Hailing all the way from Ghana, Stephen Somuah graced ASA with his presence from freshman year. As a computer science major in SEAS, Stephen served as webmaster on the ASA e-board this past year and played a major role in launching ASA’s impeccable website. When he’s not at ASA’s weekly meetings providing witty commentary on all sorts of topics, you will probably find him doing anything BUT homework. Following in the footsteps of Bill Gates, Stephen is destined for success in the computer world (Senior Superlative: Most likely to make Forbes top 20).
So Stephen, what initially made you join ASA ?
Upperclassmen. People who I knew in Columbia who were already going to ASA kinda told me, but without an option. It was more just like, “You’re coming to ASA” and then I was at ASA. So that’s basically what it was.
How else do you spend your free time when you’re not at ASA meetings or working diligently on the website?
Well primarily, I play xbox, I sleep, play some more xbox…and Netflix, but I watch Netflix on my xbox so I guess that’s already covered. Occasionally grab a meal. Sometimes I’m supposed to do homework and when there’s deadlines I can’t really avoid that. I also watch waaaaay too much basketball. And then occasionally, when the deadline prevents me from putting it off any longer, I do some homework, while watching Netflix on the side of course!
So now ASA knows how you feel on certain things. For example, “variety is the spice of life.” Are there any other important mottos you have in life that you’d like to share?
Hahaha It’s not a motto. The situation just called for it. And apparently the situation called for other things I’m not saying anymore. But yes, in the heat of the debate I got carried away I guess.
You were voted the most likely to make Forbes top 20 at the Senior Sendoff. So let’s just get this straight, how much money will you be giving to your fellow ASAers once you become a multibillionaire?
Um to my fellow Asa’ers. Yes, you know, people like me. I mean I would hope you would also be a multibillionaire so I wouldn’t have to give you any money. Let’s just think of the worst scenario. I mean in the worst scenario, honestly I probably wouldn’t be giving any of you guys money, because there’s people who need the money more. And hopefully I will feel the need to give some and not just be thinking this now and forget about it when I get rich.
What has been your favorite ASA memory?
Ah man there’s a couple good ones. Honestly it seems pretty trivial, but I’ve been the mafia only once and it was an amazing feeling. You just sit there and point without making any body motions. Then you just smile to yourself and close your eyes. It’s a great feeling. I think that would be my top ASA moment. I would have said the food but that happens so often and it’s always so good, so I’ll stick with mafia. (side note: Stephen got the chance to be mafia again at ASA’s final meeting on Monday. Unfortunately his reign didn’t last long).
What’s next for you Stephen?
I’m going to be at Microsoft starting in either August or September. I’m going to be programming on the Windows phone team. That should be exciting. I’m really looking forward to that. In the immediate next three months, hopefully I’m gonna just sleep and play x box. Get a nice vacation.
Are you going to be in New York or like San Francisco?
I should be in New York for most of the time. I might go to Atlanta for a month or so because I have family there.
Finally, any last words of wisdom for us?
Nah you guys are all pretty smart, most of you smarter than me. Have fun. Columbia is the best school that…no it is THE best school ever. While you’re here you should enjoy that and make sure to rub it in everyone else’s faces if they don’t go to Columbia.
Above: 2010 Below: 2013 ..Things Never Change
Amber Ha was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to California when she was ten months old She will be graduating from Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies and Human Rights with a focus on media as she is interested in different ways media shapes stereotypes and the effects it has on people.
So what first drew you to the ASA?
To be honest, I actually was floating around different groups on campus and I was really involved with Amnesty International. I guess what drew me to ASA first was I came to a first meeting through some friends that I knew and I felt every meeting was more of a critical discussion. I thought that was so valuable and you don’t get that as much at Columbia. That’s what kept me coming.
So what has been your favorite ASA event or moment?
I would say just the weekly meetings and the critical discussions. Any particular discussion? Ummm, I really enjoyed one week last year where we were talking about African beauty which got really heated with guys vs. girls and what constitutes African beauty. And one time, we were talking about humanitarian aid. That was a really hot topic: whether or not these NGOs in Africa were actually helping or not. And oh, one more I nearly forgot: tonight’s Mafia night when I finally got to be mafia!
I understand you did study abroad; would you like to share a bit about that?
So I studied abroad my sophomore year in 2010. I went to Uganda and Rwanda. That was my first experience going to East Africa and since then, I’ve been going back every year. During the summers and also during the school year. So my thesis was on my research in Uganda, specifically Invisible Children; so I was looking at what they are doing on the ground and how they are affecting the community.
What has been your favorite thing about your time in East Africa?
I would say what keeps me going back to Uganda is all the friends and family I’ve met there. I definitely feel more at home there than I do at other places.
What would you say is your favorite African meal?
In Uganda, you have to have this thing which is a peanutty soup. We usually have it with something white and starchy. (Is it like fufu and peanut butter soup?) Yeah! It’s very similar, yeah! So I just learned how to make that last time I was there; my Auntie showed me and it took all day and I was just so tired from grinding the peanuts but I would say that’s my favorite.
So what’s next for you after graduation?
(Laughs) That’s a good question. I have no idea. I definitely don’t have a job yet. So the plan actually right now most likely is I have a little bit of money saved up and I think I’m actually going to hopefully just road trip around East Africa and West Africa; I’ve never done that before so I think I want to spend some time traveling around.
So any senior words of wisdom for us?
I would say it’s so easy to feel pressure to fall into the norm and kind of follow the path everyone says you have to takes. I would say to do whatever you are interested in; college is too short and I feel like too many people now, I have a lot of friends who already graduated because I took a year off, and they are not really happy with what they are doing because they kind of fell into this path and they are wondering why did I get here? So I would just say forage your own path, do what you want to do, don’t feel pressure that you have to go into a certain field or a certain study.
Devyn Ariel Tyler was born in New Orleans, Louisiana where Hurricane Katrina hit during her first week of high school. She then moved to a performing arts high school in Texas and will be graduating from Columbia with a Bachelor’s in French and Francophone studies. Devyn is a Francophile at heart and has had roles in the movies Benjamin Button and The Great Debaters just to name a few.
What has been your favorite memories of your Columbia experience?
I think my favorite memories have been my conversations with my peers. I had a professor once who told me that since you are surrounded by some of the brightest people in the world why not exploit that and talk to them all the time (laughter). Yes, he used the word exploit but he was right in that when you have things like current events or when you have questions that come up in life its really nice to be in a place where you can have such great discussions here, where you can really tap into some really difficult problems, where you can have some space to deconstruct some ideas and I think that’s my favorite part. You know, those late night conversations you have where you should be studying but you’re not.
I understand you spent a semester abroad in Paris. How was that experience; high points, low points?
I originally was going to spend a semester in Paris and in Senegal but the elections were happening in Senegal in spring 2012 and I realize I was going because with Francophone studies, it makes sense to go to Paris then a Francophone country so I was like oh, I’m going to go to both! But it was a bit too much for me so instead I went to Paris. It was amazing because I love French so much but one of the lows I suppose is that Paris is an interesting city; it’s a bit darker than New York is. I think Parisians are great but I found that they were a bit less happy than New York was. Sometimes it was a bit sad. I can’t explain it but like on the train, there was a difference between a New york subway and a Paris metro…that was a problem. And then also, just the fact that you have to translate yourself in a different culture, that you’re living in a different language so I didn’t know how to articulate myself well enough to be comfortable. But on the bright side, I have a network of friends and scholars there now that I go back to visit all the time. And the food is amazing. I had a really good time and I grew a lot so it was something I wouldn’t trade in for.
You were speaking a little bit about the difficulties you encountered in Paris. Was it the same in Ghana?
Oh my goodness!! No, no, no, no; not at all, not at all; because I learned about Ghana primarily through friends and not a textbook so you guys shaped the way I saw it. When I got there, I actually didn’t have a cultural shock at all; like nothing because Clem makes me watch youtube videos all the time so I knew what was going on. Not much of a cultural shock to be honest with you. I don’t know why, I’ll have to think about that but I was much comfortable in Ghana and it was warmer!
Any foods you tried while you were there?
Oh my goodness! Everything! So for New Year’s celebration, Clem’s mom baked tilapia. We had banku and like just all the big things…jollof, chicken, pepper, onions, and of course, lots of malt, and muscatella. Then on the street, Clem almost killed me with some really spicy waakye. And I really like kelewele. I love it so much. And also two things, I tried ummm, aponkye (goat) which makes your fingers smell funny after you eat it but it’s good. Clem was telling me how when you’re feeling good about yourself, you would walk around and let people smell the aroma that’s on your fingers. Haha. So yeah, I tried a lot of different things; we did a lot of eating so it was good.
What have been your best experiences or memories in the ASA?
So I started going to ASA because of Clem and because he was always talking about Ghana and I started thinking about West Africa in a different context. I think going back to my other point about my best moments in college being those conversations that I had, I was really interested in seeing what members of ASA had to say about Africa as a continent and different countries. I was interested in the fact that the people of ASA are there because they care; they want to talk about issues about fun things and they want to talk about it in a way that the media doesn’t and perhaps the media should. I was excited because I feel like a lot of the students of ASA are going to be the big voices of the continent in the future and I want to hear what they have to say. So one of my favorite moments was when we came together to talk about what was happening with Kony 2012. The fact that I know what the media is saying and I know what everyone else is saying but I want to know what people in ASA say. That is where I think it counts because people in ASA are able to look at it from a much more critical perspective than anywhere else but everybody is going to talk about it.
So you mentioned a lot of Clem here, Clem there so we’re just wondering how it all started?
Begins to whisper: he’s sitting at the table and this is so awkward. So Clem and I met freshman year. He lived with Stephen in John jay on floor 10 and I lived two doors down. And so he was always around and I wasn’t very social but I dont know one time he asked me a question and we started talking and I think one of the first things I asked him was (Clem finished talking to a friend and begins to interrupt so we ask him to leave and go get cookies) what’s Ghana like because I didn’t know and of course we started talking about it and he quickly became one of my best friends. We can talk about anything so that is how it started and we’ve basically been together since freshman year.
Anything special you like about him?
Oh my goodness, no! Haha. I think he’s a really good teacher which sounds strange. But the way that he talks about things and the way that whenever he really loves something, you’re going to know about it and you’re going to know about it in a really critical way because of the way he likes to discuss it. I’ve found that I learn best from people who love what they do so it’s easy for me to learn from him because he loves what he does or whenever he does love something and tells you about it, you can’t help but love it too and I think that’s a really good quality that makes him a good teacher and a good person. But besides that he’s a fool waffle! haha
Agreed…haha. So what’s next for you?
I’m a Mellon Mays undergraduate fellow which means that I’ve been funded during my summers to do research and I am planning on entering into a PhD program preferable in French within the next two years. But before I do that, I’m also a professional actress (that sounds so obnoxious to say) so I’m going to try and find representation in New York but I have representation down south so I’m going to start auditioning again and see if I can get back in the film industry just because I miss it. I have a film coming out that I have a small role in December. It is going to be really interesting and is called Twelve Years a Slave. Brad Pitt’s producing and it actually has Chiwetel Ejiofor who is a Nigerian/British actor. I think it could be a bit controversial because it’s going to be about the slave experience in the Americas and directed and principally acted by a British director named Steve McQueen. The principal actor, the star, is not Black American so it’s going to be an interesting reception and it’s very nitty gritty; lots of really intense scenes so it should be fun but that’s coming out in December. Hopefully, I’ll have some more things before then.
Wow! Any senior words of wisdom for us?
I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned is to be honest with yourself; about what you can and what you can’t handle. Also to spend time getting to know yourself a little bit. I know its easy to see Columbia as a burden but I think its exciting we get to spend four years at an institution where all we are expected to do is to produce knowledge and to think about things and I think if we shifted our perspective on how we look at Columbia then maybe, we would get rid of that cultural stress that we’re so good at (I slept two hours. Oh I just slept one hour last night!) I feel like if we see it more as a positive thing than a negative thing, we’d just be healthier people and I think we forget we’re people sometimes and I think that’s sad. So stay in school and take care of each other and eat your vegetables! I love you Miriam!! :)
Love ya too!
Salia Daud hails from Kumasi, Ghana. Besides being a mafia fanatic he is also Christiano Ronaldo’s step brother judging by his prowess on the soccer field. He speaks to ASA about why he considers himself a ‘rotten tomato’ and how ASA can have an impact on the African continent
What part of your mother’s cooking do you miss the most?
That’s an easy one- fufu with light soup.
Is that a daily meal or only for special occasions?
12am, 1pm, 7am- anytime, anywhere. Actually not anywhere I don’t want to be scaring the Igbos…hahaha
What has been the highlight of your time at Columbia?
To be honest my entire time at Columbia has been a highlight. It was my dream to attend this school so I’ve made sure to make the most of it. I’ve met great people in and outside class- everyone from students to professors is really smart and good at what they do so there’s always an opportunity to learn.
Last semester when I started getting job offers, it really struck me that this place had really transformed me and made me someone who can actually provide value; not just about raw knowledge but the experience as a whole. It also boosted my confidence in a big way.
How has ASA contributed to your time at Columbia?
ASA has really helped me especially as regards having a smooth transition into life here. Even though I’m one of the ‘rotten tomatoes’ who only showed up to meetings once or twice a semester, ASA has been a very important part of my time here and I wish I had taken more ownership of the organization. I’ve had some good times at Columbia but they’ve been punctuated by enough not-so-good times. When you’re home and you’re not feeling too good about yourself you want to be surrounded by family who you can talk to and get reassured. ASA provided that environment for me- the family comparison has been used a lot but with good reason because it is true. It made me feel at home.
Any ASA events that really stood out for you?
That’s a tough one. I really enjoyed mafia and that’s one ASA event that I never missed. However, the most significant one was the discussion we had last semester about going back to the continent and having an impact back home. I thought the conversations were very inspiring and I think there should be more of those going forward. If we identify ourselves as the ‘African Students Association’ we have to provide a space for such ideas and conversations to happen.
We don’t even have to wait till after graduation, we can still do stuff before then; maybe have summer trip similar to the Engineers Without Borders initiative for freshmen to an African country to learn and doing something for Africans. We can’t be sitting here playing mafia every time, ‘chopping food’ and enjoying ourselves while we forget our roots. Also, we don’t have to depend on the funds we get from Columbia, we can reach out to ASA alumni and the graduate schools such as SIPA for instance. If I come back 5-10 years from now, I would be happy to see ASA doing something very real for Africans.
Wow that’s a strong call to action. What do you plan to do after Columbia?
For now, I will be in New York working in the finance business hopefully involving some globetrotting here and there but I can’t say for sure about that. In 5 years I would like to go back home and…build something. I’m not really sure exactly but anything is possible- maybe politics, maybe start a company, we’ll see how it goes.
Any wise words of wisdom for the underclassmen
For most of us, Columbia was our dream school and I know other people had other ideas of where they wanted to end up. Once you get here though you have to immerse yourself in this community. Its easy to get bogged down by the competitive nature of everything- be it classes, sports, social life- so it will take some effort to take a step back and do what you have to do for you. The real world is not all about competition; the biggest advances are made as a result of collaboration so enjoy the moment.
Hailing from Accra, Ghana Adwoa Banful arrived in New York City four years ago to study Econ or Math, but is now leaving Columbia University with a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy. Adwoa loves Africa and her people. She enjoys interacting with people and loves to cook. Ambitious in all her thoughts, she actually aspired to be president of Ghana at one point. Her tenacious hold on her thoughts and ideas actually fueled her interest in Philosophy and felt it was right up her alley way.
How has the ASA impacted your time here at Columbia?
Columbia is tough school… and I always needed a place to let off some steam that has accumulated over the week. With ASA, I got a lot of laughs. It was a place where I could grow my voice. ASA helped me not only adjust to Columbia but also allowed me to find myself.
That’s real. So tell us, what were your expectations of the club? Were they met?
At my high school in Ghana, we had Pan-African club that was the epitome of Pan-Africanism in both ideology and activity. Coming to Columbia, I thought ASA would be like that. But I found ASA to be different for a good reason. ASA was filling a need for community. It provided the feeling of a family setting for those whose home was far away. In ways, ASA has tried to live up to the Pan-African idea. I hope to see more incorporation of this in the future of ASA.
What are some of your best memories of the ASA?
hmmmmm…. Let me be careful with my choice here… (Laughs in contemplation). My favorite memory of ASA happens to be the affirmative action panel that took place in the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year. I definitely became more active in my junior year of ASA & the buzz the Affirmative Action Panel created on campus made her proud to be an African in Columbia, spearheading the talk on affirmative action here. I also must say that I was pretty excited on the chance to meet President Bollinger that day. The Panel was definitely momentous considering the role Affirmative Action plays here in the states.
Tell us about your time serving as VP, any highs/lows?
Generally it was a high across the board. I enjoyed watching the E-board grow. Many E-board members took executive initiative to ask mature questions along the lines of ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’. This showed that they were thinking things through and getting involved on a deeper level. I put it to the new E-board to just do…. Talk Less and Do More.
So Madam Banful, what is next for you… 5 -10 years down the line?
Oh please, come find me when that time has passed. Haha.
Now on to something we have all been dying to know: who is occupying your love life at the moment?
Laughter …..No comment. (As she sneakingly looks to her phone for an incoming text from her handsome boo ;) ….
Very Slick there…. Lol, on to more important things: Fufu or jollof rice?
Niether actually! I’m a Banku and Okra kind of girl…
That’s fair…How about music? Modern Afro-hip hop or Traditional tunes all the way?
I prefer a fusion of the two. But it’s honestly quite hard to just pick one. When you met me a few minutes ago, I was actually listening to a few tracks from the classical/baroque era…. You know Mozart and all. Next week, you may catch me jamming to some of the contagious Azonto tracks!
Any words for the younger students either incoming or continuing their journey here at Columbia?
Speak up as much as you listen. Remember always that you are good enough to be here. So act like you are apart of the community.
Jervis Muindi is ASA’s resident Steve Jobs- one of his claims to fame is developing an Android phone app called CU Print that allows you to send documents to a Columbia printer from your phone. This Tanzanis native is making huge strides. You can check out his Bwog interview here or download his app here.
Jervis, how’s your weekend going so far?
Weekend- what weekend? I’m a Computer Science major (laughs)
Lol, so EC this Saturday is out of the question…
Haha, nah that’s not really my scene. Mad respect to those who can pull that of. Not to sound like the party pooper though but I do find time to get out of my enclave. This weekend I’m going to see the Varsity Show for instance- that should be fun. I tend to stay around campus and try to hit up the events happening around Morningside Heights.
What has been the highlight of your time at Columbia?
I consider coming to Columbia a great privilege; this tends to be overstated but Columbia is an amazing school. The people are very intelligent in every sense of the word and I have gotten to learn a lot not only from my professors but more so from the students. So picking one single highlight from my 4 years here is a tough task. However, one moment that jumps out to me is from freshman year when I attended a talk by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. The event was organized by the Business School so it wasn’t widely publicized to undegrads; you know how the Business School people think they run the place. Being a freshman computer geek, I found it quite exhilarating. Bill Gates spoke about the future of computing and the experience of listening to him inspired me to remain in tech.
What role has ASA played in your time here?
ASA has been very valuable. Being an international student and an African student at that, it took me some time to settle in to the hustle of Columbia and New York. ASA provided a safety net for sorts of people, Africans, who could get me. I enjoyed the illuminating discussions and the people too.
Where do you see ASA 5-10 years from now?
Afropolitan is a great opportunity to showcase African culture to the wider Columbia community. In that regard, I think more needs to be done to attract an audience outside the usual target because this is the only chance we have to educate Columbia about the continent.
It makes me happy to see ASA’s presence grow stronger year on year. I hope to see it remain as an active and vibrant community. I think recruiting efforts need to be stepped up. I know good work has been done already and that each individual class is different but I think there’s room for improvement as far as drawing more people who would consider ASA to be of value to them.
ASA can also take advantage of the alumni around NYC- they can add lots of value to the discussions and providing mentoring opportunities.
So what next after Columbia?
For the first few years I would like to scope out the tech industry a little bit so I’ll be heading out to California. Grad school is also on the radar but let me find out what being out of school feels for a bit. I eventually want to find my way back home to Tanzania.
Any senior words of wisdom for your younger folk?
Take advantage of all the opportunities that are available here; Columbia has immense resources. Sadly, you tend to realize how immense the resources are when the bleachers start coming out.
Oh, and don’t leave Columbia without doing the bike tour from Columbia to the Brooklyn Bridge- your life will never be the same again.
Though quiet and unassuming at first sight, you will never find a fire cracker with a brighter spark than this young lady. When she’s not busy getting away with murder (Senior superlative/Mafia queen) or setting the dance floor ablaze, you can catch her climbing her way to the top of the totem pole as ASA’s youngest ever physician. Read below to learn more about our very own Eugenia Nnenna Nedinma Uche-Anya.
What drew you to ASA?
Unlike most people, I first found out about ASA at the Afropolitan event my freshman year. I am an international student and I came here and was feeling quiet isolated. I went to the Afropolitan event and I was like “wow, this is like home.” So I decided to go for the meetings and that’s how I became a member of the ASA.
What has been your favorite ASA memory?
I think it’s definitely Mafia. I love that game. I mean I always make sure I come for it. I think the last time I was actually the Mafia and nobody killed me and I was the last one standing. That was Amazing. I was like, I can be an arm robber if I wanted to…It’s always the quiet ones…
What has been your biggest accomplishment at Columbia?
My biggest accomplishment at Columbia would probably be my work at Health Leads at Harlem Hospital Pediatrics. I helped this women get some resources for her autistic son. Most times, the people that come to the family health desk don’t follow up or go to the resources I refer them to and so most cases end up being uncompleted. But I was actually able to get some resources for her autistic son and she called me and she was so emotional and…it was a really emotional thing for me. I was so happy I was like “wow, I actually didn’t think I could do something so…useful”.
So I hear that you have some big plans post Columbia. Please tell me about them. And where can we expect to see you in 10 years?
“Haha well I think I am going to medical school at Columbia. I’m excited because it was actually my first choice. In ten years I’d probably be doing my residency lol”
Words of wisdom from your mother? Father? Aunt? Uncle? Grandparents? older sibling??
Words of wisdom from my father, “the human spirit can never be subdued…Ooh, can you expand on that?…I mean essentially what it means is you shouldn’t try and walk over anybody because there will reach a time when the person will realize that they are a person in their own right and they are going to defy your oppression. At the same time, you shouldn’t let anyone walk on you too. Instead of taking a long time to realize that your human spirit cannot be subdued you may as well just realize it now and stand up for yourself.
So where can any typical ASAer find you on the weekends? What do you do with your free time?
Either I’m watching a TV show in my room or I’m going to a restaurant to eat…I like to eat… Ohhh you’re a foodie like me! Any favorites?… hmm I don’t like to choose. But I like Italian, I haven’t tried Mexican, I think I like Spanish, and obviously my African food…
Speaking of which! What is your favorite African Food?
Pounded yam and Edikaikong (vegetable soup). Ahhh pounded yam of life…oh my God! I need to have some pounded yam.
What do you hope to see in ASA when you come back in 10 years?
When I come back in 10 years I would like to see the ASA more involved with projects that actually affect the continent. I don’t know if we’ll actually ever get there. I know it’s a really big thing to take on especially when you’re not even on the continent, but if we could get there that would be amazing.
Any words of wisdom for future ASA’ers?
College happens really fast so take things slow and take time to actually enjoy the experience. I feel like if I were to do it all over again that’s what I would do- I’d take time to actually enjoy my college experience.
I’m sure most of ASA has been wondering this, a fine girl like yourself, future Dr. Eugenia…Is there a Love life?
Hahaha ok well…I guess you could say that…hahaha. I mean I’m in a relationship. But he doesn’t go here so you guys won’t know him…Well, I’m sorry ASA, you have to look elsewhere, another good one is taken…
So, tell me something I don’t know about you…
Well…I’m not sure how many people actually know this. But I’m much much younger than people my year….Is that so? And how much is much
younger?…3 years younger…Chai, so you are 19 still?!? And you are starting med school this fall? Chai! excuse me as I go mourn my wasted years…
QueenDenise Adugo Okeke was born in Enugu, Nigeria and came to the States when she was two. She lived in Atlanta for a few years and then Dallas. She found herself in New York City for school. She is a Psychology major with a Pre-med concentration. When she isn’t studying, Miss Okeke is taking part in the Varsity Women’s track team here at Columbia. She specifically runs the long jump, triple jump and the 4x100 meter relay and is damn good at these events!
Wow. So how has the ASA impacted your time here at Columbia?
ASA has always given me something to look for on Mondays. I was always excited to see and interact with people I could relate to because in Dallas there were not many Africans. I went to the Monday meetings mostly in my freshman and sophomore year and when I went I always found the meetings funny and interesting.
That’s awesome. What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?
I loved the idea of the cultural shows – Afropolitan. However, when I came here I expected the cultural show to be bigger! I’ve been to my sister’s school, UT Austin, and their cultural show is massive. When I came to Columbia, I thought the cultural show would reach outside of Columbia and maybe link with other schools like NYU. I would have liked Afropolitan to be larger, but I understand every region/school is different.
In what ways do you think the ASA has i) remained the same and ii) changed since your first year?
ASA has remained the same in its traditions with the cultural show always presenting better performances. ASA has changed in the sense that though I have not served on the E-board, I have heard it has gotten a lot more organized with a lot of people participating in the annual elections. So that’s always a plus.
What are some of your best memories of the ASA?
I enjoyed the skits and discussions in the Monday meetings, but I mostly loved the annual cultural show! I have volunteered and helped out with the show, but I give big props to the E-board … they were the backbone of the show!
So Queen, what is next for you?
I will first take a year off to pursue clinical work and research. I will also focus on my track career; I’m hoping to represent Nigeria in the World Championship Track & Field. I will then go on to pursue a medical career in Neurology. (Eishhh it no be easy)
Nice! We’ll be looking out for your name. So tell me, Fufu or jollof rice?
It’s interesting because growing up, I used to LOVE jollof rice! But now, I love fufu because I miss it so much. It is more of a delicacy that is hard to come by. I make jollof rice… it’s easy but fufu takes a lot more specific ingredients. My heart is with pounded yam and egusi soup!
Modern Afro-hip hop or Traditional all the way?
Modern for the most part… but I can’t deny that I love those Bongo drums with the traditional music **breaks down in traditional dance moves**
Your senior words of wisdom?
Don’t sit by and get overwhelmed by CU stresses…. Take risks (but not at the expense of your GPA! lol) Make the best of your years here. Also for pre-med students, talk to the upperclassmen to get a heads up on what classes to take and what teachers to look out for.
From Freeport, New York Essane Cleo Diedro will be graduating with an African-American Studies major and Sociology from Columbia College. She has been a member of the ASA since her freshman year, and even co-moderating an ASA discussion on the Ivory Coast. She has also been very active in the Afropolitan Planning Committee for many years. When this cutie is not being leading the discussions in all her AFAM classes or dropping some knowledge at ASA meeting, she is fencing. She gained the First team All-Ivy League title as part of the Columbia University Women’s Fencing team. She is 1/2 of ASA’s favorite and beloved Ivorian twin duo.
How has the ASA impacted your time here at Columbia?
ASA has made my time very exciting and endearing. I made a new family. In the ASA, I found a new community that was similar to my Ivorian upbringing, and I am thankful for the experiences and relationships that I have built with members of the ASA and the reputation we’ve built on campus.
How has the ASA remained the same and changed?
The culture has remained the same. There are Africans from many different countries that bring in their experiences and standpoints. It has transformed from a predominantly upperclassmen-run organization to one with more underclassman participation.
What are your best memories of the ASA?
My fondest memories are the discussions from freshman year because they were very enlightening and also the senior sendoff in addition to the numerous birthday parties of ASA members that we had in East Campus.
You’ve been a part of the Afropolitan Committee. Can you please share a bit about that?
It was a learning and gratifying experience. Every year had a beautiful show, and it was exciting to see my classmates and peers perform in the show. I think that Afropolitan has forced me to mature and take the lead role in group environments. The first year, I was a model, which was very awkward and frightening. I admit it, I had a bit of stage fright. By the last year, I had so much fun dancing with the rest of the Afropolitan committee.
What’s in the future for you?
I hope to get some experience in the work field before applying to law school. I will get a degree in Public Policy or Labor, so expect to me on in some sort of public office in the future!
Senior Words of Wisdom
Live, love, and learn! and WORK IT HONEY!
(ASA: Ivory Coast Edition)
What is Semi-formal?
FIRST we thought…
THEN WE THOUGHT ahh well, Lets explain before we run away when they come. We’ll explain with pictures :)
DONT : Try any of the below or matter fact anything you havn’t previously attempted
(Fine gyal no pimples)
(Chale, it no be easy)
DON’T: We all know you are eating grass and look good but I beg this is Semi-formal (save it for the After party)
BASICALLY, IF YOUR PARENTS WOULD SAY THIS, YOU SHOULDN’T WEAR IT
(without the water please, we are renting the space)
OR FOLLOW FASHIONISTA ISAAC (lol)
——-> IF YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER *Cough*ChiChiIffyClemDevyn*
You will be asked to leave if you attempt this
————-> OUR A-LISTERS … feel free to go all out
Follow our very own A-list, Jake Bediako. If you are more dressed than him then eishhhhh it no be easy then.
DONT have everyone looking at you like -____- There is a time and place for everything and this one belongs deep in your closet for the rest of your PUBLIC SEMIFORMAL ASA life
———> AFTER PARTY
Though she may Hail from Maryland, you would not find another Naija woman more real than Dr. Helen Obianuju Ofoche. She will outrun you on the track, outsmart you in any science class, and then out talk you with her endearing yet witty Nigerian accent. Behind that smile and pretty face, she truly is a triple threat lady. Read below to hear more from our very own physician Olympian.
How has the ASA impacted your time at Columbia?
Hmm well, I guess from the first day I stepped on campus for NSOP, members from the ASA community had approached me and other African students entering Columbia and just from that point it was like they were very welcoming and inviting and like ‘found us’ first to invite us to a home on campus , to allow us to find this community with each other. So ASA has been like..haha I guess everybody says it but it’s like that extra family you go to when you’re so annoyed at Columbia and you have so much work to do and you’re like , ‘ahh I need something to procrastinate with, what can I do? Oh! ASA’s tonight!’ Or any of the events. Just all the events we put on like even our cultural show. I feel that a lot of other cultural shows have been influenced by ours because they start to make that ‘homey feel’ instead of trying to make it so professional. It’s like, this is what we get entertained by, this is what we like to do…it’s just like a feel of being at home at school, and being very welcoming and inviting. I call everyone in ASA my brothers and sisters because we’re so close together. We hurt each other, we forgive each other, hahaha you know.
What has been you favorite ASA memory?
My favorite ASA memory, ahh man there are too many…it might be from freshman year… let’s say…Mafia games and the Senior send off because Mena and Letlabika were going crazy… What’s that African song that’s like ‘head shoulders knees toes, head shoulders knees toes’? The one by KIG and the Tribal Skank dance came out that year. Yes, Tribal Skank, oh you guys gotta pullthat out this year. And then like whenever we had our Kickback meetings where we’re just discussing ridiculous topics like remembering how our parents used to abuse us as their form of punishment. *Nigerian Accent* That’s not abuse, it’s African punishment, hahaha. Just conversations like that where we can all just remember parts of our life and then realize that this is our culture, these are our people, like everybody has a memory that’s the same from when they were growing up. And that’s something that’s nice to have, to feel that connection.
You mentioned your mother so any words of wisdom from her over the years here?
Man my mom always says this and I’ve tried to figure out with my friends what it means. She says *Nigerian accent* ‘Hang ya head on ya neck’. And then I’d be like ‘ok, yes mommy’ and she’d be like ‘No, No!, Uju…Hang your…Obianuju!… hang your head…on your neck’ and I’d be like I don’t even understand what that means. But now I think I understand what it means. It’ like just keep your head straight, in some weird form. Like she would say, use your knees to pray, like remember your family, remember those who are close to you and just like keep a steady head. Especially at Columbia I feel like that’s necessary, there are so many things you can get lost in, so much depression, haha ,and you just need to remember who you are throughout this , and remember who your real friends are.
What has been your biggest accomplishment at Columbia?
Hmm my biggest accomplishment, I guess I have to say that Coming into Columbia, well coming out of high school even I was involved in a lot of activities. I was one of those overly involved children…just because like my mom was a nurse so she would only pick me up at 8pm from high school, haha, so I got into this custom of being over involved and I feel like a lot of those activities, instead of joining them just to join them, they became a part of me and I felt like I couldn’t leave them. It became something personal for me. Like my dance team that I used to be on, CU Generation became something that I grew attached to. And track especially became something that I grew to love. Coming into Columbia I was like ‘oh there’s this sport that I’m ok at, that I think I’ll continue in college’… Just ‘ok’ at?? Haha You’re definition of ok… hahaha and that flourished a lot. But just being involved in a lot of activities in general, was a big accomplishment. But I guess track is my greatest accomplishment I fell for myself and it’s something that I want to see myself excel in after college as well.
Check out Uju’s athletic profile here: http://www.gocolumbialions.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=9600&ATCLID=204846574
Very nice, leading into the next question, What are your plans post Columbia? Where should we see you in ten years?
In ten years, well you guys know I’m pre-med so in ten years I’ll still be in school! I’ll be finishing up maybe a fellowship for surgery. Hopefully I would have already gone to the Olympics once…Nice nice, the physician who runs… Yes yes haha, so for now those are the two goals I see in my future. So I need to fulfill that Medical school dream and becoming a surgeon and also see how far I can go with track. It’s become something that I really really love. They’re gonna call me “Flewjuuu!”… ten points for anyone who can get that. …hahaha okay-oh, and of course you will be shouting out ASA, and Lauretta, hahaha… oh yes of course, ‘Shout out to Lauretta’s puff puff! And fried rice”.
Leading into the next question again!, You’re good at this. So what is your favorite African dish and why?
Ohh *very pensively* …you know us Africans we love meat. *Nigerian accent* I love my meat, yes. I think my favorite one now, has to be suya. Yes suya. You know the one that goes quick at parties. Not just any kind of suya, the suya that’s very tough. The one that has you chewing for ten years. The one that’s very spicy…*The kind that you find in your teeth two days later*… hahaha yes, two days later you’re still chewing it!
So Ms. Uju, we’ve heard a lot of buzz about you…
*Laughs* what buzz?
What buzz? You Tell us!
haha what buzz has been buzzing around??…
Sooo someone so accomplished as you, you should have many suitors. I’m sure a lot of the G-body is wondering this, is there someone special in your life?
Hahahaha…Is there someone special? Ahh… well… you know… coming into Columbia I was like oh, ‘Let me find myself a fine Columbia boy’. Let me dabble and figure out these Columbia men. I didn’t know I would have no social life when I came here! But…I did end up meeting somebody who I’m in a relationship with now…You know you’ve just broken many Columbia hearts right? hahaha… hahaha I’m leaving any way so if they wanted to tell me they should just tell me now, hahaha.
Any senior words of wisdom for future ASA’ers?
When I was seeing all of the seniors graduate, I know a lot of them would say ‘just cherish the time you have here, an don’t regret it when you graduate, and blah blah blah’ But I guess right now I can’t really say that because I haven’t entered the real world just yet. But I know how hard Columbia is, and I know that it won’t seem like there’s anything better, And I know here at Columbia you can’t really rely on the school or others to make your happiness so you just have to establish what makes you happy and do what makes you happy from the get go. From freshman year like slow down and don’t feel like you need t hide who you are or hide anything. If you wanna act crazy, or do things like make stupid jokes, like don’t be embarrassed about that . Just do what makes you happy because these four years are like the only period in your life you can get away with doing what you really wanna do.
After the interview….Shout out to Class of 2014 :)
Wait I forgot to add something! …One thing I really wanted to say I noticed good energy from the sophomore class and the freshman class, but especially the junior class, your class, the rising seniors had amazing energy. When you guys came as freshmen, the type of energy you guys brought, I feel like you guys had this sprit that really embodied ASA. And I feel like it’s something that’s helping carry ASA a lot. Like you, Miriam, Efe, Wangari, Shad, who else is there, well all of you! Your class is just so involved with ASA. I remember freshmen year when we asked you guys to help with Afropolitan you guys were so like ‘Ahh yeah! Anything we can do!”…Hahaha yeah I remember that… And it was just such a nice feeling. I never felt like ‘oh these people are underneath me, these people are underclassmen’ . I kinda felt this connection like I really care about these people and I’m really close with them…AWWW!… And we got along so well! I think I remember telling you guys ‘I’m not gonna call you ‘little this’ or ‘little that’ , I feel like you guys were really like my brothers and sisters. And *Nigerian Accent* I’m gonna be stalking you guys on Fbook! Hahaha. I just see so much potential in everything you guys do, so much heart… AWWW!…and that’s something that I really appreciate. You guys came with that spirit of ‘I’m just gonna do what makes me happy”. And that’s what I saw form you guys these past three years, so when you guys graduate I’ll be crying too! …Don’t worry we’ll be bawling at yours!…And I’m just really excited to see what’s gonna happen with ASA next year. You guys are already doing big things!
AND with that Class of 2015 and 2016 declares war on Uju
Meet Kambi Gathesha, a GS senior who grew up in Nairobi, Jeddah, and Maryland. You’ve probably seen him killing the dance floor at one campus event or another (he’s danced both with Raw Elementz and Onyx). Closer home, Kambi will go down as one of the most proactive political voices the ASA has ever seen. During the 2010/11 academic year, a new position was created on the ASA Executive Board – that of Political Chair. Kambi served in this position for 3 years, beginning as a 2nd semester freshman and continuing on until his junior year. He has chaired some of our largest Political Roundtables, including a teach-in on Kony 2012, a dissection of the African Studies Program, and perhaps most memorably, a panel discussion on the past, present and future of Affirmative Action with President Bollinger. This past February, Kambi also served as co-chair of Black History Month, a decision he says was founded on “…wanting to incorporate the diaspora – both African and Caribbean – into the conversation.”
Before we get started Kambi, tell us something about you that we do not know.
It’s actually funny but not many people know that I trained as a classical actor at Julliard before coming to Columbia. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I took some time off acting, but yeah – I’ve trained as an actor since I was 13/14. At Columbia, most people know me as Kambi the dancer, but I really can’t imagine my life without theatre.
You’ve obviously been very much a part of the ASA family during your time here. In what ways has this engagement shaped your experience at Columbia?
In many ways, the ASA has been a forum for me to cultivate many of my political and activist goals. It has provided a much-needed space to fellowship with like-minded individuals from the continent, and engage personally with issues back home. It’s also at the ASA where I’ve met some incredibly conscious individuals who’ve grown to be a big part of my political and inner circles – I’m thinking here of people like Abdi Ega, Yusuf Sabeel, Abdallah Diagne, Yasir Mohammed and Clare Korir.
How do you feel the ASA has changed during the course of your 4 years here?
I think we’ve become a lot more entrenched within the campus community (kudos!). The G-Body has also grown a lot over the past few years, which is something I’m really happy about. I will say, however, that numbers alone are not enough. I believe that the success of a group is very much a product of its members’ commitment, zeal and quality of engagement. I always give the example of the 3 Nigerian graduate students at SIPA who are almost solely responsible for the resurrection of the African Studies Program.
As a sophomore and junior, I was also really proud to see more and more voices stepping up to politicize the ASA. However, in terms of having a political foothold on campus, I think we go through ebbs and flows. We’re definitely more politically active in some years than others, so I think we need to work a little more at achieving continuity from one year to the next.
You’ve already mentioned a couple of things regarding the way forward, but what else would you like to see for the ASA?
I want us to continue being a space where people can find a well-informed perspective on the continent. Let’s keep up the fight against the stereotypes, and let’s keep educating ourselves.
I would like to see us be more allied with the African community in Harlem, as well as other social justice groups on campus such as SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine). I’ve also been struggling to revive the African Studies Program during my time here. I think we need to see more classes within the program, more African scholars within the faculty, and increased rigor, especially when it comes to the instruction of African languages. I do not understand why languages such as French and Spanish are taught 5 times a week, while Swahili and Yoruba are only taught 2 times a week. I’d like to see more people in the ASA take over this, and other similar batons. It’s important that the administration doesn’t feel as though the struggle is limited to one individual’s 4 years on campus, after which they can happily relax. This goes back to what I said earlier about ebbs and flows – continuity is key.
And finally Kambi, your senior words of wisdom?
(Laughing) Don’t ever give me alcohol. (More laughing)
Seriously though, I think many college students don’t take full advantage of the experience, and of the people they meet. I’ve met so many people who, 4 or 5 years down the line, talk about how much they miss college; how much they wish they had savored the experience while it lasted. Even if you go through hardships at Columbia and feel like you want to check out, take time to enjoy the day-to-day joys that are everywhere on this campus. Value the people you meet – I cannot stress this enough. You’re looking at people that could be your friends for years and years to come.
And finally, if you’re dismayed at something that you see, take initiative and work towards changing it. And while you do this, keep in mind that change is not an event; it’s something that you have to keep at. If you achieve a small milestone and stop there, best believe everything will fall right back to its original state. So beyond initiating the change you want to see, I urge to always remain engaged.
Bukhosi Loyalty Msimanga was born in Zimbabwe and traveled to NYC to pursue his dreams of becoming an engineer. He has majored in Electrical Engineering but his true talent is charming the ladies. When he’s not building Bridges, Bukhosi is busy heading the Educational Committee for Afropolitan and served as the interim Political Chair for the 2012-2013 ASA E-board.
What is your fondest memory or memories of ASA?
Afropolitan 2012. It was a spectacular execution of an ASA tradition that’s making the African presence on this campus felt. It was awesome seeing the turnout increase over my four years here, and seeing the audience become more diversified. Afropolitan 2012 was definitely a high point in this tradition.
You took up the responsibility of political chair last semester as a senior. What drove you to take this position up at this time?
I did it because the need coincided with my interest in stimulating debate/discussion about matters concerning Africa. I hope the ASA will continue to invest in this tradition and broaden it’s audience.
Should we expect you to run for president of Zimbabwe sometime in the future?
No. When it comes to politics, I’d rather observe from afar. Or just criticize. That’s more fun…and safe. I don’t want to end up a political prisoner; these things have a tendency of getting you in trouble before you know it.
What is your favorite spot in the Morningside area and why? (it could be on or off-campus)
Hmm, my favorite spot is actually in Harlem. Lennox Coffee. It’s a nice and chilled getaway from the college neighborhood which can get pretty intense…and they have good coffee
So that’s where you charm the ladies?
Haha, naah. Its not that kind of spot. For that, I go to this other place called Cedric- it has failed me yet, haha. BY the way I hope I don’t see ASA people hanging around there now that I’m giving it some publicity- it’s my spot go find your own.
What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would want to pass on to your kids?
Kids, whoa, slow down cowboy!
If you came back to Columbia in 10 years what would make you proud to have been a member of ASA?
Honestly, just having the ASA continue to thrive as an organization. It has been family to me for my four years here, and it will continue to be family for countless African students who’ll have the opportunity to study at Columbia. I think a better job can be done with integrating members from the communities with smaller representation but it should still try to retain that homey feeling that makes it stand out from other groups.
What are your short-term and long-term plans after Columbia?
Both are still a work in progress, haha. But for now, it’s working a 9-to-5 for a bit and see where the roads lead from there. I eventually hope to find my way back to Zimbabwe or as close to it as possible.
Any wise words for the ASA freshmen or incoming ASA freshmen?
Get involved, have fun, and before you know it, your four years here will be up :)
From Freeport, NY, but strongly Ivorian at heart, Loweye Lucielle Diedro will be graduating with an African-American Studies major from Columbia College. She has been a member of the ASA since her freshman year, and even co-moderating an ASA discussion on the Ivory Coast. She is not one you’d want to get into a sabre fight with. She gained All-American honorable mention at the NCAA Championships and First team All-Ivy League title as part of the Columbia University Women’s Fencing team. She is one of the twins in the ASA.
How has the ASA impacted your time here at Columbia?
The ASA has impacted me in a very profound way especially as a freshman with all the powerful upperclassmen I met: classy, intelligent, beautiful, all these great characteristics in one person and there were a couple of upperclassmen like that. Throughout the years, it’s been a consistent intellectual safe haven because I couldn’t find that in a lot of other spaces so I’m glad I had ASA to come to when I was just mentally exhausted at the pettiness and ignorance on this campus.
How has the ASA remained the same and changed?
ASA has remained the same because they consistently have a high standard of connotation, of actions and I really never saw any drama or any “low blows” between members. It’s always been like a family in a sense. It’s a place you can come and not feel attacked which I’ve never felt. In the way it’s changed, it’s improved, it’s progressed in terms of Afropolitan, in terms of it’s g-body, it’s constant consistency which is hard to continue when your demographics change. They’ve consistently kept freshmen involved and even improved in that area. I can say as being the only freshman when I was the freshman that there’s actually more of a place for the freshmen and I think that is great.
What are your best memories of the ASA?
My best memories of ASA will definitely be freshmen year, when we had our senior sendoff party; we had it in EC or the X-lounge that year. Just being invited, just this air of invitation that didn’t matter whether you were freshmen, sophomore, but you were still family. We were just having fun with people, listening to great music, great food. Those will be my best moments. No hang-ups on who you are, how you dress. Things can get really minimal in this Columbia community but I think the ASA has invited a community amongst themselves where you can just be yourself and not even have to be African and be invited.
You’ve been a part of the Afropolitan Committee. Can you please share a bit about that?
(Laughs) Afropolitan! It has its share of drama. But it’s a great production; I love what I’ve been able to do, what my peers have been able to do. I didn’t go to it freshmen year but I heard a lot about it. I didn’t think it reached the potential it could and I’ve see throughout the years that it passed the potential; setting up markers that it passes every year and I’m so happy about that because I feel there is no need for us to be mediocre in Afropolitan or our “Africaness”. We surpassed all my wildest dreams about what Afropolitan could be and I can only see progression in the future.
You already shared about your best ASA moments but do you have a favorite discussion topic or event?
Yeah, I have a lot! Afropolitan is definitely in there with all these conversations. I’m trying to remember one but I can’t really put one above the other. I would say my first meeting. We walked in and we were talking about stereotypes Africans think of other Africans. It was just funny because these upperclassmen were hilarious and we had a good demographic. We had people from Rwanda and my friend was from Eritrea, so we had a good conversation about these stereotypes. It was funny and serious and we just got to know each other and it was great; it was very memorable that’s why I kept coming back because of my first experience here.
What’s ahead of you post graduation?
Hmmm, life, life is ahead. The future; hopefully success. I can’t predict the future but I can definitely try and be as successful as I can in any area that I try to endeavor in: work, social, love, everything. I’m looking forward to it!
I am sure you’d agree that Azonto is the best dance that came out of the continent? Haha
The whole continent?! Nah, I would definitely not agree because we have a history of dance and music so to put Azonto as THE BEST would be a stretch. But there is this new dance from Guinea Bissau that is really good and entertaining; I think it’s called Nouveaute, Nouveaute. It tops every African dance I’ve seen in a while. Basically, it’s fantastic; I think it’s the next big thing. You should check it out! https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?v=585564414800515&set=vb.100000408858225&type=2&theater
Senior Words of Wisdom
I would say, whatever you do, try to be happy with the outcome. Don’t stress, definitely not. Try not to stress. Always try to stay in a positive area. It’s hard but just look at the bigger picture and think about how you want your life to be. And I think in everybody’s life, they want to be happy so just think about that and try to place it in whatever situation you are in.