well as to educate the Rider community on African culture.
Junior political science major Naa’san Carr spoke about the value of culturally-rich events like these at Rider.
“For me, being an African American male, it’s great to see events like this because this is our roots. This is like the foundation of our culture here in America, [it] is duplicated from African culture. We just make it our own here in America,” Carr said.
Carr introduced RASA President and Vice President, senior information systems major Zeina Ly and senior sociology major Niera Crawford, before they kicked off the event by handing the mic to the Black woman-owned small shop Culture Rocks by Nini. Culture Rocks by Nini sells African-inspired clothing, jewelry, accessories and artifacts.
After a brief lesson about African American history presented by the small shop, the aroma of African food lingered in the air as the guests waited to be called up by their tables, which were named after different African countries.
Junior global studies major Kayla McIntyre discussed her favorite parts of her culture in an interview with The Rider News, which were “most definitely the food, but also the community.”
The RASA executive board served the guests jerk chicken, jollof rice, fried ripe plantain and puff-puff, which are all traditional African cuisine. When offered seconds, the whole crowd got back up to get more.
After the attendees were seated once again, the next guest, Victor Marshall, the director of the Marshall Hand & Drum Ensemble, performed several African Diaspora drumming pieces. In between sets, he explained the significance of drums for Africans as it served as a form of communication while enslaved and silenced.
Senior psychology major and treasurer of RASA Daicya Dawson spoke about how multicultural organizations like RASA have helped her learn about different cultures because she is Caribbean and there are no Caribbean organizations on campus.
“It just introduced me to a whole new culture … I just see so many similarities from back home. It just brings a type of comfort for people who aren’t New Jerseyans.” Dawson said.
When performances concluded, guests were invited to take pictures in a 360-degree photo booth which was set up by Black woman-owned small business Waters 360 Entertainment. Props like bubble guns and sunglasses were used as participants posed for the camera.
To close out the night, junior business analytics major and secretary of RASA, Abraham Ohiokhai- Benson, hosted a friendly competition of musical chairs that turned out to be more competitive than expected. 11 contestants fought for the first-place prize, which was an Amazon gift card.
The event proved to be educational as well as an opportunity for Rider to see the beauty of Africa. Carr summed up the ambience of the event when explaining his own favorite parts of his culture:
“It’s vibrant, everything about it is vibrant. It’s totally positive, flashy and elegant. There’s always different facets to it. So like I said, there’s never a dull moment in each layer of the culture. It’s just bright, a lot of positivity, a lot of sunshine.”