Africa at Auraria

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Posted Tue, Sep 16, 2014

The African Students Union encourages black students to come together, discuss what is happening in the black community, and commemorate the roots they have to the motherland.

The African Students Union encourages black students to come together, discuss what is happening in the black community, and commemorate the roots they have to the motherland.

DENVER— Schools on Auraria Campus, such as Metropolitan State University of Denver, are all eclectic institutions, rich in diversity and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, how often do these people actually get together to discuss and celebrate their cultural foundations; how many actually know about where they come from?

The African Students Union attempts to address such questions by encouraging black students to come together, discuss what is happening in the black community, and commemorate the roots they have to the motherland. It’s no doubt a noble cause, but how effective is their approach?

ASU was first established in 2008 by a group of young men from Africa, hoping to raise awareness of African tradition, history and community exclusively for intrigued students at Auraria. Getting it off the ground was a bit rocky; they could only spread awareness through word of mouth because social media wasn’t a hot ticket item yet. Multiple presidents and vice presidents of the union came and went, making the turnover rate for an actual leader higher than a retail store. According to a former member, many left due to personal and academic reasons, others felt it wasn’t an organization stable enough to be a part of.

ASU was first established in 2008 by a group of young men from Africa, hoping to raise awareness of African tradition, history and community.

ASU was first established in 2008 by a group of young men from Africa, hoping to raise awareness of African tradition, history and community.

The first welcome meeting to ASU took place in a small and cramped conference room with about 10-12 individuals already sitting at the tables. It appeared they weren’t expecting anymore participants and began the initial greeting. To their surprise, more and more black students were filing in and scrambled to find more chairs or tables to sit at. Even the events coordinator who organized the meeting was stunned by the good turnout, and fanatically handed out whatever flyers or brochures they had left.

The meeting got underway by first saying welcome and having each of us introduce ourselves along with explaining why we were all together in that little room. The answers were the same across the board:

“I want to learn more about my heritage and culture.”

“I want to become more involved and connected to the black community.”

“I’m here to raise Africa awareness.”

The feelings of warm, positive and enthusiastic vibes were evident that day, but how does ASU promote themselves and what do they plan for in the future?

Jessica Sandoval, Treasure/President of ASU (MSU Denver Department)

Jessica Sandoval, Treasure/President of ASU (MSU Denver Department)

Jessica Sandoval, the new president of ASU’s Metro student affairs, spoke about the inner workings of a club not many are aware of. Sandoval was initially apart of the Black Student Alliance organization which has been mistaken for the ASU in the past, but is based on entirely different viewpoints. BSA more or less focused on black empowerment, filled with older generations condemning the white man and enforcing one-sided views on many issues in a hostile way.

After realizing this wasn’t her cup of tea, she left and joined ASU. According to Sandoval, ASU does not care if you are black, white, brown, or polka-dotted. They welcome you with open arms knowing that you want to learn about African culture and help this society thrive. She found that this generation of young, ambitious leaders are willing to make this happen and hopped on board. Jessica admitted that when she joined back 2011, things were struggling. ASU basically threw her into the arduous position of being president, however, she and other officers have proved that hard work goes a long way.

Several occasions have been implemented by ASU in trying to get new members involved and sticking around. Sandoval mentioned events such as Friday Movie Nights, people in traditional African dress promoting ASU at Fall Fest, African Culture Night, and a special fundraiser in October. Monthly meetings with members will be held in the Science Building on campus to discuss events that are happening, volunteer opportunities, issues or topics dealing with Africa and guest speakers.

Sandoval says more professors are getting involved with the program. Dr. B. Afeni McNeely Cobham was the first professor ever to sit in and speak at one of ASU’s meetings. Afeni along with others have helped put together at two-day event called, “2014 Sankofa Lecture Series.” Kicking off on Sept. 24-25, the series features a couple urban motivational speakers and performers in the black community such as Dead Prez and Phife Dawg. People are welcome to enjoy activities, African cuisine, films, workshops, hip-hop and art.

ASU is slowly but surely growing and becoming more effective than in the past. According to Sandoval, the enrollment for members has grown from 280 to 408. With the miracle of social media, she hopes to see a rise in numbers through their new Facebook page, website, and Gmail account. Hope and hospitality were the words that stood out in the conversation with Sandoval; hope for this organization grow and spread good hospitality to those who love Africa.

About Melanie Townsend

Melanie Townsend is a Denver-area freelance writer and broadcast journalist.

View all posts by Melanie Townsend

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