The College's African Street Festival, to be held Sept. 20 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., will feature singing and dancing performances, but its educational impact makes it different from many such events, said Dr. Elizabeth Garbrah-Aidoo, an assistant professor of political science at Reinhardt and the chair of the Year of Africa committee. "Reinhardt's five schools, as well as student organizations such as the Model UN of Reinhardt, will host tables which will illustrate the diversity and richness of the African culture. For example, the School of Mathematics and Sciences will have a coffee demonstration, the Price School of Education will have participants make masks of who they really are, and the School of Communication Arts and Music will have all kinds of fun things about the Adinkra symbolism of the Ashantis in Ghana. Visitors can also enjoy a taste of African cuisine at the Gordy Dining Hall during lunch."
As a native of Ghana, Garbrah-Aidoo brings a unique perspective to the effort. "Since I came to the U.S. 33 years ago, I have not seen much change in the way most Americans perceive Africa," Garbrah-Aidoo said. "Most Americans think of Africa as a small country made of jungles with wild animals. The Year of Africa will show a continent that is much bigger than the U.S. and consists of more than 50 countries that are not united and have respective sovereignty to rule themselves. Even though there are some similarities in the African culture, such as spirituality, respect and integrity, there are also vast differences in the country, especially in physical geography. Deserts occupy a larger area than jungle, and the people speak many different languages. Also, the negative aftereffects of colonization such as depleted resources, corruption that is aided and abetted by the Western world, and public health problems such as war, AIDS and famine, are still major problems. An understanding of these complicated issues may encourage others to assist in finding solutions to these challenges and to not believe everything that the media presents about the area."
Dr. Pamela S. Wilson, associate professor of communication and director of international studies at Reinhardt, has led the committees overseeing the "Year of" efforts for the past two years. "We started with the Americas in 2003-04, close to home but offering a surprising variety of cultures for us to explore and learn about," Wilson said. "The following year we focused on Asia, and this year is Africa. Africa is a critically important continent and group of nations for us to explore, and the Year of Africa provides us with a wide range of opportunities for international learning in every discipline, from sociology, history and business to education, biology and geology. In addition to its role in human history, African people have contributed to the American culture in immeasurable ways, and our history is inextricably woven into that of many African nations."
Garbrah-Aidoo and Wilson are enthusiastic about welcoming the community to the College's Year of Africa events. "Our faculty and staff have prepared a very special array of activities and events for our students that will be of interest to the larger community," Wilson said. "These speakers, performances and events are not readily accessible in our community on a regular basis, so we hope that by inviting the public, we can provide an educational service to the surrounding community," she said.
For more information, please see the College web site at www.reinhardt.edu.
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