Formed in 2010 by a group of students from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Ghana, the African Students Association aims to bring together students from continental Africa and help teach the University population about the continent and its culture. The group’s president, Nneamaka Ndukwe, said its current group, which meets monthly, consists of eight executive board members and other active members.
“Excluding the board members, we have about 15 truly active members currently. Our membership consists of students who are African, non-African, and even faculty members who are interested in African affairs,” said Ndukwe, a graduate student in chemistry.
The group’s faculty sponsor is Seth Appiah-Opoku, a professor of geography who has been involved with the group since it first began.
“I am an African and do most of my research in Ghana,” Appiah-Opoku said. “In addition, I have been directing the Alabama-in-Ghana summer abroad program since 2003. I also teach the Regional Geography of Africa at UA. With this background, the original members of the association invited me to serve as the advisor in 2010 and I have enjoyed this role ever since.”
Ndukwe, a native of Nigeria, said she became involved with the group in 2011.
“I was introduced to the former secretary of ASA, who was also a Nigerian like me, by a local Nigerian lady,” Ndukwe said. “She invited me to some of the meetings, I came to a few, met all of the members and fell in love with the organization. I felt like I was back at home with my family, and everyone really helped me to get acclimated to being in Tuscaloosa.”
The club promotes awareness of Africa’s diverse cultures among members of the community through varying channels, including food, fashion, film, literature, theater and collaborative events with other on-campus organizations. Ndukwe said the club emphasizes the personal connections valued in African culture.
“Africans are very family-oriented people,” Ndukwe said. “So anyone who is a member of ASA is entering into a larger family, as we all view one another as family. Africans love fellowship and dance and to play music at gatherings, so we tend to do that at every event we have in order to give the feel of what it’s like being around Africans and being at an African event.”
Appiah-Opoku said the impact the group brings to the University campus culture is a benefit to the college experience for students and faculty alike.
“A meaningful university education provides opportunities for students and professors to interact with a variety of people and cultures,” Appiah-Opoku said. “The presence of African students and the activities of the ASA help the UA community to learn a bit more about the world outside the U.S. context. This enriches the UA experience for most people in terms of tolerance, dispelling misconceptions about Africa, and the role of the African continent in world affairs.”
Like Appiah-Opoku, Ndukwe said the group highlights the diversity and rich culture of Africa, and anyone in the community is free to join.
“Anyone is free and welcome to join ASA,” Ndukwe said. “You don’t have to be African or be of African descent. Africa is a continent of many different shades, physical features, and cultures of people, and we love for ASA to resemble and embody the continent of Africa.”
The African Students Association will hold its first event, an African movie night, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. in room 1013 of the South Engineering Research Center. Refreshments will be provided.