Students celebrate African Night at the Ohio Union Nov. 17 2018. Credit: Courtesy of Akwi Anyangwe

African and African American students are coming together this weekend to commemorate their culture and heritage at an annual blowout.

The African Youth League is hosting its annual African Night Saturday at the Ohio Union. The regionwide cultural celebration provides a platform for diverse expression among alumni, current students and faculty, as well as other Midwestern African student associations, according to the AYL website.

African Night is dedicated to celebrating different cultures by highlighting African dance, song, spoken word, poetry, a fashion show and a play, Akwi Anyangwe, a fourth-year in biological engineering and president of AYL, said.

Anyangwe said the theme, “New Beginning,” represents the integration of first-generation Africans and African Americans to show they have the educational and political power to make substantial change for Africa.

“African Night’s purpose is to show the diversity of Africa because it is the most diverse continent,” Anyangwe said. “I would like to stray away from the stereotypes that all Africans are poor, dirty or impoverished. I want to celebrate the richness in our cultures.”

Anyangwe said this year’s African Night differs from previous years because no explanation used to be given behind the meaning of the performances. She said that this year, there will be a voice-over explaining the theme to the audience and what each performance portrays.

The event will be hosted by Chief Obi, an internet comedian who rose to fame creating skits of a stereotypical African father on Vine, Instagram and YouTube, Anyangwe said.

Anyangwe said there will be local vendors selling their clothing, such as Fante Gold and Ankara Fashion Place, and designers in the fashion show will showcase their brands, such as Creme Designs and Vees Collection.

AYL has been planning this event for six months and held auditions for Ohio State students and local artists interested in performing, Anyganwe said.

Steven Thomas, a third-year in English and member of AYL, auditioned and said he will participate in the fashion show and perform poetry.

“I decided to do something different. I will be reflecting on myself and who I am as a black boy, becoming a black man,” Thomas said. “I feel like it will fit into African and African American culture because although I don’t know my roots and specific country of origin, we’re all still black.”

Thomas said African Night bridges the gap between African and African American students, who make up only 6 percent of Ohio State’s population. He said it shows that there is still a sense of community.

Anyangwe said the event’s 1,500 free tickets sold out two days after their release. She said students who were not able to receive a ticket can still enter, but are not guaranteed a seat.

African Night will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Ohio Union Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom. Doors open at 6 p.m.