Perspectives 11.1.09:Layout 1 2/7/10 10:56 PM Page 1
Forging African and Caribbean identities
November 5, 2009 G
Mount Holyoke News PERSPECTIVES 13
AC Day organizers Abena Opoku ’10 (African co-chair) and Welsh: MHACASA is proud that all proceeds from the dinner and show are going towards
“ChildVoice International.” Donating to a charity in the Caribbean or Africa is done yearly
Natalia Welsh ’11 (Caribbean co-chair) talk about their biggest in support of our heritages. As such, we are not only interested in broadening the views of
event on-campus. people on campus; we want to serve as an outreach to those who are in need of our assis-
tance. With this in mind, we anticipate large crowds in helping us help others.
BY EMILY CHOW ’12
Q: The charity of your choice is ChildVoice International. What exactly is ChildVoice Inter-
Q: The theme for AC Day this year is “Celebrating Our Past, Forging Our Future.” national, and how did the committee pick this organization?
How did the theme come about, how is it relevant to our students and how is this AC
Day going to celebrate the past and forge the future? Both: Just like the theme for AC Day, org members suggested and nominated several
different charities and then voted for one. Child Voice International won
Opoku: Members of our organization nominated themes and with 53 percent of our votes.
voted for them. I suggested the theme of “Celebrating our
past, forging our future.” When I came up with this Q: What are your future donation plans and is it going to
theme, I was thinking of what Africans and Caribbeans become a regular thing?
have in common and also what makes us diverse as
MHACASA. Although they are somewhat differ- Both: As mentioned previously, fundraising for a
ent now, there are still underlying themes of charitable cause is at the heart of AC Day and is one
similarities in our cultures and I felt it was im- of our two purposes for organizing AC Day. Each
portant to recognize this and celebrate it. It year, money is given to a new charity. We don’t
is also essential for us to forge our identi- usually give to the same charity more than
ties as Caribbeans and Africans, not as once. Last March, we gave the proceeds from
Africans and other Africans (who have AC Day to Red Cross Kenya after the post-
been) taken to the Caribbean. Embracing election violence that occurred. In March
all these different identities and using this year, we raised money for a hospital
these differences for the development that helps to surgically treat women, chil-
of our regions is what forges our fu- dren and babies raped in the Congo. How-
ture. ever, the decision of where the proceeds
from AC Day should go is entirely depend-
Both: This year’s AC Day will have acts ent on the organization and who they vote
that would be different from what peo- for. However, if the organization feels it is
ple are used to. These acts will show our important to give money to the same char-
similarities as well as differences, not ity again and they vote for that charity,
just as people from separate regions, but that is where the money will go.
also as people from different countries.
Some of the acts will show progression, Q: AC Day has become one of the biggest an-
featuring performance pieces from the past nual events of the Mount Holyoke calendar,
and its evolution to more contemporary and MHACASA has been around since 1993.
forms. Lest we forget, the mouthwatering As far as you know, did AC Day backtrack to
foods that will also serve as a uniting element 1993 as well? Do you know who or what specifi-
for everyone involved. cally started AC Day?
Q: The proceed from this year’s AC Day are going Opoku: To my knowledge African Caribbean Day
to charity. What made the committee decide to do started in 1993 when MHACASA was formed. MHACASA
this? Do you think it will affect the number of students was formed in recognition of the need for cooperation and
attending? cohesion among African and Caribbean students at Mount
Holyoke College. I believe that those who formed the organization
Opoku: African-Caribbean Day serves two purposes—to educate stu- also realized similarities among African and Caribbean students (in
dents about African and Caribbean cultures, and to fundraise money for a terms of culture). It was important, I believe, for them to share the “foreign”
charitable cause on the African continent or in the Caribbean. Giving the proceeds of cultures with the new environment students found themselves in. This was essential in
AC Day to charity is at the heart of AC Day and we hope people would be encouraged order to breakdown negative stereotypes and let people know who they were. However, AC
Behind the scenes: students rehearse for AC Day
to know that AC day is not just to entertain and to educate, but also to make a differ- Day is not the only thing that MHACASA does in order to do this. We also have Awareness
ence in the lives of the people that would be blessed by the money we raise. Therefore, Week which will take place in the spring, but AC Day is the biggest thing that we do.
we hope more people would come as a result.
fingers to the rhythm, a different dynamic occupied cultures. It will deliver a celebration justifying the hard
the stage. work and celebrating the genuine laughter at the re-
Naa Abia Ofosu-Amaah ’10 swayed her arms, hearsals.
waving a blue-yellowish scarf up and down, back
and forth. She was cheered on by the crowd par-
ticipating in the AC Day’s fashion show. Students
representing different African and Caribbean coun-
tries catwalked with the playfulness of professional
models. Although they were rehearsing in jeans
and casual sweatshirts, at the Friday performance
they will showcase the traditional wear of their na-
tive countries. Morocco, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Senegal,
Tanzania and Ghana are just a few of the countries
whose costumes will be highlighted during the fashion
BY MAGDALENA GEORGIEVA ’10 show. A Ghanian native, Boateng is organizing this sec-
PERSPECTIVES EDITOR tion of the program. “I really like fashion, especially
clothes made with African prints because they are very
“Next we have Somalia,” were the first words I heard vibrant,” she said.
as I entered Chapin auditorium this week and saw stu- Within seconds, the students shook off their fashion
dents rehearsing for the 2009 African Caribbean Day. ways and took on humorous roles—they started rehears-
Crystal Boateng ’10 was calling the names of one African ing for a Nigerian wedding skit. They quickly regrouped,
country after the other as students catwalked on stage some leaving the stage and others joining. Their perform-
with wide smiles glued on their faces. This fashion show ance drew upon a Nigerian tradition—the groom visits the
constitutes only one element of the African Caribbean cel- family of the girl he is courting and asks for her hand. The
ebration to take place on Friday, Nov. 6. family members, however, are supposed to present him
As AC Day approaches quickly, many students have all maidens in the household.
been working hard to deliver another unforgettable show Eventually, he loses patience and, as Temitope Ojo ’10
to the Mount Holyoke community. Several nights on end, said, he asks, “Where is my real bride? This is the person.
they gather at Chapin auditorium, dance studios and dorm I want to marry.” As a Nigerian native, Ojo directs the skit
lounges to go over their spiels and synchronize their col- and has included in it an authentic groom—her high
orful performances. During the day, they make final ad- school mate and current Amherst College student,
justments to the music and costumes. Charles Oluwunmi. Appropriately enough, the wedding
“We have so much to show,” said Emelia Hall-Tui- skit ends to the song No One Like You by Nigerian twin
Fashion show participants pose for a photo in Chapin.
Photo By Magdalena Georgieva
sawau ’11, who is the social chair for MHACASA and the performers P-Square.
From left to right: Zohra Damji ‘10, Naa Abia Ofosu-
show’s second MC. “Look at this,” she added with excite- The funny wedding skit, Cote d’Ivoire dance and fash-
Amaah ‘10, Laura Turyatemba ‘11, Hope Mbabazi ‘10
ment pointing to the stage. Up there, barefoot students ion show provided me with a quick peek into the colorful
and Asinath Rusibamayila ‘10.
were practicing their Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) dance. celebration of AC Day. The Friday show, however, will
But just minutes before they had started snapping their highlight a lot more elements of the African Caribbean
Perspectives 11.1.09:Layout 1 2/7/10 10:56 PM Page 2
Marsha Allen merges Caribbean culture and fashion
November 5, 2009 Mount Holyoke News
humongous influence on the aesthetics standard. “The
American models looked like skeletons. They would be
considered unhealthy in Trinidad. Most of them were
driven to be on a diet and never satisfied with their im-
ages,” said Allen. As she described, this trend of slimming
down, as promoted by the media, was deeply rooted in the
way society has defined beauty. This was when Allen de-
BY SHUYAO WANG ’11 cided not to consider modeling as her career field in the
STAFF WRITER future. “I personally do not want the physical image to de-
fine who I am. So I chose education—to study in college.”
At this year’s convocation Coming to Mount Holyoke as an economics major,
Marsha Allen ’10, of Trinidad Allen also developed an interest in geology. “Geology re-
and Tobago, and her red-plumed ally makes me happy, regardless of the heavy workload,”
carnival hat rocked the senior she said. It is also the career that she wants to pursue in
parade. Bouncing along with the future. But her interest and keenness in fashion are
the pace of the parade, her red not buried in the study of rocks and earth structure. Hav-
feathers gave our convocation ing been on the runway and surrounded by fashion de-
a taste of the Caribbean Car- signers for almost eight years, the retired model
nival culture. specializes in costume design. She designed some of the
Allen entered the modeling outfits for the 2007 and 2008 African-Caribbean Day cele-
industry at the age of six- brations. The culture of the Caribbean Carnival also influ-
teen. “Both my par- enced her to design the plumed headpiece she wore at
ents and I think convocation.
that modeling is The Caribbean Carnival inspired Allen in many ways.
a good way to The celebration, which originated in the French-Catholic
build self esteem,” carnival tradition, is now influenced by contemporary
she said. Taller than most fashion trends. “I think that plumed and beaded costumes
of her peers, Allen did not are always in high demand,” said Allen who has partici-
like her image when she was pated in three parades. Trinidad costume designers are
young. “I always walked especially creative with their design themes each year. As
with my back bended,” Allen said, “It is always very hard to choose which cos-
she said. But the catwalk tume you want because of the high quality to which they
training helped her gain a are created, and the wide variety you have to choose
better appreciation for her from.” Observing recent trends in costume design, Allen
Photo Credit of Marsha Allen
body. As she said, cat-walking noticed that designers have been adding trendier ele-
raised her self esteem “from one to ten.” On the runway, ments such as bowler hats and colors of the year. Many
the poise and elegance of her walk freed her from the fear designers, however, stick to the traditional costumes that
of standing before big crowds. After joining two local com- better represent Trinidad’s national culture.
panies in Trinidad, Allen participated in many fashion Though now far from the modeling industry, Allen
shows and several TV shows. still thinks of her past experience as special. “Modeling
Her experience in modeling in Trinidad prepared her should be a good class to take in college if it is offered. Al-
to sign a contract with BT Entertainment in New York though some scenes behind this industry are not neces-
where she participated in photo shoots and a jeans adver- sarily good, it is still a good way to build women’s
Photo Credit of Marsha Allen
tisement. Unlike the modeling industry in Trinidad, in self-esteem as they will present themselves with more
New York, Allen found that the business was exercising a confidence,” she said.
MHACASA amplifies the voices of Ugandan children
The Mount Holyoke African and Caribbean Student Association (MHACASA) will donate proceeds from AC Day
to the Uganda-based charity Child Voice International
BY TEMITOPE OJO ’10 In Lukodi, a small community north of Gulu in coerced to witness and partake in the horrific realities of war. They were taken as child
ASST. PERSPECTIVES EDITOR Uganda, hope resonates again after twenty-three soldiers, forced to kill and hurt family members; they were raped and made sex slaves
years of war, through the Christian organization for the Lord’s Revolution Army (LRA) and Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). These two
Child Voice International. In 2007, the Lukodi Child Center was established by the organ- revolution forces wreaked devastation all over the country, putting a prolonged hush to
ization to reintegrate and empower child victims of the civil war in Uganda, a war that the development of Uganda’s future—the children.
has ravished scores of communities since the 1990s. This year, Mount Holyoke College Over the summer, Koenig worked at a Christian retreat camp located in Toah Nipi,
will partake in the healing process through the Mount Holyoke African and Caribbean New Hampshire. There, she met a camp worker who volunteered for Child Voice Inter-
Student Association (MHACASA). For its annual African-Caribbean Day, the organiza- national at the Lukodi Center in Uganda. Her interest was piqued by the vision of the or-
tion has nominated Child Voice International, Uganda to receive the proceeds raised ganization to give voice to the war-silenced children of Uganda through education and
from their event. vocational skill training. Koenig was convinced that the campus community could be
As a cultural organization, MHACASA educates and exposes the campus and its en- part of this vision. She found a window of opportunity through MHACASA’s charitable
virons to African and Caribbean cultures. This is an effort to eradicate stereotypes per- tradition of donating AC Day funds.
ceived of these regions of the world as promoted by the mass media. One such avenue for At the Child’s Voice Village, Uganda, young mothers and their children are housed
cultural exposure is through the African and Caribbean Day celebration. But there is and taken care of. They access free health care provided by staff and volunteers. The oc-
more to this event than mere festivities. cupants of the Village are enrolled at the school, established in the center. The teaching
As a tradition, the organization believes in giving back to their roots. Since its in- curriculum has been designed to assist the children in catching up on the missed school
ception in 1993, MHACASA has donated funds raised from the African Caribbean Day years while incorporating life-survival lessons and healing sessions. This well-rounded
celebrations to organizations, which support the progress of African and Caribbean program caters to the collective vision to assist the children in overcoming their trau-
countries. The organizations are voted on, out of a pool of nominees, by MHACASA mem- matic past and invest in a positive future. The organization also aims to establish the
bers. This year, member Christiane Koenig ’11 nominated Child Voice International, Lukodi Center as a self-sustaining unit, by teaching the occupants entrepreneurial and
Uganda. marketing skills. This is practical for progress and survival in Uganda, a society that still
Though Child Voice International has other service points globally, the ordeal of the ails from war wounds.
children at the center at Uganda spoke loudest to Koenig. In the wake of the political un- This year from South Hadley, Massachusetts, MHACASA will reach out, 8512 miles
rest in Uganda since the 1980s, several families have been displaced, separated and prop- away to Lukodi, investing in the vision of a brighter future for Ugandan children. For
erties destroyed. The most vulnerable victims were children, who were abducted and this campus organization, distance is definitely not a limitation to uplift one of their own.