African Society hosts annual Africa Week

Virginia Laurie

An Africa week sign in Leyburn Library highlighted the events for each day of the week. Photo by Virginia Laurie ‘22.

Throughout the week of May 3, the student-led African Society hosted daily events to celebrate African heritage, history and culture.

On May 3, Leyburn Library displayed a col-lection of books from all over Africa, including some available in ebook format.

Some highlighted authors were Laila Lalami, Alain Mabanckou, Yaa Gyasi, Halima Bashir and more.

May 4, Career and Professional Development offered a panel about opportunities for students and graduates in Africa.

The panel featured alumni expatriates and those living throughout the continent, including Akwugo Onuekwusi, ‘05, assistant vice president of Chapel Hill Denham, an investment banking, securities trading and investment management firm for clients investing in and developing Nigeria and West Africa.

The panel also included Papa Osei, ‘13, communications manager at Strategic Communications Africa Ltd., and Dr. Zahra Parker, ‘05, research manager at the Henry M. Jack-son Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine.

Enuma Anekwe-Desince, ‘22, found the panel influential because she intends to pursue a career dedicated to aiding the African con-tinent.

“As a woman of Nigerian and Haitian descent, it is imperative to me that I use my gifts to better the nations that are responsible for creating me,” Anekwe-Desince said. “It was beyond heartwarming to hear that there are alums who feel as led to both be in and give back to their home countries as much, if not more, than I do.”

May 5, students enjoyed homemade Ethiopian pastries on Canaan Green. Betelihim Haile, ‘22, president of African Society made the pasti herself.

“Pasti are basically fried dough. They’re vegan, and you usually put powdered sugar on top,” Haile said. “A lot of sweets like these were brought to Ethiopia through cultural ex-change with Italy and other countries.”

She explained why continuing cultural ex-change is an important goal for the community.

“The point is to highlight African diversity, culture, knowledge, history and provide students at Washington and Lee a global perspective,” Haile said. “Holding events like trivia night or providing food from African countries or holding events with alumni engaged in Africa lets us seek ways to benefit the continent or engage with it.”

She said she thinks students sometimes overlook the potential of pursuing opportunities in Africa.

“Often when people think of studying or working abroad, they think of European countries or Southeast Asia or even the Middle East, but many don’t think about Africa and the opportunities it provides,” Haile said. “I think it’s important to become a global learner, to understand or attempt to understand different cultures and people.”

Students had the chance to learn and win cash prizes on May 6 during a virtual trivia night via Kahoot on ancient African history.

Alexis Feidler, ‘21, said she enjoyed it.

“It was a quick and fun way to expand my knowledge on African civilizations,” Feidler said.

The week concluded with the selling of custom shirts made to fundraise for the Gambia Academy, an institution founded in 2015 by the renowned musician, educator and activist Sona Jobarteh dedicated to holistic educational reform across the continent.

“As students ourselves, we wanted to benefit a school that helps build the next generation of African leaders,” Haile said. “In the future, we hope to continue to fundraise for other charities across the continent.”