On Saturday evening, the Brandeis African Students Organization hosted the 7th Annual Night for Africa in Levin Ballroom. The show was a part the University’s I Am Global Week and students invited friends, family and faculty alike to come share in culture from Africa and the African diaspora.  Seating began at 5:45 p.m., and by the time the show started a half hour later, the audience was bustling. People even lined the balconies to watch the performances.

The masters of ceremonies for the evening were Melissa Nicolas ’21 and Kwesi Jones ‘21, who explained that “Nyumbani,” the night’s theme means “home” in Swahili.

“I want you all to feel home right now,” said Jones, “even if this isn’t your culture.”

The first performance of the night was AFRITHMS, a dance group from Boston University. All dressed in black, they demonstrated their versatility, switching dance styles and music with the color of the lighting. The music included songs by Wande Coal, such as “Iskaba” and “Baby Hello.”

REBELLE BODY: Rebelle Dance Team performed to a medley of Afrobeat songs. 

After an invigorating beginning, the show transitioned to a slower pace with Yasmine Haddad’s ’20 performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” She swayed with the music as she sang, showcasing her vocal range as the song progressed.

LatinXtreme took the stage next and, as the emcees put it, “[dug] into their Latin roots.” When the song “Sobredosis” by Romeo Santos came on, the dancers on stage paired off to dance as couples. The performance was met with tremendous cheers from the audience.

Next, the Brandeis Music department’s Fafali ensemble stole the show, performing a traditional Ghanaian dance to the exhilarating beat of traditional Ghanaian drums.

At this point, the evening’s emcees mentioned that Night for Africa had its own Snapchat filter, an apt announcement as several people took out their phones to record the next performance. The audience burst into incredible cheers as Awa Soumahoro ’20 took the stage to perform free verse slam poetry. As she performed, however, the applause was respectfully replaced with snaps and murmurs of agreement. An impressive orator, she spoke about how it feels to be an African in America, speaking of both reality and resilience.

Up next, Brandeis’ own hip-hop group, Stop Motion Dance Crew, performed to a medley of Chris Brown songs, such as “Party” and “New Flame.” After a five-minute intermission, the Rebelle Dance Team performed to a medley of Afrobeat songs, with a powerful solo dance to “Body” by Sean Paul.

Audience members whooped and cheered when Bethlehem the Producer took the stage. With a self-deprecating humor and laid-back demeanor, he started the evening with a number of fans and left with many more. During a lull from technical difficulties, one member of the audience called out, “Can we get a verse in the meantime?” prompting Bethlehem to start an impromptu rap to the backbeat of audience clapping. Afterward, he performed his remix of “Leg Over” by Mr. Eazi, inviting participation with a clever lyrics video.

WALKING THE WALK: Elizabeth Dabanka ’20 and Wil Jones ’18 walked down the runway during the fashion show. 

At this point in the evening, the audience was introduced to the hosts of the night’s festivities, the BASO e-board. However, judging from the screams of names that preceded each introduction, no introductions were necessary.

The evening brought yet another guest on campus: Boston College Presenting Africa to You, a dance crew that performs in both traditional and modern African dance styles. The crew was founded in 1996, prompting Jones to exclaim, “That’s longer than I was alive!”

For a little bit of light-hearted theater, the Platinum Step Team put on a skit that was as humorous as it was informational. Their step performance was dynamic, and explored complex rhythms that echoed throughout the hall.

Night for Africa finished with a much-anticipated fashion show. Students strutted down the aisle walking the length of the makeshift runway before posing for their Kodak moment. Some of the models were silly. Some were poised. All of them were gorgeous, dressed in rich colors and vibrant fabrics.

Notably, the audience was just as much a part of the show as the performers. The night would not have been the same without the applause, the cheers and the supportive call of names. It was a true demonstration of community, and despite a number of microphone difficulties, the evening was a resounding success.

Following the show, the audience was invited to a dinner in the International Lounge, as well as an after party in Sherman Function Hall.

Editor’s Note — The Forum editor of the Justice, Nia Lyn ’19,  participated in Night for Africa.