By Sam Phillips
Afrobeat music played between high-energy dance and drumming performances at the Taste of Africa event in the Chestnut Room on Saturday. About 300 people attended, including Youngstown State University students and community members.
The event displayed African culture through dance, music, poetry and a fashion show. Guests also ate food that’s traditionally prepared in Africa.
Taste of Africa was organized by the African Student Union, the Office of Student Diversity and the Division of Student Experience.
Opoku Minta-Afari, president of the African Student Union, said they had a better turnout than expected.
“Everyone had a good time,” he said. “We hope it will be even bigger and more successful next year.”
YSU President Jim Tressel said he was looking forward to the live music and cultural fashion show after being invited by students. He said it’s wonderful that student organizations provide this experience for the community.
“Anytime we can get groups to come enjoy and be proud of their heritage, and help others learn more about it, it’s a healthy thing,” he said. “It’s always fun to see these things.”
Having more students living on campus provides an opportunity for these events to grow, he said, because it’s easier for people to attend.
Tiffany Anderson, director of Africana Studies, was the keynote speaker. She said it meant a lot to her that Tressel came to the event, but she wished to see Provost Martin Abraham attending more student events as well.
She said it was interesting to see different styles of African dance, especially one traditional dance during which a speaker described the meaning behind each movement.
Barefeet Dance Tribe, a group that performs traditional and modern African dances around the northeast Ohio region, performed at Youngstown State University for the first time at this event.
Rumbie Mupinga, the organizer of this group, said some of the dancers are from parts of Africa and some are from America, so they incorporate both African and hip-hop dance into their routines.
“I think people want to learn more about other cultures; that’s what my group represents,” she said. “I want people to not only have fun, but [also to] educate them.”
YSU student Sheng Tsai said he came to the event because he likes to learn about other cultures. He said he wanted to see how people from other countries celebrate, and what kind of music, dance and food they enjoy.
Events like this help people become more open-minded and culturally aware, he said.
YSU student Rebecca Banks said she enjoys coming to cultural events because it gives her inspiration for new music she can play for her Rookery Radio show.
Performers from YSU, Kent State University, University of Akron and Case Western University participated in the event. Banks said it was fun to watch talented students from her school and other schools in the region.
Ayasha Gordon, a dancer from Lindsay Renea Dance Theatre, performed a modern dance routine, and danced with a drum group as they played. The audience applauded and whistled as she grooved.
“I love seeing how people dance,” she said. “My favorite part of dancing is I can express myself and just let it go.”
Minta-Afari said there have been similar events in the past, but the collaboration with the offices of Student Diversity and Student Experience made this year’s event more successful than previous ones.