ourafrica:

Idris Elba on set in Ghana for the screenplay adaptation of “Beast of No Nation” by Uzodinma Iweala.

Directed by Cary Fukunaga( same director for HBO’s True Detective and future director of “The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, And The Real Count of Monte Cristo”)

The story follows the journey of  Agu, a young boy in an unnamed West African country who is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters as civil war engulfs his country. Not only must he face the harsh realities of the death of his father and disappearance of his mother and sister,he must also join a life of violence and brutality.

Agu befriends a mute boy named Strika and together they face the crimes and hardships of war which includes violence,bloodshed and a very dangerous commander.

Other cast members include Award winning Ghanaian Actress Ama K. Abebrese, Grace Nortey and Opeyemi Fagbohungbe.

The movie is set to be released in 2015

Retrieved from http://www.enewsgh.com/enews/2014/06/04/first-photos-idris-elbas-movie-shoot-in-ghana/

Senior Spotlight : Doreen Agboh (CC’14)

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Doreen Agboh is a Ghanaian senior in the college studying Neuroscience and Behavior! She is from Westampton, New Jersey, which is 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, and she has a twin brother!

How did you first hear about ASA?

I think I first heard about it at the activities fair… one of the reasons why I really picked Columbia was because it had such a plethora of different activities that encompassed a lot of different backgrounds, so I think I heard about it first at the activities fair, and I went, and it was cool!

What is your favorite ASA memory?

Afropolitan!

Ooh, which one?!

The last one (Roots Revealed) because Venom Step Team got to perform and it was a really encompassing experience for me, and it really rounded out my college career.

Nice nice! What is your favorite African dish?

Jollof rice.

Mhhmmm!

And then chicken stew.

Yes!

And then plantains.

*Laughs* And what else?

And suya!! Oh my gosh, yes!

And what’s your favorite African song?

My parents when I was a kid used to play like that old school African music, but when I went to Ghana (this past winter break), I heard this song and I really, really enjoyed it! It’s called Slow Down by R2bees featuring Wizkid. 

Oh yes! Such a good song!! Ok… so, Doreen, do you have a significant other in your life?

I’m single and ready to mingle! * winky face *

Hahaha ok then! What are your plans after graduation?

I want to get into health care consulting, but long term I want to become a doctor.

And where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Married. With kids. And a big house. Uhm… a doctor… successful doctor! Making a lot of money. Living the life! :)

Nice! And, final question, what advice do you have for incoming Columbia students?

Uhm… advice I have for incoming Columbia students… I have a lot! Where do I begin? Uhm… explore New York. Work hard. Play hard. Don’t get caught up with being stuck in your books. But also, don’t get caught up with wanting to go out, because you need a work-life balance. Uhm… don’t be afraid to try something new! When I came in to Columbia, there was no step team, and then lo and behold, now there’s a step team and we’ve been doing a lot of things on campus. If I were afraid to do so then it wouldn’t exist, you know? Do things that you love. Be around people that you love and experience something new. Also, cherish your friendships and build strong meaningful relationships with people because those are going to last a lifetime.

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Word. Perfect! Thank you so much, Doreen!

You’re welcome, thank you!

Doreen, you will be missed! Thank you for everything you brought to ASA. We wish you all the best in the future!!!

Senior Spotlight : Mirabel Elena Rouze (CC’14)

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Mirabel Elena Rouze is a senior in the College studying political science! She was born in Madison, Wisconsin but grew up in Los Angeles, California until her junior year of high school when she moved back to Wisconsin. She finished high school there and started her freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin before transferring to Columbia— and we’re happy she did! She has a younger sister who will be attending Barnard College next year!

So, Mirabel, what first drew you to ASA?

So, I joined ASA this semester because I had just returned from Senegal and I wanted to be a part of the African Students Association on campus, obviously, having just come from there. Part of the reason I left Columbia and really wanted to study abroad is because I felt like a lot of discussions were not happening at Columbia that I wanted to participate in and things I wanted to learn about especially with the Core being Western oriented and the global core kind of thrown in at the end. So, I went to Senegal and I came back and I wanted to continue that… and I also just wanted to meet more people and a new group of students! So it seemed like a fitting time.

Has ASA been able to, kind of, fulfill that desire you had for a different kind of dialogue on campus?

Absolutely! I love the discussions! I wish they were a little earlier because I’m more of a morning bird, so by 11 pm I’m like so tired! Laughs Yeah but that said, I’ve really enjoyed the conversations and there are so many different kinds that I really… it’s something that I’ve been looking for at Columbia and I’m glad I finally found it, I just wish I could have found it earlier!

What does ASA mean to you?

I think ASA means hope. ASA means fruitful conversation. ASA means a realistic Columbia.

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Nice! I like that! So, what is your favorite African dish?

You know, I actually thought you might ask that, and I feel like I should say Thiéboudiène, right? But… have you had Yassa Poulet?

YES! I love it!!

You know there are places to get it in New York…

Insert very long discussion about Senegalese food and restaurants (Check out Africa Kine and Keur Samba!) and trying to decide between Thiéboudiène and Poulet Yassa.

Part of the reason I love Thiéboudiène is that there’s also a dance to go with it! But in terms of culinary taste, I really love Yassa Poulet and there was this one time in Senegal I actually had it with ginger and it blew my mind!! And there were olives too and I was just like, ‘What is this?!!’ It was so good!

And, seeing as Senegal has so many delicious drinks, what’s your favorite? I know there’s Bissap, Bouye, Ataya…

Ataya. Without a doubt. Because I love the tradition behind it. What I love about Ataya is that it’s a drink that fosters community and the whole premise of the drink is to invite someone and they have to stay there for 30 minutes while you make the first round and then if you like their company you’ll make a second round and they’ll stay longer and you’ll keep talking, and then if you really like them, you’ll make a third round and I really love the third round because it means that someone wanted you to stay that long! And I think that’s an honor in itself, but also because I love the mint taste!

Insert another very long discussion about the process of making Ataya and our love for it :)

What is your favorite African music?

Hmmm… I have to say Senegalese music. I think that I should also be more specific than that… Have you been to the salsa clubs in Senegal?

No, I haven’t! :(

Oh ok, well my favorite music is this West African fusion that they play at these salsa clubs. And it kind of sounds like Rumba and it’s slow but it’s all from West Africa in particular Senegal and it’s sooo much fun to dance to! But I actually just love West African music in general, particularly Mande music from Mali and the traditional drums and the Kora and also in Senegal they have Youssou Ndour and his music is amazing! I also really really like Azonto and Ghanaian music, and also Nigerian music! The list goes on and on…

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Ughh such good music! So, Mirabel, do you have a significant other in your life…?

No. Laughs And we’re just gonna leave it at that!

Hahah ok ok, so what are you doing after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m taking a gap year! I’m going to travel and spend some time reflecting and figuring out what I want to do, because… college has been a whirlwind! I came in studying the Cold War and Russian and I’m leaving very much a West-African-phile and I really wanna keep doing that! And, particularly, the one thing that’s impassioning me the most write now is West African dance! And I don’t intend to be a West African dancer so I have to figure out what I’m doing apart from that. I’m also trying to go back to Senegal to study Senegalese literature, but we’ll see!

10 years from now… I think I’ll be floating with the wind! Hopefully I’ll be more grounded  than right now and I think I’ll end up at law school but we shall see.

Great! Do you have any advice for incoming Columbia freshman? Like your sister!

Don’t be afraid to try new things! Dance a lot and enjoy New York City and don’t feel guilty about it!

Cool! That’s it! Thank you sooo much for doing this!

Of course, thank you!!

Mirabel, your presence in ASA this semester has been unforgettable! Thank you so much for joining us and we wish you all the best in the future no matter where it takes you!

Senior Spotlight : Rihana Diabo (CC’14)

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Rihana Diabo is a senior in the College studying Sustainable Development and African Studies! She was born and raised in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and came to the US in 2010 “fresh off the boat”. Rihana has two siblings but five or six cousins that live with her who she also calls her siblings (something a lot of us can relate to!). Check out her interview below!

How did you first hear about ASA?

I actually don’t remember…I think someone in..I did the International Students Orientation Program and I did it with Wangari, Shad, Etse, and I think someone must have mentioned it so we probably went during the first week of school…yeah.

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What has been your favorite ASA memory?

My favorite ASA memory? I did this thing…we had Milo Coffeehouse and Wangari invited me to collaborate with her on this thing that we presented, it was a poem that her sister wrote and we performed it. It was me, Wangari, and Bukosi. Basically the whole point was to perform the poem which was written in English and we were supposed to perform it in an African language.

What does ASA mean to you?

ASA is a group of people who feel like home. You know what I mean? Even when I don’t go to the meetings, every time I see someone from ASA on campus I feel like in the middle of all this craziness of New York there’s someone who feels like home.

What is your favorite African dish?

Favorite African dish…this is hard. Basically, anything on the menu of Africa Kine. Thiéboudiène, Yassa, Dibi, everything on that menu, yeah!

So, Rihana… Is there a significant other in your life right now?

Yeah…

There is?! Do you want to give us details?! 

Uhhh, people who know me know who it is. I’ve been with him for like 3 years!

Ok ok cool! So, what does the future hold for you? What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Uhm, so after graduation I’m headed home for the summer and I don’t know what I’m gonna be doing but mostly reading books! And then in September I start grad school in Geneva, Switzerland in International Development so that’s exciting!

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Nice! So where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself at home in Burkina Faso or somewhere nearby, Mali or Niger… With a family! And…I don’t know… still sending Gmail chats to Shad!

Haha! And last question, what’s your favorite African song or song by an African artist?

This is hard… this is SO hard! Uhm… my favorite? I don’t know… I love… Wow! * Laughs *

Or a song that when you hear it, it makes you want to dance…

I really like Magic Systeme from Côte d’Ivoire and I also like Bracket from Nigeria and some of the old 2Face songs! 

Yes!! That’s a good mix! Well, that’s it. Thank you so much!

Thank you!

We will miss you so much Rihana!! Wishing you all the best in the future :) Don’t forget us!!

Senior Spotlight: Shamm Hadgu Petros

Shamm is an Eritrean senior in Columbia College studying Sustainable Development. In her Columbia days, she’s mastered Arabic and participated in a year-long study abroad program to Jordan and Egypt, actively working to assist African refugees enduring persecution. Though she is passionate about many things, she is motivated by her love of everything Africa and making the continent a better place!  

So, how did you hear about ASA? What were your initial thoughts about the group?

I heard of ASA on Day 1, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to dedicate more time to the ASA family. To be honest, it’s one of the most welcoming groups on campus. I wish I realized that four years ago.

What kept you coming back to ASA?

The love! The love was so real. Everyone was hungry to learn, laugh and explore each other’s culture. There is nothing more beautiful to me than the love and respect that we Africans can give each other.

Any favorite memories with ASA?

Representing Eritrea in the Afropolitan showcase with my Habesha sister Dina! I am so happy I got to drape my flag, rock my zureya, and recite a poem in my native tongue (although nobody knew what we were saying lol). Also—the friends I took home after ASA. Some of my closest friends that I plan to build a connection with after graduation all have sat in aa ASA meeting or are associated with ASA. Also, winning Mafia muahahaha!

What do you feel like you’ll take away from ASA beyond Columbia?

To remain humble and open. Although I fight against it, I can generalize at times.

So, what are your plans post-graduation!?

GOING BACK TO THE MOTHERLAND! I want nothing more than to dedicate my career, education and life to Africa. I will be moving to Kenya working with urban refugees (mostly from Eritrea). I will be doing refugee case working, and I plan on launching a research project with the Columbia Naoribi Global Center that will examine the mental health issues of refugees that face PTSD and other stress syndromes.

Any Words of Wisdom for future ASAers? 

SPEAK. TEACH. So many people simply just don’t know, through no fault of their own. Rather, that is, teach each other at the meetings or on campus at grand events. Just showcase the GREAT land, history, people and culture that is ours.

Senior Spotlight : Afua Ataa Twumwaa Bampoh

Afua Ataa Twumwaa Bampoh is a Ghanaian senior in Columbia College majoring in Financial Economics. She was once treasurer for the ASA and also served on the Afropolitan Planning Committee. She loves travelling, cooking, and exploring all things cultural. Our dear Afua has a twin brother and three older siblings.

How did you learn about the ASA? How did you join the ASA?

When I got to Columbia, I had three people who I already knew: Adwoa, Stephen, and Clement. Adwoa was more or less my school mother.  She told me about the different events and groups on campus. She was like do you want to come to ASA?  So I went with her to an ASA meeting one Morning night and I was like oo…these are people that I know, people that I can connect with, people who have similar backgrounds, or different backgrounds that I want to learn about, so why not? Then I started going to ASA.

Over the past four years, which ASA events have been most enjoyable?

Hmmm, ASA events…I like Mafia Night and then Afropolitan.

So why Mafia? Is it that you like killing people? Have you ever been a Mafia?

Yes, I have. I like Mafia because for some reason everybody seems more relaxed. I mean ASA meetings are relaxed. Yeah, people feel at home at lot, but people are more relaxed on Mafia Night. Normally on Monday nights, people come out with their bags are on their laptops but on Mafia Night people are much more relaxed. I think it is because it’s on the last day of school as well. Even though people are shooting each other, they are connecting at different levels and it is always an easy going atmosphere. And it is always fun to play games with people you know.

What about Afropolitan, what do you love about Afropolitan?

Again, it’s the culture; the way people are willing to be a part of something like that. Because normally, you don’t get people willing to be on stage or to expose their culture. For instance, when I was planning it with the skits, people were like I’ll be this, I’ll be that;  people want to be funny… and even with the food, people want to help serve. It is amazing that people are willing to be a part of a show like that. Plus it’s a cultural show. I like it when I get the chance to tell my story to people. You don’t get that chance very often, you know?

You starred in the skit during Afropolitan in my first year and you were phenomenal in Kambi’s Decalage. How was the transformation from acting on stage in Afropolitan to being in Decalage?

Now, on stage in Afropolitan, it wasn’t very formal. It was just like you say this and I respond. I was comfortable in my own skin because I was doing it based on what I felt. Now, for Decalage, I had never done theatre before so I didn’t even think I could act. And Wangari came to me and said, “Why don’t you read over this script and see if you can do it?” And I was like this is my senior year; I want to do something different so I did. But when I realized the role that I was in -one of the major roles- at some point I was like Kambi, can you cut some of my lines? But one of the reasons why I said yes to the role was because every single part of the play resonated with some part of me and I thought it would be amazing to work with people who also liked the script and were willing to relay the message. A major difference between Afropolitan was that I was familiar with the cast of Afropolitan. Besides Kwasi, I wasn’t familiar with the cast of Decalage. And another thing about Columbia is that it is hard to make strong connections, but through Decalage (which is sad that it is rather in my 4th year) I found different people, different cultures, Black American, people who have experiences of both the African and American sides to share such wonderful stories and experiences with.

Do you see yourself doing more theatre in the near future?

If I get the opportunity, yes. I’m not sure if I’ll go looking but if the opportunity comes, I’ll take it.

We’ll be looking forward to an OSCAR

[Giggles…] Hopefully, I’ll become the next Lupita, “My dreams are valid.”

So you’ll be graduating in a couple weeks. How are you winding down your Columbia life?

It’s true. When I think about it; I’m like, wow, from 4 years to 5 weeks? That’s crazy but then my senior year has been good and it hasn’t been as fast paced and stressful as the past four years so it’s been a good tempo in my last few days here.

But before I move into the real world as people say, I want to make the most of my last few days here and I don’t even know what that means but I want to make sure that I don’t lose sight of things; even my connections with other people. For some reason, this semester I have been able to go out more, talk to different people more, and do different things. Normally, my Spring Break I don’t do much but this time I went to Puerto Rico with people I knew and didn’t know just to make sure that I make the most of my time.

Senior words of Wisdom. For those of us still in Columbia, first of all, what improvements would you like to see in the ASA and for the general folks out here what advice do you have for us?

I love the ASA family and I really like the fact that people realize that it is a family. But one thing we need to realize is, and we sometimes take it for granted, that you have people you can actually connect with and some people that you can fall back to when there is a problem. A lot of people consider family as people you can talk to and hang out with on Mondays but we should also realize that these are your siblings. So you should connect well with them. When you see them on Low, don’t just walk by, say hi because this is a big school and you can easily lose out on connections. Also, I think we should make the most out of our meetings. We should not just sit and talk about issues. It’ll be very helpful if we can ask during the meeting how we can apply this to us, to our school community and to continent.

So you talked about the ASA family. Have you found anyone in the family who you click with?

[Giggles…]

Wait, what do you mean?

Someone who’s pulled some strings on Afua’s heart over the past four years?

Giggles…

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I haven’t. Not in ASA.

Outside ASA?

Right now, no. There’s no one.

Alright, then all the best with the search.

I’m still looking…I’ll find the best person.

We’ll be waiting for those bells.

I’ll send ASA an invite.

What does the future look like for Afua?

Well, when I graduate I’ll be working with Goldman Sachs here in New York. I’m grateful for that experience. I was looking for it and I got it. I’ve been blessed by God so I hope to make the most of it.

I also want to be able to go to grad school and eventually get back home and make a difference there. Of course, I want to make a difference in something I like doing, something that I’m good at so that will be in finance. But I also have an interest in child development. So I want to find a way of improving child development in Ghana. That has nothing to do with finance but I’m still very much interested in it.

God be my helper, He’ll direct my path and show me what to do. And then Afua too will get married in the future.

Ah, I’ll be there to eat some Banku and Okra stew.

Thank you very much, Afua. You’ve been an inspiration to us and we wish you all the best.

Thank you.

Afua, Thank You for all your contributions to ASA! We wish you the BEST of luck in the future and will take you up on the invite to your future wedding! ;)

Senior Spotlight : Lauretta Ambe (CC’14)

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Meet Lauretta Acha Ambe. Lauretta is a senior in Columbia College majoring in Biology. Born in Bafut, Cameroon, she was raised there until she was 7 and moved to New Jersey where she lived for over 10 years. Currently she lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania with her parents and a younger sibling, Howard who is just picking his Columbia choice now!

What drew you to ASA?

Some of the first people I initially clicked with at Columbia were African so naturally I was drawn to ASA! From the meet and greet in September to the first meeting of the semester, it was clear that they would be my family away from home. I am glad to say, this is exactly what I found. They have become some of my closest friends and my strongest support system at the school.

What were your initial expectations? Was it met?

I came with a very open mind… but I suppose I hoped for an open space in which people with similar experiences as mine could commiserate (lol)…just kidding. I hoped for an open forum where we could discuss current affairs on the home continent and abroad. I also just wanted a space where people would understand the foods I like, like the same music that warms my heart, see beauty in the same fashion and art as myself, and share some of the same growing up tales and stories as I’m familiar with. Essentially, I wanted to feel like I never left home.

We heard you’re a busy woman. What else do you do outside of ASA?

Hahaha good question! For the past two years, I’ve been part of the Bacchanal committee. It’s been an interesting experience because it is a completely different group of people from ASA with completely different goals, (budgets *cough*), and a completely different way of running things. I’ve also participated in Health Leads where I volunteered in the Pediatrics department of Harlem Hospital helping to connect patients and their families to resources in and around their communities that play a factor in their overall health and well being. I also volunteered at Terrance Cardinal Cooke, a rehab Hospital on 5th Ave. Both of those have been really rewarding experiences that have thought me a lot about myself, the community around me, and has influenced my career choices. Last but not least, I’ve been apart of the Afropolitan planning committee since the very first weeks of my college journey. Planning each show has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. Oh yeah, I was one of the co-chairs of the last Afropolitan: Roots Revealed.

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How did your puff puff journey start?

*Laughs*….Journey. I guess I never actually made Puff puff until I came to Columbia. It was sophomore year at African Thanksgiving and I just remember I started to miss my mom’s puff puff. So I called her to ask for her recipe and lo and behold she said she didn’t have a “recipe” per say, but listed the ingredients along with very rough estimates of their quantity, haha. I think the instructions went along the lines of “half a bag of flour, two handfuls of sugar, some salt, one yeast packet. Mix them with water until till it feels right. Let it rise and fry it,” haha. So after many trial and errors and going off of the feedback from ASAers, I settled on the recipe we now know. It’s funny, my mom actually doesn’t like this puff puff recipe,  she thinks it’s too sweet!

What is your favorite ASA memory?

Ugh there’s so many…. Movie Nights, Random Excursions to Restaurants, Random Turn ups and Turndowns…. Pretty much any situation where a group of us ASAers were enjoying ourselves in a non-ASA setting.

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What are your plans post-graduation?

Immediately after graduation, I’m going home to take classes (Columbia doesn’t offer them!) and hopefully working in a healthcare setting. I will be applying to physical assistant programs in the fall. Fingers crossed I’ll get into one in NYC so I can come back.

Any wise words for underclassmen?

Get involved; step out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you. Also, never hold anything in. If it bothers you enough to think about it then it’s worth saying…. But be wise about your words. Also a friend once told me always use the first bathroom stall, it’s usually the cleanest. And walk around Harlem as often as you are able to, it’s amzing. Also, Wien rocks! 

Thank you, Lauretta, for everything you’ve done for ASA! There are no words to describe how much we’ll miss your puff puff (lol) but we’ll miss YOU even more!! We wish you the best of luck in the future!

Senior Spotlight : Wangari Mungai (CC’14)

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Meet Wangari Mungai!! She is a Kenyan in the college and has played an integral part in the growth of our African Students Association. Many know Wangari by her unique sense of style, amazing hair, and her beautiful smile, but those who know her personally will testify that she’s even more stunning on the inside. We will definitely miss her as she goes on to take over the world!

What initially drew you to ASA?

The name. I remember I went to the activities fair and I met this girl Claire, she was Vice President then and she was Kenyan and I felt at home.

What has been your Favorite ASA memory?

Umm hmmm. Wow! My favorite ASA memory is …. there are a lot. I think just the memories of the community and when you have been here for four years you are able to see it grow and be able to connect with people from different cultures. Just meeting different Africans. That is something I really cherish.

You were Social Chair, can you share some of your experiences with that?

I remember being Social Chair, but I remember also being a part of a team. I think that was one of the best things about that. During our E-board meetings, when we were at the table no one was Social Chair and no one was President. We are all just there for ASA. So I think there was a lot of community on the E-Board. So my specific memories of being Social Chair are with other people, people helping out, people getting food with me … Marti used to get food with me, Shad used to hook me up with the FTFs, Hamed, Efe, Lauretta used to help plan events on the Social Committee… So, it was a team effort.   

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Where do you see ASA in ten years?

I see ASA representing more African countries. I see more faces now that are not just West African. I see a lot more Southern African faces, more Eritrean, Ethiopian, Habesha-area faces…. So, in terms of composition, I see ASA representing more of the continent. But besides the composition, I also see ASA just being huge… Because we just had the 10th year anniversary gala, and we could see where we came from in just 10 years, so from 10 to 20 it can only be bigger and do better things. I think we will be a force to be reckoned with on campus….. One thing I would like to see from is a dance group from ASA, that would make me very happy..

YES! That is definitely something that has been mentioned and something to think about, So what are you doing after graduation?

I am going back to Nairobi. I am going back home. I am taking time off from anything really structured to find my own path, to see what’s out there. I haven’t been home in a while. So, it will be a good opportunity to reconnect and see family and friends. And reflect, it’s been four years, I want to think about that and then see what happens after that, I am very open to the future.  

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Any words of wisdom for the younger Columbia students, specifically from ASA?

I would say to really think about what progress looks like. I see a lot of people think progress is just making more money, creating more revenue, which is one part of it, the more you can work with in a budget, the more impact you can have. But I also think ASA, unlike many other groups on campus, is a very small, intimate group… I would say as we grow bigger, think about our foundation. We should think about our foundation, and why we are special. We shouldn’t get to point where we look like other bigger groups on campus just to look like other bigger groups on campus. We should still stay grounded in the midst of glory and keep the community and family. 

Thank you, Wangari!! We love you and will miss you!

Senior Spotlight : Shadrack (Shad) Kioi Kiratu

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Meet Shadrack Kioi Kiratu, a civil engineer from Kenya!

What is your typical weekend like? 

Wake up late- feel guilty for sleeping-in- read the news- get food- run errands- study (try to)- realize that I need to get food again- watch tv show- get food- study- watch tv show- feel guilty for watching tv shows all day- watch movie- sleep (repeat)  

How has ASA impacted your 4 years here at Columbia?

ASA provided a (relatively) soft landing when I got here as a freshman fresh of the boat. Its where I met many of my good friends here and also served as a springboard that I used to get more involved on campus. The Monday meetings provided a well-needed break from Columbia life which is not very fun at the beginning of the week. 

Tell us about your time serving as a treasurer, what were the highlights? 

The highlights of my time as treasurer were less about the financial successes (yes, we had those) but more about getting to serve on the e-board in general. Its one thing to have strong opinions for or against the manner in which an organization is run, its another to try and reinforce or change said organization. That was an eye-opening experience from me and I would strongly encourage underclassmen to seriously consider running for e-board positions not just in ASA but in other student groups as well.    

What are your best memories of ASA?

The first that comes to mind is the way ASA alumni and current members quickly rallied after Dapo’s passing in order to support one another and honour his memory. The word ‘family’ is used a lot when referring to this group but that was one time when we clearly lived up to that claim. 

Another one that comes to mind is staying up till 4 am after a Monday night ASA meeting some time last year talking with Adwoa, Stephen and other ASA friends. We all had exams, papers and stuff to get done but they were all temporarily put aside for good company and lots of laughter. I paid for it the next morning but it was worth it. 

So what’s next after 116th street? Where should we expect to see you after a decade?

I’ll be headed back home to Kenya after graduation. If all goes well in a decade I will have sold my start-up for $16 billion and built an ‘Iron Man’ suit to fly me around. I will also be planning my presidential campaign, in the final stages of completing my autobiography and my Nobel Prize acceptance speech. 

If plan A doesn’t work out I would settle for anything that keeps me active and engaged.  

What are you going to miss the most about college?

Ummhh… Columbia friends, non-Columbia friends, New York, ASA, spring break, summer break, a meal plan, sleeping-in, New York, 1020, senior night, mafia night, high speed wifi everywhere, Netflix, discounted AMC vouchers, and… did I say New York?    

Any words of advice for the underclassmen? 

Take advantage of all the opportunities that Columbia has to offer- be it studying abroad, applying for funding to do your own research, using CUID to get discounts for Broadway shows etc. Its slowly sinking in that I won’t have any of that after you graduate and I wish I had done more. 

Thank you for all your hard work, Shad, and all the time you devoted to ASA! You have been and forever will be a valued ASA member!!

Senior Spotlight : Oluchi Happiness Okoro

Oluchi Happiness Okoro is a Nigerian senior in the college hailing from Imo State. Raised in Nigeria, Oluchi grew up with a love for her country and people. She extended that passion into Columbia’s African Students Association where she became an active member. She thrived on the cooking scene where ASA was lucky to taste her numerous delicacies. She is a Chemical Engineering major in SEAS. She aspires to work as an Engineer back home.

What initially drew you to ASA?

When I came to Columbia University in 2012, I went to the “Days on Campus” and met Hamed, Efe, and Miriam. I introduced myself and started going to the meetings. The bonding I did with them as well as a few others like Shad, Nana, Emmanuel, and Samantha really pulled me in.

I was also apart of my school’s ASA (at Oberlin) and it was a group that I truly enjoyed being apart of.

What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?

I wouldn’t say “expectations” per se….  but when I first came, the transition was different because this school was big, whereas my other school (Oberlin) was small and had a smaller ASA. It was close knit and so I was wondering how it would be possible to establish a tight community here.

But after a few weeks, I realized that in spite of the big community it was still possible to find true friendships and to find people I “roll with” in ASA.

What is your favorite memory of ASA?

I have multiple… the most recent Mafia Night was one of the best that I’ve had. I was the Mafia and no one could imagine that it would be me! So I actually made it alive until the end without anyone suspecting me! It was fun to be apart of.

I also really enjoyed watching the Ghana vs. Nigeria soccer match in River’s basement and the fact that Nigeria won was of course the highlight!!! *Cheers*

Also cooking together with friends is always fun….. playing music and talking amongst each other was the best way to bond. Even though cooking takes literally the whole day, it’s still a day of laughter and fun! I remember when we were all making meat pie for the first time and we were all clueless, but thank God for the internet and recipes that we could look up and we were able to learn together! These definitely helped create some good memories.

How has ASA impacted your time here?

All of the informative meetings we had weekly really allowed me to become knowledgeable. You get to learn about people’s countries and progress back home without having to rely on what Wikipedia says. A good example is the Technology Meeting we had one Monday about the different technological advancements happening in countries like Ghana and Kenya. It was really eye-opening.

Generally, however, being African here at Columbia and even back at my old school really ingrained in me this common sense of “family” and community. When I first came to the States, I was like “what’s this deal about Individualism?” … like back home it is ALWAYS about the family unit. It’s not “I”, it is “we” … These values only seem to be consistent here in ASA. I could truly appreciate being African and have other people like me in tune with similar ideals that I was raised with.

So during your time here in ASA you have always been a constant chef in the kitchen, preparing numerous delicacies for our ASA events. Please, tell us where did you learn how to cook and what are the secrets to your recipes?

My mom is a very good cook I must say! Like, my uncle would never eat in his house … he would always come to our house to eat every morning … that’s how good of a cook my mother is.

I have gone to boarding school since I was nine up until I was about 16. I remember coming back from boarding school; I was actually on holiday. And you know when you are on holiday from school, you are just chilling and pretty much doing nothing. So when I got home, the first dish my mother had me make was Jollof Rice and ofe Nsala. After cooking it all, I realized that I forgot to add salt to the jollof rice! And you know naaa… you cannot add the salt directly on top because it will taste as if you just added the salt. So when my uncle and mother returned I just played as if everything was alright. I served them the food. My uncle took the first bite and minutes he was like” “Bia Oluchi, itinyekwa nnu na rice nka?” (Translation: Come Oluchi, did you put salt in this rice?) …. *laughs*

I was so ashamed especially when he started comparing me to my cousins in Owerri that could all cook so well. My mom wasn’t too happy with me as well. But, thankfully my ofe Nsala came out better and so I was vindicated through that. From then on out, I found myself cooking more and more and as they say with practice things gets better.

Do you have a favorite African dish?

I’ve fallen in love with Efo ….. and amala …. I grew up in Lagos, although I’m from the East.  So my uncle calls me half Yoruba / half Igbo! I remember when my aunt from Calabar made it for me when I went back home last time and I was practically begging her to make it again. They say it replenishes the blood because of its vegetable content so that’s always a plus!

My other favorite dish is ofe Nsala…. of course that’s from my Igbo side! *chuckles*

Village or City?

Eh! You know naaaa…..I cherish the times when we go to the village!!! My sister thinks I’m weird in that way, because most people prefer the city. But, I think the village is just beautiful…the smell of the fresh air and everything. Having no internet forces you to interact with everyone around you…Nature becomes your best friend in that sense. It’s always fun when going back especially around Christmas time because everyone is back to the village. I can remember my little siblings, till this day, going to the stream and swimming … oh, the memories are priceless! I truly enjoy the village.

If we looked at your iTunes or Spotify list what would probably be the most recent African song you listened to?

“Beautiful Baby” by Bracket ft. Flavour! I am obsessed with this song!!!

Alright! And what’s next for you?

The plan for now is to work in Texas …. but eventually I will be taking the GRE and applying to graduate schools, God willing. 

So you failed to mention wedding bells in this your future plans…. Please tell us if there is anyone special?

I don’t know if there is anyone special…. *laughs hard*. It’s something I’ve just been praying about.  Lol …. You will get an invitation when the time is right though….  *more laughs* 

Any words of wisdom for returning ASA members?

Spend time with people… I made the mistake of waiting till the last few semesters to chill with people. It’s important to be able to interact and be there for people. People say they don’t have the time but if it’s something you really want to do you can make time for it. 

Oluchi, Thank You for your invaluable contribution to ASA! We wish you all the best in the future and can’t wait to see you again!

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT: EFE KAKPOVBIA (CC’14)

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Efe Kakpovbia is an England-born, Canada-raised Naija gal studying Biology/Pre-Medicine in Columbia College here at Columbia University. Efe has served as ASA’s Campus Liaison for the past two years, but has been an active ASAer since her freshman days. Last year, Efe was a Co-Chair for Afropolitan, undoubtedly her favorite show put on by ASA.  

So, how did you hear about ASA? What were your initial thoughts about the group?

Hmm..wow, how did I hear about ASA..? Oh! I think Miriam told me about it, actually. I can’t say I was fully in love with ASA initially haha! But, I definitely fell in love after going to several of the Monday meetings.

Okay, well what drew you back to ASA then?

The people! I just remember the upperclassmen being so welcoming. It was like home. The environment was so open and engaging! Actually, I had never been this interested in my heritage and Nigeria, and even the continent, until I joined ASA.

Awww! Well, do you have any favorite memories with ASA?

Uhh…all the Afropolitans..

I’m sorry— you liked all the Afropolitans?

Haha! Yes! I mean, it was really stressful planning the Afropolitan shows, but it has been among the best, most fun times with ASA. I just loved everyone being together and having fun. But, I also really enjoyed our Senior Sendoff last year; it was really classy, and I think the Seniors enjoyed it.

What do you feel like you’ll take away from ASA beyond Columbia?

Well, I became more engaged in the continent, and it’s made me want to go back to Nigeria! I learned that it’s great to speak your mind on issues and topics that relate to Africa, even if people disagree with you.

So, what are your plans post-graduation!?

Yeah, so I’m really excited! I got a job through the Canadian Embassy to teach in France for 7 months!! I’ll be teaching English 12 hours a week to elementary students.

Any Words of Wisdom for future ASAers?

THINK BIG! The club has grown so much since my freshman year. I know it wouldn’t have grown as much if we didn’t push ourselves to bigger goals every year. Our impact has grown so much on campus and I’m so excited for what ASA will become in the future!! 

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We thank you for your hard work and efforts with ASA, and we wish you all the success in your future endeavors, Efe!! We know you will spread the ASA love to your soon-to-be students in France :) 

SENIOR SPOTLIGHT : MIRIAM AGYAKOMAH MAAME YAA KWARTENG­-SIAW (CC’14)

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Miriam Agyakomah Maame Yaa Kwarteng-Siaw is a Ghanaian-born senior in the college. Raised partly in Ghana and Texas, Miriam grew up with a love for her country and people. She is a Biochemistry major and Pre-Med. Miriam has been an active and passionate member of ASA from day one of  Freshman year as one of the two Freshmen Representatives. She has served as Secretary of ASA (2011-2012) and President of ASA (2012-2013). She was also a Co-Chair for ASA’s major showcase, Afropolitan in 2013. She aspires to be a Medical Doctor and eventually take her skills back to Ghana.

What initially drew you to ASA?

I came on campus searching for ASA even before the first meeting. This is because growing up in Ghana and then in Texas, I had always been surrounded by Ghanaians and people of African descent and when coming to Columbia I didn’t know if there would be enough people who identified as Ghanaian or African. As a result, I made sure to find that safe space in ASA. I found my niche in ASA with the people I connected with like the sophomores and seniors at that time. Undoubtedly, the people kept bringing me back.  

What were your expectations of the club? Were they met?

I wanted people to understand me as a Ghanaian because this is something I didn’t really have in high school. These expectations were definitely met. I also wanted to learn more about Africa and my personal country because I didn’t have substantial intellectual knowledge about the place. This was met through weekly discussions, political roundtables, and also through Afropolitan cultural performances.

So you have clearly held a lot of positions in ASA, how were you able to juggle that with Gospel Choir?

Hmmm…. that’s a good question. I have had people ask me this in the past. I think that learning how to prioritize: knowing what needs to be done at an exact moment and knowing what comes first is how I juggled multiple things.  Also having a passion for everything I was involved in helped me execute them well; it prevented those things from becoming a chore. It helped me balance everything so that things did not crumble in the midst of the chaos.

What is your favorite memory of ASA?

Pick one!? Ay! ….

LOL…Okay top three then….

1. Weekly Introductions….. appreciate knowing what people are doing and where people are from. It also let’s freshmen know people by connecting a name to a face.  

2. Spade Tournaments (Card playing) …. I’m not sure if this is still done, but it’s one of my favorite things. You know now!… Africans and their gloating and things like that…. *laughs*

3. “Voices Unheard: Liberia” was also one of my favourites as well as the “Voices Unheard: Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya” too!

4. Also I cannot forget,  Afropolitan…eh… too many memories.

How has ASA impacted your time here?

Definitely the connections; making friends …… if I start to name some names we will be here for ever… and then if I forget someone’s name, I will be in trouble…(you know Africans!) *laughter*

But ASA is more than just connections it’s also a support network…. to be honest there are some aspects of school that are miserable without that kind of support. ASA has saved me from the sometimes overbearing stress.

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Miriam and Oluchi Okoro enjoying the Nigerian Independence Day Parade!

Fufu or Jollof Rice?

Oh my sista!  Fufu now….! Jollof rice is Rice and rice  is everywhere; you can get some form of rice at John Jay or Hewitt ….. but Fufu is special oooo; moreover John Jay will not give me Fufu!  

So yes, Fufu all the way, and it must be with Peanut Butter soup…

Modern or Traditional Highlife?

While I can appreciate the modern/contemporary jams….  I am more of the old skool type. I get down with the old skool …. and you know now, it’s usually with my one and only: Ginikannwa Ezeude….. *hysterical laughter*  

So in your description you mentioned that you were Pre-Med, and I know you just took the MCATS, how was the experience?

The exam….. study hard! *laughs*

But no seriously, you have to stay organized in your studies. Review the material from your classes, start ahead of time and be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit to studying throughout the week or in a month, or whatever time frame you’ve given yourself.

With regard to general advice about pre-med life at Columbia: be pro-active….. we have a good support network…. but you have to go to them and do your own research and be direct in what you want here at Columbia.

Alright! And what’s next for you? Is Med school directly next year or time off?

The plan was originally to go to Med School straight when I came to Columbia… but plans change; so I’m taking a gap year after graduation. I’m looking into research in immunology and neuroscience. I have a couple of interviews lined up, so hopefully one of them works out. Then after a year, Med School….. then by God’s grace, I will be a physician and make my way back to Ghana.

So you failed to mention wedding bells in this your future plans…. Please tell us if there is anyone special?

(shy) No….. *side wink* ….

Any words of wisdom for returning ASA members?

Stay connected! There are times when things get stressful and it’s hard to do it on your own; its good to have other people supporting you…. stay connected always…. Even if it’s not amongst ASA, just have two or three friends you can turn to and keep in touch with.

Be optimistic and positive about your experience here at Columbia. Even though it may not always look too exciting or fun, just know that you never know who you will run into and something good may come out of things unexpectedly.

Also take advantage of being in the city more, go out more because after four years it becomes sad when you realize that you don’t know as much about the city as you would have liked.

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Miriam, Thank You for your service to ASA over the years! We wish you the best of luck in the future and hope to see you again SOON!!