Winona State celebrates African heritage


Natalie Tyler

The first annual Ebony Night took place on Saturday, April 21 in East Hall, the event was started by the African Students Association as a way to celebrate African culture and share it with students and the community.

Lauren Saner, Copy Editor

The line outside of East Hall on Saturday, April 21 at the first annual Ebony Night went out the door, as people of all races waited to enter the event, where they were greeted with a solo violinist and a red carpet. Everyone was dressed-to-impress and ready to take part in the sold-out event.

The event was started by the African Students Association (ASA). These students created this event as a platform to share their African culture with students, faculty and community members.

Jemimah Akhimien, a senior mass communications and marketing major, and one of the co-presidents of ASA, shared how those of African descent have lacked being celebrated at Winona State University.

“We’ve never been celebrated. I’ve been here for four years, and the school has never celebrated African culture. I know people have brought up the fact that there’s always the International Dinner, but the how many times has Africa been celebrated at International Dinner,” Akhimien said. “This is just us, this is about us, it’s our day, everything is literally about every black person that’s been coming to ASA. This is us in our own bubble on Saturday for the first time.”

The goal of the event was to teach others in the Winona community about their culture, and to support all of those that identify themselves as black.

“[We are] making sure that we leave an impact…Making ourselves distinct. Making sure people remember that Africa is not just a country, it’s an actual continent,” Akhimien said. “[We want to] make sure that we show the diversity and variety that the continent as a whole has to offer. It’s not African night, it’s Ebony Night because we’re celebrating all different kinds of blackness, so not just Africans but also African-Americans in general.”

Jalen Crum, a junior marketing major and secretary of ASA, reiterated the purpose of Ebony Night.

“Thinking that Ebony Night is just for black people, it’s not. It’s for us to showcase our cultures and to give a lesson and teach people more about us,” Crum said.

The event included dishes from West and East Africa, which included jollof rice, chicken and plantain from West Africa and Somali baris, sambusa, chapati and sauce and chicken suuqar.

The emcee of the evening was Chief Obi, a comedian and performer from Akhimien’s home country of Nigeria. The event also included two fashion shows, one from a fashion designer and one of students of ASA, showcasing their African attire.

Throughout the evening, there were several performances from dance groups, songs performed by Winona State students, as well as an artist from Minneapolis, Delphin Starr, who painted live for the audience at the event. Kesoul, a duo from Louisiana, also performed at the event.

Those at the first Ebony Night said it was a success, and ASA students plan on hosting Ebony Night again in the future.