The Native African Student Organization (NASO) formed an unforgettable night in honor of their 21st annual Sankofa celebration at Montclair State University on Nov. 5, the theme being “A Traditional Wedding.”
The current executive board of NASO played bridesmaids with their dates as a means to mirror a traditional African wedding. Sankofa is a significant symbol of a principle derived from the Akan people of Ghana, which means to learn one’s roots andheritage in order to progress in the future and know your present self.
The sold out event began with the hosts, Na’Dree Stewart, a senior anthropology major and the president of Daughta Speaks, alongside Tommy Robert, also known as Tommiana, a junior fashion studies major, vice president of the Black Student Union and currently Mr. NASO, being carried down the aisle. The groom, Francis Oppong, the president of NASO and a senior business administration major was introduced by the hosts and walked down the aisle with the groomsmen, which led to Oppong dancing in the center of them.
Oppong explained Africa is more than just what others might perceive and hopes that this event enlightened people on the beauty of Sankofa and Africa.
“Africa is always seen as the bottom of the chain,” Oppong said. “But I hope people see, from our food to our music, our custom made attire, the movement of how we dance, that what we do is beautiful and important. We are more than what people say. Everything that our culture brings is different – in a good way.”
He continued to explain his purpose in further connecting Montclair State to African culture.
“I really hope Montclair [State] sees this and sees what our organization is about,” Oppong said. “Not just African culture but other cultures as well. To me, we are all one. We want to help push Montclair State further so people can recognize the diverse cultures at Montclair State.”
Fake $100 bills were thrown at the bridesmaids, bride and groom, also known as “money spraying,” which derived from the Yoruba people in Southwest Nigeria, symbolizing good fortune, happiness and a demonstration of people’s affection.
The hosts introduced each member of the executive board as they danced down the aisle as bridesmaids with their dates, all while the crowd cheered them on.
Before the bride made their entrance, sophomore public health major Jasmin Owusu-Ansah, a dancer of NASO’s dance troupe, then performed an Adowa dance, a notable traditional dance that allows a dancer to express their emotions through their hands and feet.
The crowd then stood up as the bridesmaids led the bride, Mary Olatunji, a first-year public health graduate student and former member of NASO’s executive board, covered in a purple veil and a custom-made dress, down the aisle to be revealed as the groom uncovered her from her veil and they danced together.
The founder of NASO, Kwaku Amo, then shared a few words about how grateful he is for how NASO expanded into something great and encouraged them to keep spreading the significance of African culture.
“Wow,” Amo said. “21 years ago I started NASO, the Native African Student Organization, and I never knew it was [going to] be like this. Tonight, if you came to learn about African culture, you did. This is African culture. In everything you want to do, once you put your mind to it, you can do it. Tonight, you did bring it up. And I’m so proud of you.”
Afterward, emerging African artists performed their current and upcoming singles.
Center stage, the bride and groom then shared their first dance together, followed by dance performances from NASO’s dance troupe.
The night came to a close with an afterparty and people eating food from different African cultures.
Stewart, not being from Africa himself, still felt he has been greatly impacted throughout the night. The host explained that the crowd’s energy was contagious and loved that he was able to keep the energy while being informed of African culture in an intriguing way.
“I feel like this event turned out so well, and everybody was so affectionate and amusing,” Stewart said. “I feel like everybody needs to learn, appreciate and respect Africa. I feellike others were able to embrace their African culture, and this event was great at giving people a safe space to have a good time.”
Tommiana was happy to see people of different backgrounds come together to honor and assimilate the nuance of African culture.
“Being African is very important to me, and I’m sure it’s important to my peers as well,” Tommiana said. “Seeing all of our peers, even those who aren’t African, all come together to celebrate our traditions makes me really happy. I hope people’s perspective of Africa is broadened because we’re one, we’re a unit and we stand strong together. Even if you’re not African, we all need to work together to create peace and harmony.”
Sankofa was fulfilled that night and captivated African heritage to keep its significance alive, for future members of NASO and upcoming generations to learn and look back on.
NASO holds their meetings every other Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. and encourages all to attend.