New Brunswick, NJ- Last monday evening, students of the Africana House at Rutgers University, Douglass College, celebrated the diaspora through music, dance, cuisine, and education on HIV/AIDS awareness.
The event was an open house to showcase what the students have been working on all year. The Africana House is a unique community where female students live together, learn about different African cultures and histories throughout the world and participate in community service. The centerpiece of the evening was to show the serious impact of HIV/AIDS in the African diaspora and how they have been working to educate young women.
The evening began with traditional West African dance and drumming followed by the National Negro Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” performed by students Lashonda Coq and Angelissa Auguste. Then followed by Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Phenomenal Woman” performed by students Ciarra Martin, Angelissa Auguste and Jasmine Baas.
The students gave an in-depth history of the Africana House and it’s legacy. They explained the curriculum and service learning aspect of the community. The reason they chose to focus their service efforts on this particular area is the fact that NJ is ranked 5th in the country for HIV/AIDS infections and that women are the most highly infected group overall.
This year under the leadership of Charney Robinson, Graduate Instructor the students partnered with the New Jersey Women and AIDS network (NJWAN) where they created a 3-hour Same Sex Boot Camp program. After much training and organization the students spoke with young teenage girls in the Middlesex Youth Shelter about how to protect themselves and dispelled many myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
The evening concluded with an informative documentary created by a Douglass Alumna Courtney Wilson to show the history of the Africana house, their HIV/AIDS awareness work, Alvin Ailey dance classes and the bond that they made through learning about the diaspora.
The amazing event was co-sponsored by the Metuchen-Edison NAACP chapter and NJWAN. The event was a great success and truly was a testament to the legacy of the Africana House. The organizing students and attendees had a great time!
“I’ve learned since joining the Africana House the importance of making a difference in your community. Working with NJWAN has taught me that specifically because just to see the change in the children we interacted with and how they really took in the information we were sharing. It showed me that I can actually make an impact just by myself, “ said student Lashonda Coq
Alumni of the Africana House even attended the event:
“I’m a Douglass graduate and I was a resident of the Africana House when I was a student and then I returned here to work on the Douglass campus, where I’ve worked for 15 years and for 7 of those 15 years I was the Director of the Africana House teaching the course and taking students on trips and doing those things, so that’s why it was so great to be there tonight.” said Cheryl Wilson, Rutgers Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Student Involvement.
The Africana House is the oldest house in the Rutgers Global Village community and was born out of the 60s and 70s revolutionary era. It was initially a co-ed house that fought for the Africana Studies department at Rutgers University. This house has a rich, deep history that continues to build each year. However, over the years the Africana house’s enrollment has not been as high, which is why the open house and the service learning is so important, as to gain more interest and attention to the house. For the first time ever the Africana House traveled outside of the country to South Africa last year to conduct their service learning in the area of global literacy. It is extremely important to support programs and classes that share the history and culture of the global and extremely diverse African diaspora.