Bringing ‘Night for Africa’ to life: A conversation with BASO
When one plans an event, they get a chance to exercise both their creative and logistical muscles. This is true for Jennifer Okewunmi ’21, the president of the Brandeis African Students Organization. On Saturday, Nov. 9, BASO held their annual “Night for Africa” event. Students from all over the world attended this event to celebrate the culture, achievements and history of the great continent. This year’s theme was ‘Gbé Sóké,’ which means ‘Lift Up’ in Yoruba. The event received acclaim from the student body. The extravaganza would not have been possible without the BASO executive board and other collaborators. This weekend, I corresponded with Okewunmi to discuss “Night for Africa” and other projects BASO is working on.
Okewunmi is of Nigerian descent, with her ancestors descending from the Yoruba tribe. Her heritage has helped her connect with other Brandeis students. “It has positively impacted my experience at Brandeis because I’m able to be a part of a powerful group of Africans that can come together to celebrate our similarities and differences,” she wrote. BASO members can trace their ancestry to various African countries, representing Pan-African unity.
Okewunmi has been active in BASO since she first arrived at Brandeis. She wrote, “I got involved in BASO in my first-year by being a general member. Sophomore year I became the Assistant Treasurer. Now, I’m proud to be the President of BASO!” Throughout her responses, Okewunmi showed gratitude and appreciation for the other members of BASO, attesting to the harmony and intimacy of the group.
Putting on “Night For Africa” involved a lot of time and commitment on behalf of BASO’s E-board. The club started planning last spring. Their first step was going through the Marathon process with the Student Union’s Allocations Board to receive funding. “My Vice President, Precious Ufomadu ’20, and I had many FaceTime calls during the summer going back and forth about our ideas and how we see the organization and event going,” Okewunmi said.
Okewunmi acknowledges that this semester consisted of a large amount of planning, because she had to work with an array of people. “The most challenging thing was working with non-Brandeis people and getting our communication straight about deadlines.” She says she would not have been able to do it without the help of the BASO secretary, Aisha Waggeh ’22, who took notes throughout the process regarding ideas for the show.
“Night For Africa” featured food, fashion and fun performances that came from groups from all across the Brandeis community and people off-campus.
“The performances were chosen early in the semester! We, more like my phenomenal Event Coordinators Brittney Nanton and Akwasi Owusu-Brempong, reached out to many off-campus performers and on-campus performers to have a wide variety of performances,” Okewunmi wrote.
One of the off-campus personalities was the host, Chief Obi, a Nigerian comedian, known for his impressions of a stereotypical Nigerian father. “We got Chief Obi from the premature vision of me and Precious to have an African entertainer host this year’s Night For Africa; however, the majority of the credit is due to my dedicated Treasurer, Selase Dzobo, and Assistant Treasurer, Melissa Nicholas, for putting energy and time into communicating with different entertainers, working with our allocated budget, and securing Chief Obi.” Okewunmi wrote. Chief Obi’s notoriety and hilarity made him the perfect host.
One of the highlights of “Night for Africa” is the fashion show. “BASO included the fashion show because African fashion and beauty is one of a kind and deserves to be admired on a big stage,” explained Okewunmi.
All of Okewunmi’s hard work paid off when this year over 450 people attended “Night for Africa,” making it the largest turnout in the event’s history. Okewunmi attributes this popularity to the club’s use of flyers, social media posts and promotional videos to advertise the event.
“Night for Africa” is not the first event that BASO has hosted this semester, though. They worked with the Taiwanese Student Association to produce the Night Market. “It was mostly the doing of the individual organizations for planning the events,” Okewunmi said. “The e-board came together to make our part of the event come to life by publicizing and ordering food, because who doesn’t love food?” Okewunmi promised bigger and better things from BASO within the next year.
“Night for Africa” is important, because it represents a part of the Brandeis community that does not always get the representation it deserves. It is great that BASO can help share the beauty of Africa with Brandeis.