Letter to the Editor – Response to “A night in Africa”
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On April 4th 2017, the Dakota Student published a review of African Night, a cultural event which had taken place three days prior. In this article, African Night was displayed in a less than accurate. This is my attempt at a response to the piece.
My first of many problems with this article was the writing quality, or lack of. The entire article was poorly written, subpar, and demonstrated a lack of effort and interest. The piece was ignorant, culturally insensitive, and was an avid whitewashing of the events that took place on April 1st. In the article, the author mentions “The flier said that African night would be going on until 1a.m. but it wrapped up around 9p.m.” I urge her to read the flyer again as that sentence is factually incorrect. The flyer stated that the show would start at 5:30pm while the After Party would commence at 8:30pm and end at Midnight. Secondly, Ms. Hermes supposedly “realized that the African culture is very musical talented.” In response to that, I would like to highlight that Africa is in fact a continent and has a variety of different cultures and musical styles. I choose to address that statement because the author’s thoughts are synonymous with the western trend of categorizing the African continent under one big but inaccurate umbrella.
Furthermore, I would like to address another sentence that was also factually inaccurate. “After the show was over people were still playing their drums, singing, and dancing around.” This particular event never happened. After the show, the DJ continued to play music while people sampled the cuisine and socialized. There was no playing of “our drums”. In a poorly executed attempt to be educational, Ms. Hermes mentions that “in some countries the men wear dresses, similar to a woman’s dress. A men’s dress is called a Kanzu, and the woman’s dress is called the kanga or gomesi”. I feel that those “educational” facts would have been better served if the specific country was mentioned.
She also took the liberty of commenting on our attire. She apparently loved all the bright colors but was kind enough to mention that “most cultures do not dress in those dramatic colors traditionally”. I urge her to travel outside the United States as most cultures in Asian, South American, and even some European countries incorporate vivid and “dramatic” colors in their cultural attires.
My last comments have to do with her opinions about the food. The author mentions that she wasn’t sure what most of the foods were called, she should have simply asked but this comment serves to highlight her disinterest. Additionally, Ms. Hermes mentions that “there were a lot of meats prepared in ways I am not familiar with…” We had chicken as our main meat and the Sambusas contained ground beef. I am not sure what other meats she came across, perhaps this was at a different cultural event? Finally, she takes it upon herself to mention that the food “looked bland and mushy”, this thoughtless statement is rather offensive. Bland is NOT a word I would use to describe the cuisine present at African Night.
To conclude, I am personally convinced that the author did not attend African Night. The level of flippancy coupled with the ridiculous amount of inaccurate facts and observations prove my point. The article was disrespectful, and a slap to the face of everyone involved. A lot of time, money, passion, and effort went into making this show what it actually was and unfortunately, her tone-deaf commentary did not portray the uniqueness of African Night.
I urge you to publish another review that more accurately depicts the events of African Night. I also challenge you to use this as an educational experience moving forward, how will you make sure your writers and staff are properly equipped to report on cultural and diversity event? How do you intend to prevent this type of incident from happening again?
Queen Ngale, President,
African Student Union
Ifraax Esse, President, Somali Student Association
Lauren Chapple, President, Black Student Association