I think one way to celebrate our similarities is by sharing our differences. But how do we do that when one’s culture is not shared? One thing that we are missing here on the Fairfield University campus is an African Student Association.
Some might wonder why people should care about an African Club on campus, and I really understand their argument. Some might think, “We already have a Black Student Union, why do we need an African student association club?” If one thinks like that, they do not have eyes on the global diaspora, especially the heterogeneity of the black experience. There is a big difference between being Black and being African, and this has to do with the cultural differences.
Being African means belonging in a tribe, having a culture. It means speaking a different language than your national language in your own country. Being African means jumping on a techno beat sound and calling it a dance. Being African means not caring about color; it means having a huge family, and I don’t mean only blood-related. I mean neighbors and childhood friends. Most of all, being African is believing that Africa is your home, which is way far different than just being black. It is beyond skin color.
In my hometown in Africa, I grew up in a community where it was normal to go to eat with your neighbor when you had no food at your house. Your parents would leave you at the house, confidently knowing that the neighbors would take care of you. I grew up in a community where, on the weekends, everyone in our neighborhood cooked food and brought it together for the whole neighborhood to eat for dinner. I am not suggesting that we do that here; my suggestion is that it is important that, as we go through this college life, everyone should be feeling like they are contributing in one way or another. That is the type of community I am looking to bring here to Fairfield.
Most people here on campus are still uneducated about Africa and still think of it as a country instead of a continent. They think that everyone in Africa speaks one African language, which is wrong because countries in Africa have tribal languages. Coming to America changed my view on what I thought I knew about myself; I found out that most things I knew and understood about Africa and my country was on the internet. Here in America, most people use Google to get information, or watch Hollywood movies that portray Africa as a country, not as a continent. I was asked if I had seen a lion before, and I was touched in my heart. I wanted to tell him what it was like for me growing up in my country, I wanted to share with him that I had not seen any forest animals except a rabbit, I wanted to share with him how beautiful my hometown was before war took over, I just wanted to walk him through the land of my hometown.
However, now there is even a huge opportunity to share this knowledge with the generations to come, and that window of opportunity starts here at Fairfield.
Fairfield has done an exceptional job in accepting and recruiting international students from many countries of Africa, and now it is time to build a home away from home for these members of the Fairfield University community. This organization would be the African Students Association, simply a new family.