Too often, the Western public’s perception of Africa can be limited to a few broad strokes: war, AIDS and poverty. But one group at Concordia is working to counter those commonly held generalizations and shed light on a side of Africa that goes unnoticed by television.
“There’s so much misinformation and only one aspect [shown], which I think is the least of what really occurs in Africa,” said Jito Kayumba, president of the African Student Association of Concordia (ASAC).
“Coming from there and knowing the beauty and progression and level of peace.It [war and extreme poverty] does occur and should be addressed. But to only give a negative pejorative just makes people assume that’s all there is.”
Kayumba, a native of Zambia, came to Canada to learn about different cultures. “My parents believed [it was desirable] to have a good understanding of the global situation.and be familiar with other cultures and have a good amount of international exposure. There’s always so much that a person could learn from different situations beyond their borders -so that’s my main reason for coming to Canada.”
A political science student, Kayumba said it was the atmosphere of the university’s student life that made Concordia appealing. He said he had read about the riot caused by former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Concordia in 2002.
“The essence of the article was about.how active the student union, the consciousness, and I guess you could say the progressiveness of the students other than academic life, and I was very attracted to that.”
Kayumba joined ASAC to help promote the association’s goals: to “expose our culture, share it with everyone and give people the opportunity to learn about Africa.” One such event, organized to educate fellow students about the different sides of Africa was Expressions, held twice last year, in which poetry related to African and Black issues was shared.
“People always feel like they’ve taken something when they leave, like they’ve been enriched in one way or another and their knowledge has been expanded on certain points,” said Kayumba about the event. ASAC also had a big hand in organizing The Verve last November, an event featuring African music, poetry and theatre.
Another event they are currently working on and hope to have ready for March is a business exposition entitled Africa Lives, presenting the positive aspects of Africa.
“For business interests, if someone wanted to invest [in Africa] from here and only hears negativity, they won’t be confident and invest. Even tourism, people won’t be motivated to go there to visit,” said Kayumba.
In addition to educational events, the association also seeks to help international African students adjust to Concordia with a number of social events, such as AfroSpeed, an adapted version of speed dating. Kayumba said the event started off as a joke.
“There was one guy from Ghana saying how hard it was for him to meet people in the first semester, and how he really wanted to meet a girl. So we decided to set up a speed-dating thing but with a twist. It was very fun… oriented around music.” Kayumba believes ASAC has made a difference on campus. “When we put events together, it’s so fun and so many results are yielded… people want more.”
Anyone can join ASAC, regardless of their place of origin, said Kayumba. The only prerequisite for potential members is that they seek to achieve the association’s objectives.
“They get to contribute to our goal which is also trying to represent Africa and African people beautifully on campus.”
For more info go to www.asaconline.com