The average University of Tennessee student may not know much about the continent of Africa. The images of Africa that are portrayed in the media may give many the impression that Africa is a place characterized by poverty and conflict, with similar cultures across the continent.
But to Cindy Anku, senior and president of UT’s African Student Association, Africa is not only what people may see in the news.
“There are so many different people, cultures in Africa,” Anku said. “You can’t really group us all as one. We want to help people understand that Africa is more than what is projected in the media.”
This dedication to revealing the diversity of Africa drives the members of the African Student Association (ASA). The ASA was founded in 1987 by Amadou Sall, who is now a lecturer in Africana Studies and the faculty advisor for the ASA.
According to the Anku, the group strives to “bridge the gap between Knoxville and the Africans in Knoxville.”
One of the major values of the ASA is providing education to students and community members. The ASA hosts forums, culture nights, visits churches and invites speakers to campus in order to spread more accurate information about the various cultures in Africa. The group wants to highlight the positive aspects of the continent that may not be regularly portrayed in the media.
The ASA also works to connect with African students and community members who have just arrived to the area and are in need of a community.
This connection was definitely important for Anku. She joined the group when she was freshmen who was looking for other African students on campus. Anku said she took a flyer for the ASA and went to the first general meeting in the fall semester of 2012.
When members of the executive board were set to graduate, Anku, who had become secretary after some time in the group, was nominated to become president. She was elected and has been president for a year.
Anku believes the group has been accomplishing a lot in the past year, despite having difficulty recruiting new students to join.
“We’ve gotten more consistent with events. We do really have committed members,” Anku said.
The ASA holds socials and movie nights to help foster feelings of community among Africans in Knoxville. The group also holds special events to help members get to know each other. In the past couple of months, the group has roasted s’mores over the flame of the Torchbearer, hosted a Valentine’s Day dinner and held its annual retreat Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
According to Anku, the ASA will continue to provide educational events to students, with help from the ideas of other African associations from colleges around the country.
The ASA meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in the International House community room. More information can be found at the group’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Featured image courtesy of the African Student Association Facebook page
Edited by Jessica Carr