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‘Africa to the World’: First annual AfroFusion Festival celebrates Africa Day

Housed in Bunche Hall, the African Studies Center is currenty celebrating its 65th anniversary. Organized by the Black Graduate Students Association, the inaugural AfroFusion Festival will take place Saturday in celebration of Africa Day. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

“AfroFusion Festival 2024”

Dickson Court North

May 25

12 to 5 p.m.

By Katy Nicholas

May 23, 2024 12:25 p.m.

This post was updated May 23 at 8:45 p.m.

Traditional African beats and bites are coming to Westwood with the first annual AfroFusion Festival.

AfroFusion Festival will take place Saturday and feature vendors, performers and food from dozens of African countries. Doctoral student Sonya Brooks, who is president of the Black Graduate Students Association, said the festival will take place during the same year as the ongoing 65th anniversary of the African Studies Center at UCLA and milestone anniversaries of independence days for several African countries. Infinity Banks, one of the event’s coordinators, said she was motivated to find a way to celebrate Africa Day to its fullest potential after noticing its lack of presence on campus. Because of the milestones, graduate student in African studies Tosin Attah said it felt even more important to acknowledge Africa Day with an event this year.

“AfroFusion Festival is a celebration of Africa Day, which is the one day in the year where the whole continent gets to honor and celebrate the independence that we all fought so hard for and achieved,” Attah said. “It’s something that UCLA’s African Studies Center honors at least every year – that I know of – but a student org has never really had the opportunity to be able to do that.”

Attah, who is also the incoming president of the BGSA, said the organization strived to represent every region of the continent in the celebration. For example, Attah said the Gamma Xi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. will perform a step show honoring the African diaspora in the United States. There will also be dance performances from the East African Student Association and Ghana Association of Southern California and music from South Africa, Attah added.

To represent Northern Africa, Attah said student organization Henna with a Heart will provide Moroccan henna. Attah added that the event will also serve food from East and West Africa. Brooks said vendors will sell clothes, food, beads and anything that can give attendees a birds-eye glimpse into what various countries on the continent have to offer.

[Related: Aquilah Ohemeng innovates with ‘PASS US NOT: Holy Ghosted’ choreography]

For countries and regions that have fewer student organizations on campus, such as South Africa, there will be decorations and music coordinated by the BGSA to ensure each culture is aptly represented. Food and music are important outlets of expression and community, Brooks added, and the purpose of centering the festival around the two is to bridge different communities.

“The reason why I’m so enamored by this particular event is that it’s bringing together not only African cultures, or people from the African diaspora, but for everyone who is inclined to attend,” Brooks said. “It brings together humanity in such a way that states we still have this common core that’s within us.”

This Africa Day marks 30 years since apartheid ended in South Africa, 30 years since the Rwandan genocide took place and many other anniversaries for African countries, Attah said. Africa Day is an annual celebration of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. It is easy for people to pit different African nationalities against each other, Banks said, but she hopes that events such as AfroFusion Festival allow for community and acceptance among all. Attah said her goal is to convey an understanding of current events on the continent.

“My personal hope is making it clear that though the continent is bleeding because we know what’s happening in Congo, we know what’s happening in Sudan,” Attah said. “We know this is a heavy time in Rwanda as well with the genocide anniversary. There’s been sort of a weight of divide on the continent, but we’ve also always had hope and the hope has given birth to new music and activities that unite the different countries.”

[Related: Chinese Cultural Dance Club at UCLA uses performing arts to celebrate, educate]

As the only student in her African Studies graduate class, Attah said she is hopeful that with the resources and inspiration of AfroFusion Festival, the campus community will make more of an effort in familiarizing themselves with African culture. This sentiment is an extension of the phrase “Africa to the World,” Attah added, both encouraging Africa to spread its culture internationally and the world to show interest in Africa in return.

Brooks said she wants to emphasize the open invite for individuals of any cultural background to take part in AfroFusion Festival. The BGSA emphasizes interaction with every type of UCLA student and standing up for all of them in unity, Banks said, adding she hopes the campus community will embrace the same sentiment.

As for the future of AfroFusion Fest, Brooks said she would love to see it become an annual celebration. She said she foresees it growing into surrounding communities, spreading aspects of African culture and hopefully one day attracting African cultural icons including musicians and artists.

“The permeation of the African continent into the American genres is so prevalent, and I would love to see more of them participate in this event for years to come,” Brooks said. “(I hope) it just actually outgrows UCLA because it’s just becoming so huge, so popular, so big and more countries are participating.”

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