African Students Association hosts annual conference
Andrea Vale | Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Notre Dame’s African Students Association (ASA) will hold its annual Midwestern African Students Association Conference February 5-7. During the conference, several other African student associations from various Midwestern universities will participate in networking, discussion and a celebration of African culture, Ihuoma Nwaogwugwu, senior and president of Notre Dame’s ASA, said.
The African Students Association is a student organization dedicated to educating and celebrating with the Notre Dame community the rich cultures of Africa, Nwaogwugwu, said.
“The club seeks to establish a home away from home where Africans and those interested in learning more about Africa can come together and share their love for the continent,” she said. “Our goal is to promote all aspects of African culture through informational meetings and monthly activities in hopes of bringing light to Africa and its future. We hope to better educate club members in hopes that they, in turn, can educate those around them.”
According to Nwaogwugwu, the ASA’s various activities and fundraisers throughout the year include monthly meetings, a welcome-back mixer, concession stand, haunted house trip, membership drive and game night during the fall semester. In the spring semester the ASA sponsors the “signature” ASA Weekend, trips to other University ASA events, and “Africa on the Quad” in collaboration with the Student Union Board. Notable events this year will include a joint discussion with the Black Student Association about “integral connections within the African Diaspora” in February, as well as a March reading from an African author.
This year marks the fourth Midwestern African Students Association Conference. Nwaogwugwu said the conference grew out of a previously annual “Africa Week” on campus, which inspired ASA leaders to “think it would be awesome to have a conference where we host other Midwest African student organizations to gather for networking, conversations and entertainment, and thus began ASA weekend.”
According to Nwaogwugwu, putting on this year’s conference has involved a lot of preparation, including making sure the conference’s panel is comprised of a diverse group of students and securing a line-up of performers and food.
The theme of this year’s conference, according to the ASA website, is “Connecting to Africa: Uniting the Diaspora.”
“The theme of our first conference was ‘Africa is Not a Country’,” Nwaogwugwu said, “The 2014 theme was ‘Changing the Face of Africa,’ and last year our theme was ‘This is New Africa.’ We started this whole weekend with the intention of educating those around us as we strived to dispel a few of the misconceptions there might be about Africa as a whole, like it being a country. Each year since, we have continued the discussion and the sharing of personal experiences to make it easier to not form a single narrative about the place that many of us call home. This year’s theme was selected because we feel the next logical step is to understand ways in which we can all connect back to Africa and use our unique talents to make it better.”
According to the ASA website, as well as Nwaogwugwu, the conference will begin on Friday with an opening mixer in the LaFortune Student Center Ballroom. The first event Saturday will be a panel discussion in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library.
“A number of ND students that will share the ways they have and continue to connect with Africa,” Nwaogwugwu said. “In the afternoon we will have #ASATalks which are academic, cultural and professional presentations [and] discussions.”
“Africa Night” will be held in Stepan Center on Saturday evening and consist of a showcase of African-themed dance performances, songs and fashion and include the groups Troop ND and First Class Steppers. On Sunday the conference will conclude with a praise and worship service in the chapel of the Coleman-Morse Center and brunch in the Oak Room of South Dining Hall. Attendees of the conference include Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students as well as students at Wabash College, Indiana University and Case Western Reserve University.
“I hope this conference informs more people about Africa, existing engagement opportunities, and about our club as a whole because (the) African Students Association, as well as ASA Weekend, is for Africans, Africa enthusiasts and those curious about Africa, because we would all love to share her with you,” Nwaogwugwu said.