Anahzsa Jones | Correspondent

On April 2 the African Student Union kicked off Pan-Afrikan Week with their annual Africa Night. This year’s theme was “Black To Our Roots.”

The event was full of entertainment from East and West African cultures, including dancing, singing, and a fashion show, all to showcase and celebrate the heritage of the African American community.

“This show was all about not being ashamed of your dark skin and your African roots,” said Gift Coker, co-President of the African Student Union (ASU).

The night began with a conglomerate poem performed by members of ASU that included part of the famous poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. The poem served to underscore how we live in a society where black is synonymous with bad and to emphasize how important it is for our society to learn about African heritage.

Adaeze Egolum, the other co-president of ASU, was part of this performance and talked about the other major aspect of our particular campus society that makes events like this even more important.

“We go to a PWI, so often times we get forgotten, so this kind of Pan-Afrikan week is just good to remind us where we came from,” Egolum said.

The host for the night was Nigerian comedian Mama Tobi, who entertained the crowd with jokes that also taught about familial Nigerian culture between performances. These performances included an appearance from the Mauta Brothers and the Botewa Dance Team, a branch of ASU that focuses on blending modern and traditional dancing styles of West Africa.

“When people think of African dancing, they think of a specific type, like with drums…and it’s just important to show people how African dancing has evolved beyond the traditional like, dancing around campfires and stuff,” said Mary Afuye, Chairperson of Botewa.

The dances were more than just to entertain and showcase culture however. For Coker, there was another purpose for having such accomplished teams perform.

“People think that our people aren’t as skilled as some other people. A lot of our movements are free usually, but just to show that we can achieve technique. Anything we set our mind to we can do,” she said.

Entertaining as it was, the event wasn’t all fun and games. There was also an emphasis on helping communities in Africa with two service programs, the first of which was Grow With Nigeria, a program that focuses on exposing Nigerian children to different careers in STEM concentrations.

Temini Ajayi, the one of the co-founders of Grow with Nigeria said “What made the difference for me was there were a few people who were willing to fight for me, to take a chance and show me opportunities, and that’s what got me where I am today. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.” To learn how to get involved, visit

The other program was Pearl Leadership Institute, and the President and founder, Tsegga Medhin was there to speak about the gender disparity, both in Africa and around the world, and how her organization seeks to help. The Pearl Leadership Institute focuses on empowering women through education and building leadership skills. Their motto is, “Changing the fifty percent, one girl at a time.”

A large part of Medhin’s message was being connected, not just with our campus community, but with our culture, and the cultures of others. She saw the event as “a bridge builder and also an awareness campaign.”

There were many who seemed to enjoy the environment, comprised as it was of mainly African and African American people. Zaina Otieno, a member of the International Association at Meredith College attended the event. She makes it a point to visit all the African-centered events not only at their own school, but also here and at Duke.

To Otieno, these events serve to “…give international students a sense of belonging. Because coming here and seeing all the African people, black people and all the international people here, I think it’s just simply amazing.”

Landon Davis, a junior studying business, shared the same sentiment, but for different reasons. “Even though I am African American, I don’t really know my ancestry like that…so I think it’s really important to learn about different things like what kind of languages you hear, and different accents and dances,” he said.

Africa Night was more than just a cultural showcase. It was a call to action, a celebration and a reminder of who we are as a community.

As the co-presidents of ASU proclaimed, “We are black, black to our roots.”