The Department of Africana Studies gives students a taste of African cuisine, music and culture
Programming at the Taste of Africa exposed students to African language, music, and food. Photo courtesy of the UMBC Africana Studies Department.

The Department of Africana Studies gives students a taste of African cuisine, music and culture

Kwame Ansah-Brew, a professor in the Africana studies department, kicked off the Second Annual Taste of Africa Celebration with a bang. His pounding of the djembe, a west African drum, reverberated across the skylight lounge. At that moment, Kwame gave a taste of both the sounds of Africa and the energy ingrained in its culture.

The event is a celebration hosted by the Department of Africana Studies, begun in order to allow the UMBC community to experience African culture first-hand.

“I want students and faculty and staff to appreciate the diversity of Africa in terms of language, in terms of culture [and] in terms of food cuisine. And to have a forum annually, where we can gather together to celebrate Africa’s cultural diversity, and also to commemorate the Black History Month,” said Gloria Chuku, professor and chair of Africana studies.

This year’s Taste of Africa Celebration featured a round table discussion with africana studies’ alumni. The focus of the panel was on the alumni’s experiences at UMBC and how africana studies shaped their lives.

“As a major, I’m interested in different pathways people pursued with a degree in Africana studies. So, I just want to hear about different options people took after they got their degree,” said Damarious Johnson, a junior Africana studies major.

The alumni gave insight into what Africana studies classes can offer UMBC students. Many reported how these courses changed their perspective and led to many opportunities.

“I just want [UMBC students] to endeavor to take at least a course or two in Africana studies and if possible take up to 18 credits to minor in Africana studies or 36 to major or have a double major in Africana studies,” said Chuku.

Africana studies dance performers took the stage after the panel concluded. The dancers performed a traditional rain dance with deep ties to African culture. After the dance, Ansah-Brew put on another performance of his own. He showcased several West African instruments, captivating the audience as the food arrived.

“I liked the instruments he was playing. That really struck out to me. [For] some of the instruments, it was the first time seeing some of them played,” said Omar Jobe, an information system and business administration and management double major.

Finishing off the celebration, attendees got a literal taste of Africa. The department of africana studies served a dinner of authentic African cuisine. The main course consisted of rice, a vegetable dish, a fried fish dish and an African chicken dish. Chin chin and puff puff,  West African snacks, and bean cake for dessert were also served.

The Taste of Africa Celebration in its two hours could not represent all Africa’s culture. However, it successfully introduced African culture to UMBC and the celebration successfully communicated the value of learning and discovering African culture.