By: Taylor Zachary ~Columnist~
Following the now infamous “Blackface incident,” many students, staff and faculty continue to question the validity of our university’s core principles. Students, especially, question the worth of words such as “diversity,” “inclusion” and “community.” It appears we expect these words to self-actualize themselves, living out diversity, inclusion and community in rhetoric rather than intentional and principled practice.
Despite the flawed example of its campus, the African Student Association (ASA) operates per the intentional and principled practice of diversity, inclusion and community. As our campus recovers from a treacherous two weeks and seeks to finally define our socio-cultural principles, ASA thrives as an example we have too often ignored.
Under the inspirational leadership of Dr. Jerry Cline-Bailey, it may not surprise the reader that ASA achieved recognition as Club of the Year last spring.
The members’ commitment to intersectionality won them the Embracing Diversity award and one cannot mention ASA without noting its spring Gala – a dinner, a fashion show and theater performance melted into one exhilarating and monumental evening. The ASA Gala is a pillar of our university, a must for any and every student, staff and club committed to expanding their cultural competency and sheer ability to actively engage in the complex and everchanging world beyond Xavier. The Gala received exceptional reviews, ultimately awarded as the Cultural Program of the Year.
As an organization, ASA certainly deserved the institutional, social and cultural recognition received last spring. But what the Muskie awards did not show were the many individual achievements of ASA members. Uplifting individual accomplishments is by no means an act to promote individualism or diminish the virtue of community. Rather, the individual achievements of ASA members are best understood as a testament to the power of diversity, inclusion and community – collective love and authentic support manifested in the shared pursuit of excellence.
The unprecedented work ethic of Ese Obrimah was recognized via the Employee of the Year Award, while the impassioned dedication of Valerie Okpadile won her ASA Member of the Year.
Work ethic and academic achievement landed Muyiwa Oyatogun the annual Rebecca Swell-Cummings Book Scholarship, an award hosted by the “Renowned Rho Xi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.” Benmum Damul won the Muskies Freshman of the Year award in addition to a $1000 book scholarship from ASA. She shared her accomplishments with Enlara Ndum who won ASA’s $700 book scholarship. At the Ivy Prince Talent Show, Bernard Ekezie proved his dance skills irresistible. He won the Ivy Prince Book Scholarship award, hosted by the “Remarkable Ladies of the Rho Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.”
ASA also proved itself leaderfull as Chioma Orizu received an Accounting Leadership award, alongside Ada Nnaji who won a Gold – X Key Leadership award. She shared the stage with Ebube Iheme who also won a Gold – X Key Leadership award, all the while confirming his induction into the Alpha Sigma Nu honor society.
Sarah Ochieng concluded last year with a Muskies Junior Member of the Year award, the Diversity and Inclusion award and the prestigious Antonio Johnson Scholarship award. Additionally, she was a Brueggeman Research Fellow, traveling to Tanzania and Kenya where she contested child marriage and childhood mutilation. She helped pave the way for her ASA sister Sylvia Chemweno, who is a current Brueggeman Research Fellow. Last semester, Sylvia’s courageous leadership was recognized via a Silver – X Key Leadership award at the Muskies awards ceremony.
President Ese Obrimah said, “Our theme this year is Ubuntu, which is a Zulu word for humanity through others. We will focus on intersectionality and the growth and well-being of the whole person.”
ASA’s goal is to create a greater sense of community between Africans and the larger Xavier community, a goal that is making strides in the right direction. Our campus community should celebrate and herald ASA for its exceptional example. As the members continue to collectively live and love freely, building power and success via an authentic organizational commitment to diverse identities, inclusive engagement and durable community, so too do they grant the Xavier community at large permission to do the same.
ASA hosts bi-weekly general body meetings Mondays at 6 p.m. in varied locations. They invite visitors and encourage membership from all corners of the Xavier community.
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