The Pan-African Student Association (PANASA) hosted its eighth annual Africa Night, Thursday night which aimed to celebrate Africa’s cultural regions for USC's first Diversity Week.
Under the theme “Our Africa: One Continent, Many Cultures,” the organization welcomed a diverse crowd to a dinner of traditional West African dishes and provided different forms of African entertainment in the Russell House Ballroom.
The night was opened by the Gye Nyame dance ensemble, led by artistic director Queen T, who taught the crowd a traditional Liberian welcome song.
“The dance means my words welcome you, my thoughts welcome you and my heart welcomes you,” Queen T said.
Following the event, Queen T, who has pursued African dancing since the age of 10, stressed the importance and inclusivity of dance.
“Why is it important to come up and dance? So they can meet the rhythm and feel the energy and to know that everyone can move and not be shy, just be free," Queen T said. "Dancing is freedom.”
The event also featured King Spicy, who performed stand-up comedy about topics such as being Nigerian in a Texan high school and the differences between African-American preachers and African holy men.
There were several attendees dressed in traditional African garments along with large groups of children who could be seen dancing in and out of the aisles as the night progressed.
Students from Maxcy College were also a part of the crowd, as Maxcy partnered with PANASA to help make the night possible. Courtney Rinehart, a first-year international business student, said she thinks the event displayed a different side of Africa than Americans imagine.
“I think especially in the U.S., people think of [Africa] as a lot of poor malnourished people, when in reality it's incredible and there are huge cities, and it's just a cool culture,” Rinehart said.
Outside of the Russell House Ballroom, modern African art and jewelry were sold and showcased.
Nooria Bratton, a local artist who displayed her paintings at the event, spoke on her creative influences.
“If I dream about something or I just see something that sparks my inspiration, then I'll go ahead and I’ll paint it,” Bratton said. “It's being a part of culture, just getting that exposure, and just letting people know that if you believe in yourself and know yourself, then don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”