Global Solidarity: Black Student Union celebrates Pan- African heritage with SRJC community

Dr. Dean Tahir, assistant director of student affairs, is a major supporter of Black Student Union and was one of the first to jump into the drum circle and start dancing.

Genesis Napel, Co-News Editor

Bright colors of traditional African clothing and djembe drum rhythms engulfed Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Student Activity Center on April 29 as the Black Student Union hosted its Inaugural Pan-African Night.

The ideology of Pan-Africanism encourages global solidarity of all decedents of Africa, and emphasizes that they all have a common history. BSU members have embraced this belief and exemplified it in the event to share Pan- African culture with the community in an interactive fashion.

Georges Monatin and his sister Naomi are international exchange students from the Ivory Coast of Africa. “The best way to learn about the culture is to learn about the food first,” Georges Monatin said.

People ask him everyday where he is from, what life is like there and what the food is like too; Monatin said he wanted to share his culture with the SRJC community.

He and his sister helped cook the array of traditional African dishes; rice mixed with vegetables and meat, fried fish and plantains, stews and desserts were plentiful for all to enjoy.

Taking a simple dish like fried fish and adding the extra ingredients to make it even more delicious is the way Africans cook, Monatin said. “Our food is always good cause we cook it with love.”

Anika Gilespe-Jones, co-president of BSU, wore a bright-patterned traditional African outfit. She and her father drummed together in a drum circle along with more than five other local percussionists.

“It’s time for us to come together as a whole culturally,” Gilespe-Jones said.

Ebony Walker agrees with her BSU co-president. Walker said she identifies as multi-racial: African-American, Cuban and Afro-Latina. She sees Pan-Africanism as a good way to help her daughter understand her heritage and gain a sense of community she didn’t have growing up.

BSU had been dormant for more than 10 years until Damion Square co-founded the club’s resurgence in 2013.
Square said the event’s goal was to help bring cultural competency and diversity to the SRJC campus.

As a keynote speaker, Square quoted Marcus Garvey, a 20th century leader of the Pan-Africanism movement: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Pan-Africanism believes those roots are to Africa and this connection is represented in the tricolored flag. The red symbolizes the bloodshed in fighting for liberation, the black for the black people of Africa and green for the abundance of resources and beauty of Africa.

“Unfortunately for African-Americans, we were brought over here as shadow property, as slaves,” Square said. “Our spirituality, our cultural language, our cultural norms, our religious practices — all of that was stripped away from us. So Pan-Africanism is our way of reconnecting with that, rebuilding that.”

Although Pan-Africanism is a philosophy practiced among people of African decent, all were welcome to participate and experience a bit of the culture.

“We know what our history is. We know what we have gone through,” Walker said. “Now it’s time for us, as the next generation, to change the stigmas that people have.”

Walker said if only one person’s mind can be changed from her actions, then that is a success.