Organization for African Unity Celebrates Culture

The Organization for African Unity held a meeting on Tuesday at 1 p.m., led by junior Kadiann Afflick, vice president of the O.A.U.

Afflick presented a slideshow that began by highlighting three of her favorite writers-important contributors to the canon of African-American literature-and snippets of their work. First up was Langston Hughes, whose biography Afflick read aloud. She recited “I Dream a World,” an aria from the opera “Troubled Island,” which Hughes wrote with William Grant Still during the early years of World War II. Afflick said the piece “emphasized peace and unification,” ideals enshrined in the O.A.U.’s mission.

Although they are not directly affiliated with the Pan-African Organization of African Unity, founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963, Ramapo’s student-led O.A.U. was founded in 1971 and is committed to embracing anyone who feels connected in some way to Africa. Afflick said the group is dedicated to educating the public and the campus about African culture and society in order to broaden perceptions about African culture and dispel some of the negative notions the members feel unfairly plague a land to which they feel directly connected.

“Some African countries have problems with their education and business sectors, but most countries have decent schools,” senior Mariah Tarawally said. “Many people don’t realize how China is investing in African countries and helping countries to develop.”

Tarawally was born in Hoboken, but her father, an American-trained engineer, was born in Sierra Leone and her mother is American. Tarawally has visited her homeland and has learned about her history from her family.

“My family literally was made up of kings and queens,” she said. “We have a large mansion in Sierra Leone now, but my mother’s family were slaves in Guyana.”

Tuesday’s meeting focused on cultural immersion as Afflick moved from Hughes to Ntozake Shange, a celebrated American poet, playwright and writer who grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in St. Louis, Miss., and is best-known for the collection of poems that comprise the book, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough.”

Everyone at the meeting read a paragraph from Shange’s book.

Toni Morrison was the last author introduced in Afflick’s presentation. The group launched into an emotional conversation about Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” Afflick’s favorite book. She recalled her copy of the book becoming drenched with tears as she read about the abuse and racial strife experienced by characters Claudia, Pecola and others duly impacted. Afflick said she loves reading and sharing her passion for literature with others.

Afflick said learning about the work of African-American writers is important because artists create enduring images and representations of people and a civilization.
“As African-Americans,” she said, “if we lose our way, you can always go to a book or look at art and pictures” to fill in the gaps of your cultural understanding.

Ramapo’s O.A.U. meets periodically throughout the year. Information about upcoming meetings will be announced through the Daily Digest.