1970 was a year of firsts for African Americans at N.C. State: Willie Burden and Charley Young became the first African Americans to receive football scholarships from the University; the first African American Cultural Center, located in the old YMCA building, was formed; and, most appropriate, the first Pan-Afrikan Festival was hosted
Known affectionately as “the black homecoming,” Pan-Afrikan has traditionally included the NPHC Step Show, a scholarship pageant and endless parties. In past years guest speakers such as Sister Souljah, Michael Eric Dyson and Stokely Carmichael have also graced the stage for students. These events were originally designed as a time of unity amongst our community, ultimately with the goal of attracting more African Americans to enroll in the University.
The Festival took inspiration from the political Pan-Afrikan movements as well as leaders like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, who stressed the importance of self-awareness among the black community, celebration of African ancestry, history and culture amongst all.
Today, the intended ambition of the Festival has been realized. Since 1972, the African American student population has increased from a total of 220, to 2531 in Fall 2012, according to University Planning and Analysis. The significance of this leap from 1.6 percent of NCSU students, to 7.4 percent is further reflected in this year’s Pan-Afrikan theme: “The Essence of our Metamorphosis.”
The Festival theme this year reflects just how much the African American community is growing and evolving on N.C. State’s campus. The number of black students has grown since the Festival’s inception 40 years ago. For the first time in memory, the ballot for Student Body President has included all minority candidates. Our power and influence on campus continues to grow, our culture more seen and celebrated in a society that often blankets it.
Although many students see Pan Afrikan as “the black homecoming,” this week of events provides so much more insight into both the power of African culture, and our growing power on this campus.