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Pan African showcase celebrates different countries through art, music, poetry

Sofía Oyarzún
Musicians perform a song at the Pan Africa event, which was held Friday, May 4, 2024, at Columbia’s 1104 S. Wabash Ave. building.

In her self-portrait, “Beauty,” Trinity Sutton’s face is painted as a mosaic of different colors with cracks in it.

“I went through a lot of things in my life and I needed to find a way to express myself,” said Sutton, a sophomore graphic design major. “So I really wanted to showcase what it’s like being a Black woman and the womanhood; [there’s] so much beauty.”

Inspired by the obstacles she’s overcome as a young Black woman, Sutton exhibited the work at the Pan African showcase that was part of her Intro to Black World Studies course.

The pilot event, held on Friday, May 3, at 1104 S. Wabash Ave. building, celebrated different African countries and cultures through music, art and poetry performances. 

According to Robert Hanserd, an associate professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, the event is the final for the class. The students spent about two-thirds of the semester planning it. 

“I had really great students that took the lead on a lot of it, I really didn’t have to do much; it worked out really well,” Hanserd said.

Isis Reid, a first-year film and television major and student in the class, helped organize the event. She said the class collaborated by taking on different tasks, such as conducting surveys, planning the event directly and contributing artists.

“I appreciated the opportunity to meet people from all over the diaspora,” she said, referring to the larger African community. “The musicians were amazing; dealing with the artists was really cool and it brought my connections with people from around the school. That’s exactly what it was meant to do.”

Though the pandemic stopped the class’ usual Black arts festival, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s funding gave them the opportunity to share their creations related to the class content. Students who contributed through their art brought the diversity of culture, experiences and perspectives that the class aimed to celebrate through performance and exhibition.

Breanna Cooper, a sophomore audio arts and acoustics major, was invited to perform two pieces of her poetry: Little Butterfly, encouraging Black women to be comfortable in their “melanated skin,” and Melted Pot Overfilled, inspired by the case of Breonna Taylor.

“I took it very personally at the time and wanted to write something to express my frustration, my hurt and my overall feelings around that time,” Cooper said.

African culture continued to be celebrated with music throughout the night by the band Nyansapo, meaning “wisdom knot.” The Ghanaian band performed music from different parts of Africa, such as “Welcome Home” by Osibisa, which they play frequently as a way to connect with their brothers and sisters of the diaspora, they said.

Seeing the students’ months’ worth of planning unfold was a rewarding experience for the class, especially Sutton, as she emphasized the impact the class’ collaboration had on the final product.

“It was a team effort, and we all really came through to try to a Black-welcoming space here at Columbia,” Sutton said. “So that all Black students can feel welcome and in a safe environment to showcase their work with other people as well.”


Copy edited by Myranda Diaz.

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About the Contributor
Sofía Oyarzún
Sofía Oyarzún, Bilingual Reporter
soyarzun@columbichronicle.com   Sofia Oyarzún is a sophomore photojournalism and journalism double major. Oyarzún joined the Chronicle in January 2024.   Hometown: Glenview, Illinois