You step into a room and you feel this realization that you are not home, but you’re in the one place that can remind you of it. This was the atmosphere at the University of Southern Mississippi, African-Caribbean Society Night. Diversity in the diaspora.
Traditional attires, natural hairstyles, dark and darker skin tones, African flags, African print table place mats, well, americanized accents here and there but sprinkled with the occasional slip into Yoruba, Igbo, Caribbean tones…
There’s music playing in the background. You may not know that song, but the beat may not be too strange. But, even if it also is, you soon find yourself bobbing your head, tapping your feet, swaying a little to the left, music moving molecules within you beyond your control. You see familiar faces shielded with masks and make eye contact with other unknown familiar strangers. Greetings. Introductions. Smiles and hugs.
Then, program begins and the group is split into two teams to answer questions about music, culture, facts on African and Caribbean countries and islands. Truth is, even the lady who set up the questions probably didn’t know those answers till she was setting them up. It is apparent that we won’t assume ourselves knowledgeable on all the countries involved in the trivia. But, we would try. And have fun. And learn.
Hey, my team got a question: largest city in Africa in terms of population. Lagos would not forgive me if I had let her down. Those yellow buses and red BRTs would have screamed bloody murder.
The other team kept picking questions on country borders. I envied them not.
Soon enough, plates of food were floating our way. Mashed potatoes, chicken, cute little pies and drinks. I didn’t get a picture but, you best believe that meal was baptized African and Caribbean because we said so. The chicken I got was ready to drag my table manners off of my hands and toss ’em into the nearest trash can but I valiantly fought. Till I fought no more, laid down my cutlery and gave my hands the way.
While we ate, a movie was played, “My Wife and I”. The moment they exchanged bodies, things got a bit more interesting. The scriptwriter took, “walk in my shoes” literal and while we could not finish watching the movie, we hoped the out of own body experience gave the couple the needed sense to make things right again. If not, premier gaou.
This fine guy with a beautiful voice from our team sang, his Caribbean counterpart from the other team also did a Karaoke that got most people singing along and a newly formed third team gave a karaoke/dance performance that one of the judges called a “murder”. Infer from that what you may.
Then the executives performed karaokes of “The Best” and “Fem”. They killed it. They did great and ushered in the ‘dance dance dance’ section of the night.
I can’t give a full list of the songs but, there was dancing. DANCING. My fellow dorm-ite, natural hair gang petite friend was at the center of the almost unending choreogrpahies put in. My other fair-skinned Nigerian who came with a cute pixie wig and almost convinced me to put on a traditional wear, gave such mesmerizing dance steps and filled my phone with pictures of her. It was electrifying and contagious.
Even this author, known to be a sit-best-dancer, was able to find some steps while on her feet. Glory! The energy of the beautiful sisters could not be missed. Their exuberant dances and cheer-filled moves brought smiles and laughter here and there. And, you know how there are those songs or parts of songs that gets everyone leaving everything just to participate in? Yeah, we had those. I have no recollection of any one song that had no dancers/dance moves. And we had them in different languages.
We formed trains, danced round tables, made videos and took pictures in front of and with our country flags. It so happens that the picture below has me looking away from the camera. I was trying to ‘help’ a sister whose height was not up to mine and was refusing to move to the front that would get her a spot in the picture.
It was hard to not get to know each person in that room as family. The University of Southern Mississippi prides herself in the diversity of her student population and while it is often assumed that this would bring integration and inclusivity, this is not often the case. And the pandemic has not made things any better. But, this night? This night was a spotlight of all nights!
Of course, it would have been better and much more fun if every international student captured by the African/Caribbean description showed up. But, exams are imminent, Covid is still in town and, there are more nights to come.
Well, I got an extra can of Fanta.
I would endeavor to get the general pictures and videos and share them with y’all.