Vibrant African fashion and upbeat, modern African music brought Sankofa to life. Meaning to go “back to the roots,” Sankofa embodied the liveliness of African culture and gave students the chance to learn more about the diversity of Montclair State University students.
Put on by the Native African Student Organization (NASO), Sankofa was an event aimed at all students to experience African culture and learn more about African students’ roots. The event was held in the Student Center Ballrooms on Sunday night, Oct. 14.
Tosin Ajayi, NASO president and senior biochemistry major, explained that hosting Sankofa allows new students to experience NASO and African culture.
“The reason why we’re hosting Sankofa is just to give the incoming freshmen and the incoming class a taste of what NASO is about, which is to bring in that African diversity from different countries,” Ajayi said. “[It’s] to give the general body their home away from home.”
Ajayi and the rest of the NASO e-board started off their event by doing a special prayer together that asked for the event’s success.
“We were praying for the success of the event because we can’t just put it all on ourselves and give ourselves the credit,” Ajayi said. “We have to give the credit to God.“
Each e-board member was introduced to the crowd, dancing in with their own special sequence. NASO Historian Drew Tay opened the event by explaining the meaning behind Sankofa.
“When it comes to the definition, [it’s] basically to go back and change for the future,” Tay said. “People think, ‘It’s just going back, doing the old stuff,’ but Sankofa is basically to go back to the roots, actually know the essence of what it means to be African. The culture, the music, everything about it. That’s really what NASO is all about.”
Former NASO members Gabriella Brifu and Charles Simonson hosted the event with spontaneous dancing and many jokes. Dance, best dressed and best pickup line contests were conducted, and special performances by rappers Tharghet and Chike as well as dancer J Moves were also featured in the event’s lineup.
Jasmine Metellus, NASO member and sophomore business administration major with a concentration in marketing, partook in the best dressed contest with a colorful patterned long skirt and matching scarf to drape over her shoulder. Though she is Haitian, Metellus said that she wanted to wear an African garment for the event.
“We’re going back to our roots, and we’re still all from Africa,” Metellus said. “Just because you’re not black doesn’t mean you still can’t come. It gives you a chance to learn about other people’s cultures.”
Students were treated to authentic African cuisine such as jollof, a popular rice in Ghana and Nigeria. Haitian chicken and beef patties as well as other dishes, like chicken Alfredo and macaroni and cheese, were also included on the menu.
Rachel Desane, NASO vice president and junior exercise science major, said students should have a place to experience their culture when they are away from home.
“When we’re on campus, you don’t really get to see or witness what you would witness back at home,” Desane said. “So we want them to make sure they’re comfortable and this is one of the ways: by starting the year off with Sankofa, which is stepping into your roots.”
The NASO dance team also presented choreography to a mix of different modern African songs. Dance team member and junior business management major Latifah Acquah analyzed how Sankofa permits students to learn more about the meaning of going back to their roots.
“Everybody that’s coming is going to learn about Africa back home,” Acquah said. “Our parents, the ones not born in America, will always say, ‘Yeah I’m going to go back home.’ Back home really means Africa.”
Mr. and Ms. NASO also attended the event to show support for the organization. Sophomore sports marketing major Ernst Lozin was crowned Mr. NASO with junior public health major Vivian Odubanjo as Ms. NASO last fall during the Mr. and Ms. NASO pageants.
“I think it’s very important for us to reclaim our roots and remember where we’ve come from,” Odubanjo said.
NASO’s founder Kwaku Amo also attended the event and thanked the students for continuing his aspirations for the organization.
“The way we left it, you guys have stepped it up. You always have to remember why you are here,” Amo said. “You are here to create connections, to make a better future for yourselves and also for your families.”
NASO has general body meetings on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. and welcomes all students/cultures to attend.
“We’re open to letting people [get] involved in our culture and being able to learn from other cultures as well,” Ajayi said. “Just dive right in, and you’ll feel right at home.”