Nwizu ’17: One Africa one people

op-ed contributor
Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Executive Board of the African Student Association — AfriSA — would like to address the concerns recently published in an op-ed in The Herald by Daniel Murage ’17, a member of the African community. In this piece, we wish to address the concerns and demonstrate our commitment to our mission. As an organization, we welcome criticism, as it challenges us to learn and grow.

We would like to validate the feelings expressed in the op-ed. We are aware that members of our community may share similar sentiments, and it is something we have been and are continuously and actively thinking about and working on.

The 2016-2017 Executive Board of AfriSA is comprised of 13 students including three freshman liaisons. Our board represents a number of African countries including: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Swaziland. Our members represent an even more diverse depiction of our continent.

Per our mission statement, “The purpose of AfriSA shall be to bring together the African community and those with interest in the African continent at Brown University to celebrate identities and support the individual. Through educational, cultural and social activities, AfriSA will engage the campus in learning about the diverse cultures, histories and issues pertaining to the continent.”

Each member of our executive board — apart from the freshman liaisons — was elected by our general body in May 2016. Each candidate running for a position gave a speech during a general body meeting, and the votes were cast and counted through a Google Form, which was sent to all 189 people on our listserv. We strive to hold free, fair and transparent elections. Moreover, AfriSA allows all members to run for these positions, regardless of their country of origin or ethnicity. We aim to be inclusive of all Africans and people who want to learn about Africa. We discourage the use of rhetoric like “continental” and “diasporic,” as it serves to divide and further marginalize our community.

We also take seriously the suggestions and recommendations put forward at the end of the article. We encourage anyone in our community to attend our open executive board meetings on the first Sunday of every month in J. Walter Wilson, room 501 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. We intend to hold a town hall meeting where all members of the community will be invited to express their concerns and offer suggestions to the executive board.

The AfriSA executive board does recognize that our general body is full of diverse students who come to Brown with different experiences and connections to the continent, and we believe that is one of the greatest strengths of our community. We regret to see that some members feel as though their experiences are not valued, but we truly do value each unique experience. We will continue encouraging our community to tell their stories, and we will continue supporting every facet of the African community.

Chibuikem Nwizu ’17 is the President of AfriSA and writes on its behalf and can be reached at chibuikem_nwizu@brown.edu. Please send responses to this op-ed to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.