The African Student Union (ASU) at North Carolina State University recently kicked off the academic year with a spectacular event setting the tone for the year ahead. The organization hosted a lively cookout, brimming with cultural delights, dance battles, Afro-beats and much more. This vibrant gathering aimed to unite the African and Black communities on campus and fill them with enthusiasm for the upcoming school year.

Pulling off an event of this magnitude is no small feat. ASU’s cookout took a dedicated team of volunteers and members to make it happen. The meticulous planning was done weeks in advance and included arranging chairs and tables, finding food vendors, coordinating volunteers and most importantly, ensuring an abundance of mouthwatering dishes. Notably, three colossal pans of Jollof Rice were prepared, providing enough for attendees to take home. The event showcased the richness of African cuisine, featuring traditional African dishes like Suya, fried plantains and a fried dough called Puff-Puff.

ASU’s impact in the lives of African students on campus cannot be overstated. Adachi Amaram, a third-year Political Science major and ASU’s president, emphasized the significance of events like the cookout in the context of a predominantly white institution. With less than 6% of students being Black, ASU offers a vital space for connection, celebration and cultural exchange. As Amaram stated, it provides a platform for students to “care for each other, to talk to each other, and to celebrate our life and culture.”

Joy Lutwantgu, a second-year Political Science major, also shared her personal journey within ASU, highlighting the organization’s transformative impact. After observing a decline in ASU’s activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lutwantgu joined to help reinvigorate the organization. 

She noted, “African Students Union creates a safe space for African students, a home away from home, where they can learn more about the anthropology of African people and African culture.” ASU goes beyond events like the cookout; it fosters a sense of belonging and cultural understanding.

Attendees of the cookout were equally excited in their praise. Chef Alvin Mutongi, a fifth-year senior studying Civil Engineering and an ASU member, described the event as “the embodiment of what it means to be African at NC State.” It allowed students to “celebrate identity and connect with peers.”

JaKobi Blackmon, a second-year student studying Art and Design, emphasized how the cookout provided an opportunity to “meet new people, build connections, and chill with friends.”

Jalen Hampton, a first-year student studying Computer Science, shared how the cookout gave him a place to celebrate Black and African culture and try new foods that he never would’ve had the opportunity to experience. Discovering the event through NC State’s annual Packapalooza, Jalen talked about how diversity was a main concern when choosing to attend NCSU. Enjoying the many festivities, Hampton said, “my favorite part was definitely the line dancing.”

President Amaram noted that, “From the music, carefree dancing and lively conversation, the cookout allowed students to temporarily forget about that assignment due at 11:59 and have a good time.” 

Looking ahead, ASU has a lineup of exciting events planned for the 2023-2024 school year. These include the October Pottery Jam, a celebration of African fashion and beauty at the Met Gala, and an end-of-year celebration in December. With the enthusiastic participation witnessed at the cookout, it’s clear that ASU will continue to make a profound impact on both the student body and the university as a whole.

ASU’s cookout was more than just a culinary extravaganza, it was a celebration of identity, culture and unity. With an array of exciting events on the horizon, African Student Union is poised to make the 2023-2024 school year a memorable one. 

Keep an eye out for ASU’s upcoming activities and be part of the vibrant tapestry of culture and community they are weaving on campus. Join the celebration and embrace the rich diversity that ASU brings to NC State’s campus.