Terrence Shambley, A&E Editor
Augsburg’s Pan Afrikan Student Union (PASU) held their annual Afrikan Night, a celebration of Black diasporic cultures, on Dec. 7th.
PASU President Jada Lewis kicked the night off with a speech and introduced artist Jelicia, who would lead us in singing the Black National Anthem. This was my first time hearing about the Black National Anthem, and judging by the hesitant murmurs of the crowd singing along, I can tell that I was not the only one. This anthem, also known as “Lift E’vry Voice and Sing” was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and is a deep affirmation of the African American experience.
The night also included student performances beginning with Auggies Mallory Harris and Miracle Adebanjo. They performed a duo rap song called “Unity.” The verses filled with raw lyricism and the chorus was a resonating jingle that set the theme for the rest of the night: “Unity/ you with me? Unity/ you with me?” Following Harris and Adebanjo was a group of Oromo dancers, an Ethiopian people, from the U of M. Their movement was mesmerizing. The dancers dropped their chests, bounced their shoulders, whipped their hair and let their joy show all over their faces.
The energy was off the chain. Jasmine Epps spit a poem about Black women: “we are so busy working on other issues we don’t have time to work on ourselves/… It’s almost as if the phrase strong Black woman strips away a piece of our humanity.” Janelle did a ballet set that had the audience in awe as we watched her skillfully twirl and leap around the stage. Augsburg alumni Shylle also rapped some raps and showed love to PASU for organizing the event.
Next, PASU board members O’Quba Duressa and Abby Seymour performed a spoken word piece called Glory. “Child, rise!” began Duressa, laying down fierce lines on Black youth, love, and survival, while Seymour hit the high notes.
One could feel the energy in the room explode when local artist Vessle did his set. He busted a poem, a rap, then brought his homie Beri on stage to join the fun. The next artists continued the energy. At one point, several of the performers were on stage together, moving their bodies to songs that were not theirs. The speakers were loud. The people were out of their seats — the room filled with “Ayyy’s” and what sounded like African club beats. The food was delicious, but nobody cared at that point. This was not Hoversten Chapel anymore: this was a bomb of Black joy. The whole diaspora in one room, showing love and having fun. “That was like a mini-concert!” one student said to me after the event.
Then there was the fashion show. Students walked down the runway hitting their poses and repping their respective Pan-Afrikan cultures. Black people do not just walk down the runway though. That’s dry. We like to walk to both sides of the stage first, hand on our hip and prep you for what’s coming; then we hit our strut, pause at the end of the runway, pose, spin a little bit, pose again, and strut it on back.
To close the night co-hosts Jasmine Valentino & Timothy Olaleye called for the crowd to celebrate PASU’s board for all their work: Jada Lewis, Berlynn Bitengo (Vice President), Shaadia Munye (Secretary), Abby Seymour (Treasurer), Salwa Hassam (Public Relations), O’Quba Duressa (Community Outreach) and Hana Dinku (PASU advisor & Director of our Pan-Afrikan Center). With the arrival of Hana Dinku, who became the director last spring, PASU tried out a new model; Afrikan Night came earlier than it has in past years. There was an after-party for those who still had some turn-up in them. I feel bad for folks who missed it— this year’s Afrikan Night would’ve had you moving for ages.