“Pan Afrikan week to me means that we are, as a people of the African descent, celebrating our togetherness and our unity. We’re celebrating the history of intellectual thought- about 200 years worth- as black people. Pan Afrikan week means that we must signify and enhance the unity we must have amongst each other. So to me, Pan Afrikan is all about unity, togetherness, and a bond that we must sustain as one people of the African descent. Power to the people, because the people need power.”
“Pan Afrikan week to me is almost like the Black community’s homecoming. It’s a good way for all of the black community to come together, students and alumni, to celebrate good times together, show off new skills and successes we have had.”
“To me, Pan Afrikan week is a chance for NC State students to express African culture through different events such as fashion shows and dance competitions as well as concerts. It gives a chance for other students on campus, other cultures and races, to get the experience to see what some things in African culture are like because a lot of them have never been exposed to it. Overall I feel like it’s very beneficial for our campus and hopefully people continue to support throughout the next few years.”
Nia Doaks | Managing Editor
N.C. State is home to a variety of traditions and festivals. One week in particular, Pan Afrikan Festival Week, is especially important to those who wish to celebrate African-American culture and community on the University’s campus.
Pan Afrikan Festival Week is a tradition that is in its 45th year at N.C. State University. It began back in the 70s, and has sometimes been referred to affectionately as “the black homecoming”.
This year’s festivities include a scholarship pageant, guest speaker Nikki Giovanni, and events held by various AASAC organizations. The week will end on Friday with the first ever Pan Afrikan concert featuring rapper Big K.R.I.T.
What does it take for Pan Afrikan Week to be put into action? The Nubian Message sat down with Amira Alexander, President of Black Students Board, to get an inside look at planning for this community event.
Nubian Message: How long has BSB been planning for this year’s Pan Afrikan week and who is involved with the planning?
Alexander: I have been planning for Pan Afrikan week since October of last semester. My advisors and my board have been involved- they’ve been contacting our vendors and contacting caterers to make sure that everything is perfect for the week.
NM: How has it evolved and changed since its earlier years?
A: Well, there’s not too much that I can get from the past, because we don’t have much to reference in regards to previous activities and events. We only have three years of binders but have been around for 45 years. All that I have to look at are flyers, past Pan Af designs. They had kickoffs, they had cookouts and that kind of stuff- so we kind of have the same feel.
NM: What are the goals of this year’s Pan Afrikan events?
A: My goal was to really bring it into what Pan Afrikanism means. I wanted to bring it into the actual definition of what it means to be African American or people of color and the struggles that they face. This is also why I brought Big K.R.I.T. He’s not a normal artist. Even his nameit means King Remembered In Time. What artist do you know that references themselves as kings? He speaks on things that African-Americans struggle with every day and is true to his art form.
NM: What was the most challenging part of planning this week?
A: I’ll honestly say the most challenging part was working with other organizations. A lot of people have a misconception of what BSB is- we’re not an organization, we’re a committee. This means that we don’t raise money, and I have to go through my advisor to reach anyone and make these events happen [unlike with AASAC]. It’s never been really clear what BSB was, and this made it [stressful] for me.
NM: How do you hope to see Pan Afrikan week change or improve in the future?
A: I would hope that the festive aura that I’m trying to place on Pan Afrikan stays. In the past there’s been so much emphasis on the partying, and I feel like people don’t put as much emphasis on the events that people work hard to have. I’m trying to make it fun and an actual celebration of our culture. I’m redefining pan-afrikanism. That’s why I took Africa out of the design- Pan-Afrikanism is more than just Africa, it’s in our everyday lives. It morphs into something different every single day.
NM: What does Pan Afrikan week mean to you?
A: The unifying of people of the African diaspora. A lot of people don’t want to call themselves African-Americans in order to be politically correct- but you didn’t originate from here. You originated from the Motherland. My goal this year was to bring it back to an actual celebration of our culture, of our history. Recognizing where we came from, recognizing who we are and who we ought to be.
UPCOMING PAN AFRIKAN WEEK EVENTS:
Wednesday, 6:30pm, Talley Ballroom | Nikki Giovanni- an evening of poetry, love, and enlightenment
Thursday, 7pm, Talley Ballroom | Afrolatinidad
Friday, 12:15pm, Free Expression Tunnel | Pop the tension
Friday, 7pm, Talley Ballroom | Big K.R.I.T. Concert
Saturday, 12pm | What’s done in the dark
Mar 25 2015
Chris Hart-Williams | Editor-in-chief
On a typical day, a student might drop by the African American Cultural Center, walk through the Free Expression Tunnel , and most important of all, sit in a classroom. Last week, 10 students did that and more with 36 fourth and fifth graders. Joshua Moore, a senior studying sustainable materials and technology, co-lead a student mentor day with Breanna Powell, a junior studying social work.
Moore, Powell and the other mentors hosted boys from Barwell Road Renaissance Elementary School in Raleigh. “When I was in elementary school I already knew I was going to go to college,” said Powell. “I didn’t know much about it, but I knew I was going to go.”
Powell said that she hopes the visit made an impact on the boys, especially those who may not talk often about college at home. Some of them were able to attend class with their mentors, while others took part in tours of the D.H. Hill Library Learning Commons, Carmichael Gymnasium and Talley Student Center.
“They were really excited to be on N.C. State’s campus,” said Teyara Hudson, a senior in social work, who served as one of the 10 student mentors. “They kept saying ‘you guys are so lucky, I wish I could do this,’ I told them you can, just keep your work up in school.”
The fourth and fifth grade boys belong to a separate mentor program at their school that is lead by male faculty, the Helping Hands Mentoring Program. This is an initiative of Wake County Public Schools that works to foster supportive relationships, improve school performance, and help “statistical minorities” face and overcome challenges in their lives.
Robert Bridges, an African-American and former Wake County School Superintendent, started the program within a few schools in the system 25 years ago. This year marks the fourth year Barwell Elementary has offered it.
“The program provides students with enrichment to help them go to the next level academically,” said Marc Hardy, a mentor of the Helping Hands program at Barwell Elementary and school counselor. Hardy, an NC State graduate, says the program is culturally sensitive and aims to increase its participants self-concept and self-esteem.
The mentors engage with the students- after homework time, which comes first, said Hardy. Circle-time, which often follows, is what Hardy describes as “an opportunity for the boys to open up.” Hardy said he and his colleagues like to mentor using generative themes which comes from the writings of Paulo Freire in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed which stresses that solutions to a people’s challenges are best found from within their culture and community.
The program at Barwell creates a sense of community for the boys pays respect and appreciation for an Afrocentric worldview according to Hardy. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from N.C. State. Hardy holds an undergraduate degree in psychology, which he earned in 1992, and a master’s in counselor education, which he earned in 2010.
“For them to get to see the students, I think that was the most important part,” Powell said. “Just so they know that there are people here ready to support them and advocate for them when they go to college.” Powell said she wants to go into school social work and serve youth after college. She’s interested in youth development and hopes to be an advocate for children, like she had while in elementary, middle and high school. “I just want to be that person for other students.”
Mar 25 2015
Jillian Smith | Staff Writer
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the largest fraternities in the United States, had to shut down its Oklahoma chapter on Sunday, March 15, because of a nine-second video showing a bus full of brothers enthusiastically participating in a racist chant.
All of the participants are young white men, dressed formally, fist pumping as they vow that “there will never be a n***** in the SAE.” They also make a reference to lynching saying “you can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me,” revealing the deep-rooted history of this fraternity.
SAE is the only national fraternity developed in the antebellum South. Many of its founding members fought in the Civil War defending the Confederate South and many lost their lives for the cause.
Those that survived went home to burned universities and destroyed chapters. For the next three decades, they rebuilt and strengthened the fraternity, even expanding to some Northern states. Over the years, they have earned many different nicknames, one of the earliest being “the singing fraternity.”This particular ‘song’ has incited national outrage and has highlighted how many college campuses, supposed beacons of education and equality, are still experiencing serious racial issues. “I was utterly disgusted by the chant and the nature in which it was being recited. I was also very disappointed to see that the president and the members of the chapter showed much enthusiasm while reciting the chant,” said Sharod Fenner, a senior in technology, engineering and design education and secretary of the Eta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
The video is one of few tangible pieces of evidence of a much larger and persistent problem within America’s predominantly white fraternities. This is unfortunately a direct result of a Greek letter system established with harsh and, at the time, legal exclusionary practices. While times have changed, the lingering notes of systematic racism continue to pervade many parts of our society such as this one.
“As a black man I was not surprised to see this video. Racism and prejudice are still very prevalent in America, and I think this video is only a small representation of a larger problem,” said Alex Starnes, a senior and President of Sigma Phi Epsilon. SAE has had experienced race-related scandals in the past. In 2013, the Washington University chapter located in St. Louis was suspended after some of the pledges were told to yell racial slurs at a group of black students. Just last year at the University of Arizona, 15 SAE members broke into a historically Jewish fraternity located off-campus. They assaulted the members while yelling discriminatory comments at them.
The Clemson University’s SAE chapter was suspended in December 2014 after the fraternity hosted a “cripmas” party which encouraged students to dress up as gang members. In response to this event however, “Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity is establishing a groundbreaking four-pronged initiative to combat instances of racial discrimination and insensitivity among its members,” SAE Executive Director Blaine Ayers said in a statement on Wednesday. After the release of the first video, a second emerged featuring the OU chapter’s 79-year-old house mother. In this video, she says “n*****” seven times, apparently listening to Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything” in the background.
“These beliefs do not come from thin air, which means the chapter, in some fashion, supports these misguided ideals,” Starnes said. Only time will tell if a “diversity and education” program can break down the racism shrouding SAE membership, and if this event will be a lesson to other predominantly white fraternities. “True brotherhood has no race, creed, or color. It is a comradery amongst individuals who share a common goal. It bothers me to think that the members of the chapter, and possibly the whole organization, feel that racism and discrimination is something they can agree upon and rejoice in song about,” Fenner said.