Alimat Babatunde, UCD Africasociety’s 10th Session secretary reinaugurates the society and reestablishes the importance of diversity in higher education.
Diversity [ dih-vur-si-tee, dahy- ]
The state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness.
UCD has implemented several policies emphasising on diversity and has furthered their stance by creating an entire department designated to this. Although we have the policies to promote diversity, it is another thing to implement and enforce it. On this campus we have several cultural societies, for example, the Indian society, Hispanic society, and African society. Each society represents a haven for minority students, to feel understood, welcomed, and comfortable. In general, the purpose of these societies is to represent the values of that culture.
This year I joined the Africa society as the committee’s secretary for the 10th session. The 10th session is to celebrate a decade of uniting Africans on campus and sharing a multitude of different cultures on campus. The fundamental principle of Afrosoc is to build bridges between communities on UCD through our music, literature, language, and food. Afrosoc encompasses empowering diversity and inclusion amongst minorities. As we know, Africa is the most diverse continent on Earth; and we have made it an aim this year to truly honour this by putting diversity and inclusion at the forefront. This month, to celebrate Black History Month, we are inviting everybody to hear the story of a member of the legendary Black Panther party, Elmer Dixon. In the following months, we aim to try to explore different cultures such as the culture of the indigenous North African community- known as the Amazigh.
In all honesty, I have seen people express hesitation about joining AfroSoc because they feel that they may not fit the bracket of ‘African’. The Africa society is a society; and just like the society we live in, there exists a majority and minority. When I came to university as a Nigerian-Muslim woman, I was in search of students who had similar interests to me. I saw the Africa society as a great opportunity for me to be heard and understood.
Over the past two years, I became an active member who would attend all the events. In the past two years, I noticed that I was very familiar with the music being played and the slang being used in the events. At some point, I felt very immersed in a certain culture. That culture had to be the Nigerian culture. It was odd that one country would be dominant in a society that should be promoting a continent with 54 countries. As more events went by, less Africans from different countries were present at events. This was evidently due to the lack of diversity within the society. It was clear that I had privileged over other students. It made me think “Why should I feel more welcomed than others?” A social structure was lingering within the society. Due to the large number of Nigerians on campus, the society has unconsciously been moulded to be centred around the Nigerian identity.
Consequently, due to this negligence, it has left a social gap and in turn created the majority and minority complex. To be critical, a society like AfroSoc that champions itself on diversity and inclusion has demonstrated in the past that the level of inclusion has a threshold, which has ultimately denied a number of students who fall out of the threshold the experience of enjoying a cultural society which they are entitled to feel represented in. In a place of inclusion, the emotion of fear should not co-exist, yet this has been a very visible sentiment.
As we are celebrating the 10th session, this year’s committee’s priority is to promote diversity and inclusion. We are aware that we cannot change our mistakes, but we can only learn from them and that is what Afrosoc intends to do this year. The image of Africa has been tainted by the media who may view us as a homogenous populace; and we want to commit ourselves to changing this. No matter who you are, you are welcome here, that is our mantra this year. No African looks the same; we have different shades, different languages, different features and different religions. There is no definition of what an African is or what African ought to be. Africa has an estimated 3,000 tribes and between 1,000 and 2,000 languages. Diversity is what makes Africa, it is in the African DNA. We want to celebrate all aspects of Africa because in diversity there is strength.
In our attempts to promote diversity, we have tried to implement this ethos internally. The AfroSoc committee has recruited students from a variety of countries in Africa coming from Egypt, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eretria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We wanted our committee to reflect a melting pot of different cultures. By taking this approach, the committee would be exposed to different norms, and therefore would significantly shape AfroSoc’s image. It is imperative that we apply criticism for the sake of the success of the society.
This take has been furthered by our president and vice president. Although both are of Nigerian descent, they are from a tribe that are a minority on campus, Igbo. It is breathtakingly amazing to see a different side of Nigeria represented in the society. They resonate with the feeling of what being a minority is and not feeling seen or being dismissed. The executives have excellently created a goal to make AfroSoc more inclusive to different ethnic groups. We must not forget that representation is a vital instrument for minorities. The society has etched the motto; that true diversity has no bound and no limit.
It is important for me as a Nigerian on the committee where I pose to be the majority party, to use my privilege to uplift other minority voices.
Diversity does not solely refer to the cultural representation in AfroSoc. It also refers to the events we have to offer to the public. Afrosoc is refraining from putting individuals in boxes to fit a certain aesthetic. Africans are not a monolith; we have different interests and tastes. Our differences do not take anything away from our identity, it only makes us unique. We have recognised that there has been a precedent within afrosoc, that the society has focused on creating one type of environment that appeals to a certain audience. Many people have pointed out that they feel that they don’t fit in because of their personality. The society in the past has undermined its claim on promoting diversity in several categories. The 10th session aims to fix that.
This year’s Afrosoc plans to have more events that caters to different audiences. We want people to feel heard whether its them feeling comfortable on the dance floor, giving speeches, or making art. Everybody deserves the chance to feel seen. Nobody’s identity should be questioned because they fall out of the spectrum. AfroSoc does not want its audience to wear a mask to conceal their true identity. The society aspires to be real with their members and provide a place where everybody feels welcomed and accepted.
Diversity is clearly the key to success; this principle reflects the famous African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. The village in the proverb is made up of people from various backgrounds with different parenting styles and the child in question is an entity that needs to flourish. Africa society mirrors the child and requires true diversity from several cultures in order to succeed.
To conclude, Africa society has the intentions of promoting diversity but are yet to fulfil this victoriously. As the 10th session is planned to be the biggest and brightest session, we want to apply our critics and listen to our audience. Through my critical analysis, it is evident for this society to exceed expectations by reaching diverse audiences. Without a doubt the society will deliver an unforgettable 10th session to celebrate with several events that will take us to different parts of the continent through beautiful mediums.