CAS Newsletter 19-20

bkm6623

the center

for african

studies

energy

2019 – 2020 newsletter

volume 7

hope

oasis

connection


This newsletter

is dedicated to

Norah Borus,

who loved our

community

with her

whole heart.

At CAS

I love

and I

am loved

~ Norah B.

1


DIRECTOR’S NOTE

These are difficult times.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has of course been a

challenge for the whole world. Like other academic programs, at

Stanford and beyond, CAS has been abruptly confronted with a

distressing and disrupting set of new conditions and uncertainties.

All of our normal academic activities, as well as the face-toface

social relations that normally sustain our community, have

been suspended or put into question, creating intractable

problems for many of us, especially our many international

students. But our CAS community has risen to meet the challenges

posed by COVID’s disruptions. In spite of the unexpected

complications and disturbances of the last few months, I can

report that this past year has been a time of formidable transformation,

growth, and accomplishment for the Center.

We began the year with a physical move, transplanting the whole

CAS operation to our new space in Encina Commons. Such a

transition is hard for any organization, and I am very grateful to

CAS staff, students, and faculty for the cooperation and positive

attitude that made the move such a success. Now that we are

settled in, the new space has come to life, and it is clear that it will

be a warm and nurturing home for the vibrant community life

that has long been the hallmark of the CAS experience.

One of the most painful features of the COVID-19 attack on our

way of life has been its power to undermine relations of human

attachment and community by rendering dangerous the

physical proximity that we used to take for granted. But in

the face of this attack, our CAS community has been

resilient and quick to adapt. Under the inspired

leadership of Associate Director Laura Hubbard,

CAS has managed to offer a continuing flow of

virtual events that have kept our community

energy alive, events that have in

recent weeks included a virtual

photo exhibit, a series in honor of

African languages, and two

events dedicated to a

virtual celebration of

our CAS seniors.

We are also

enormously energized

and excited by a

stunning set of recent

faculty appointments, which

gives our program tremendous

new momentum and a sense of

possibilities for the years to come. In just

the last couple of years, we have added

Gabrielle Hecht and Joel Cabrita in history,

while in comparative literature, our own

Fatoumata Seck triumphantly returns to us in a

faculty role, after receiving her Ph.D. here at Stanford in

2016. Meanwhile, in the Department of English, we are

proud to have added Ato Quayson — not only a stellar scholar

but an acknowledged national and international leader of the

African Studies field, as shown most recently in his election as

President of the African Studies Association. And most recently

the good news continues, as we are joined by Sarah Derbew,

taking up a new assistant professor position in classics..

Finally, this year marks the end of my three-year term as Director

of the Center. I am grateful to all the help I have gotten in

fulfilling this role — from students, from faculty, and especially

from the terrific CAS staff, who have made the job a real pleasure.

Going forward, I feel entirely confident in CAS’s future, as I

will be leaving it in the best of hands: I am delighted to be able to

announce that Joel Cabrita has agreed to serve as the new

Director of the Center. I know she will do a terrific job, and I

am very happy for both her and the Center. Looking to

the future, I can only wish her, and the whole CAS

community, every success, and more great things

in the years to come.

— Dr. James Ferguson

2


TABLE OF CONTENTS

04

05

08

02

04

05

08

Director’s Note

Student Welcome

Faculty Spotlight

CAS Visiting Scholar Turns

Hope into Action Across the

Globe

09

11

Celebrating Africa Table

CAS Graduate Students and

Funding

10

13

13

14

15

16

18

The Power of Shifting Frames

How CAS Transforms the

Student Experience

Cookin’ It Up Event Highlights

Senior Reflections

Alone, Together: Virtual CAS &

The Student Photo Exhibit

16

18

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION

Director

James Ferguson

Associate Director

Laura Hubbard

Program Coordinator &

Publishing Manager

Brenda Mutuma

Graphic Designer

Julie Tatsukawa

CAS Program Associates

Isi Umunna

Bethel Bayrau

Thierry Uwase

Samuel Mensah

Zoe Mhungu

Auwa Buahin

Ken Nturibi

Dumisile Mphamba

Bena Habtamu

Carolyn Asante Dartey

Arafat Mohammed

Nour Aissaoui

3


STUDENT WELCOME

BY SHIRLEY MULUMBI

The first time I stepped foot in CAS I was hungry.

I’d just missed dinner at Stern and I remembered seeing an

email about an event that had “food from the continent”.

That’s literally what I typed into my outlook search bar in order

to get the address, Encina Commons. Funny enough, there was

food at CAS for my first Frames class. Pizza and wings. I

remember looking around and seeing that most of the students

were black. I heard a few accents that I didn’t recognize,

but the fact that I’d actually heard someone other than me

speak in an accent excited me. Before that moment I had never

thought about how much of a toil such small things took on

me, and how comforting it was to realize that I had less parts of

myself to be conscious about in this class.

The most magical moment for me, however, happened at the

end of that class. At 8:30, I expected everyone to stand up and

leave, and maybe for the few people who knew each other to

huddle up and start talking amongst themselves. Everyone did

immediately get up, but for completely different reasons. I saw

strangers smiling at each other, and students helping to

rearrange CAS to its original state. I saw Laura and the TA’s

joking with some of my classmates, and one of the TAs even

came up to me to strike a conversation. I’d never experienced

such care from strangers, so I had my guard up the whole time.

After this first lesson came an avalanche of CAS. I found myself

sticking around after every class, just to listen to the Afrobeats

playing on the TV or to socialize and meet new people. I didn’t

know that CAS had student staff, but whenever I’d walk in,

there was always someone saying hi to me, asking me how my

day was. The CAS photoshoot was the first time I got in a

proper conversation with an upperclassman. The cookout was

the first time I engaged in a community event at Stanford,

where giving to a larger community felt more important than

how tired I was. CAS FACES helped me realize that everyone

around me had a story and things they battled with, which

made me a lot braver in the face of my own obstacles, academically

and emotionally. The talks I had with Laura Hubbard

made me start realizing who I am with all my flaws and

successes, and brought me a long way in self-love and

acceptance.

Within those four walls I got a space to be myself and a

community that cared more for me than I could ever know. I

got friends that love and inspire me…I got a family, I got love.

CAS is the spirit of selflessness that lives inside everyone who

has walked in and sat on those couches, and even in those who

haven’t yet been to Encina Commons but are destined to be

there. CAS is the nights we spent crying together, and the

victories we celebrated as if they were our own. CAS is family,

and I invite you all to genuinely and vulnerably engage with this

family at least once in your time at Stanford, because I promise

you, it won’t be the last time.

4


FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

CAS WISHES PROFESSOR

JOEL SAMOFF A HAPPY

RETIREMENT

BY NESRINE MBAREK

To the professor who guided me through a new

way of understanding interlocked dynamics,

between immigration, colonialism, feminism, &

education

To the adviser who listened to an overwhelmed

discouraged freshman, offering unwavering support

and encouragement

To the mentor who rigorously taught me to challenge

power & the global order, to serve my community & make

more people live in dignity

To the friend of my family & my country. To my friend

My deepest respect, gratitude, & admiration to you, Joel.

CAS WELCOMES NEW DIRECTOR, JOEL CABRITA

BY CHEPCHIRCHIR TIROP

Professor Joel Cabrita joined the CAS family in 2018 as a professor of African

history. Prior to joining Stanford, she taught at the University of Cambridge and

SOAS (University of London). Her research is at the intersection of gender,

religion, and media in sub-Saharan Africa. She is currently working on a

biography of Regina Twala (1908-1968), a feminist and political activist from

her home country of Eswatini.

But Cabrita brings more than intellectual expertise to CAS. She is passionate

about community and providing a platform for scholars to exchange

ideas and build relationships. I had the pleasure of working closely with

her in planning a conference on religion and media in Africa in winter

2020. I was inspired by her meticulous planning and her intentionality

in drafting the program. Even when the conference was drastically

affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Cabrita

quickly adapted to the situation, ultimately hosting a different

version of the event. It is this kind of innovative spirit and

flexibility that Professor Cabrita brings to the classroom and

in her advising. She cares about students’ interests and

helps them communicate their ideas, always centering

their humanity. I am excited to continue working with her.

5


DR. SECK’S REFLECTIVE RETURN TO STANFORD

Dr. Fatoumata Seck is not only a CAS alumna, but one of

Stanford’s newest faculty members in interdisciplinary

studies. Specializing in francophone African and Caribbean

studies with an emphasis on cultural, economic, and

diaspora studies, her research brings together literary

criticism, anthropological theory, and various approaches to

materialism to investigate the impact of economic thought

and process in Senegalese works of fiction. “I work on

culture and political economy. I look at a writer’s commentary

on economic transformation in post-colonial Senegal:

what really happened and then what writers thought about

what happened. These writers developed very interesting

aesthetic strategies that I’m articulating in my work, trying to

understand how those strategies help us better understand

the complex transformation their society underwent,” she

said. When asked about how she arrived at such a topic, she

spoke about CAS’ influence. “If it wasn’t for the interdisciplinary

environment that CAS fostered, I don’t think I would’ve

arrived at this idea. CAS has this great environment where

students from different disciplines can sit together and think

about life, history, or really anything regarding Africa… and

when you have so many different perspectives around the

‘same thing’ and you learn what each discipline could bring

to the table…it’s literally what inspired me to start working

on this project.”

Dr. Seck went on to become a Susan Ford Dorsey Fellow,

traveling to Senegal to conduct her research, and later

landing a professorship at the City University of New York.

Despite her success abroad, however, she did miss what she

discovered at Stanford. “When I saw an opening in my field at

Stanford, I couldn’t resist. Since I’m working with so many

disciplines, it’s very important to have a campus where I can

go from anthropology, to literature, to cultural studies, back

to linguistics and so forth. The creativity and the spirit of

innovation in this area is contagious. On top of that, CAS is

that one place where people can actually convene, sit down,

and really spend quality time together, not just time to sit in

your corner, but time to have an exchange. One day I’m

talking to students from engineering and computer science,

and the next, history, literature, and linguistics. It’s a great

microcosm for students and faculty members alike. This

environment was very conducive to the making of my

research project a few years ago, so it’s exciting to come

back as I’m in the midst of turning it into a book.”

Literature Cultures and Languages (DLCL) and the Center

for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (CSRE),

she embraces the ways CAS will continue to support

her work. “It’s exciting to be back at CAS—not just a

community, but an intellectual community as well.

There are informal gatherings, where you can just

sit down and have a cup of tea to talk about life,

but also formal ones where we have our own

intellectual inquiries answered and engaged

with. It’s a place where you don’t just go for a

conference, you go to hear what people are

interested in, what people are thinking

about these days, to check the pulse of

the undergraduate population on

campus.

“We should definitely find ways to

grow and keep the program alive

because it is so important for this

place to exist inside the university.

Especially in the current

climate, it’s good to have a

center where people feel

comfortable speaking,

learning, and sharing,

where students have

physical, intellectual,

and emotional space

to exist on campus.”

Dr. Seck’s classes cut across various geographical areas and

linguistic traditions (Wolof, French, English, Spanish and

Portuguese) informed by critical theory on race, gender,

and ethnicity. While teaching in Stanford’s Division of

6


CAS VISITING SCHOLAR

TURNS HOPE INTO ACTION

ACROSS THE GLOBE

In April of 2019, visiting scholar and Ugandan human rights

attorney Nicholas Opiyo delivered a keynote address that left

Stanford Global Studies students, staff, and faculty inspired.

Speaking on what it means to do good work under an autocratic

government, Opiyo demonstrated ways to keep hope alive in

times of darkness.

Raised in northern Uganda at the height of the brutal conflict

between the government and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance

Army (LRA), Opiyo was surrounded by senseless violence,

watching the rights of his family and community members

violated at the hands of the rebel group and the Ugandan

government. “Living in a warzone meant that I was a witness to

grave cases of human rights violations. My own siblings were

abducted and spent years in the rebel ranks,” he shared.

The war introduced gruesome murder, sex trafficking, and mass

displacement across his community. “During the war, there were

what was called ‘night commuters,’ young children who walked

more than five miles every day to sleep in open public spaces to

avoid being abducted by the LRA. For many years, I was a night

commuter. Like all children at the time in the region, I lived trying

to avoid abduction by the rebel group while also trying to study

and compete with children in other parts of the country where it

was peaceful.”

Despite his harsh environment, Opiyo found hope as he was

introduced to a world outside of Uganda through the radio. “My

father’s way of teaching me English was to make me listen to the

BBC. When I listened to the radio, the things I heard happening

in other parts of the world were quite different from my lived

experiences. That sent me on a journey to search for what I could

do to make my life better.” Initially wanting to be a journalist, he

later found a trade that promised more than just the hope of

being heard: law.

“I found myself gravitating toward law school,” he explained, “I

had the resolve that I should use my law degree and my skills as

a lawyer to defend the rights of vulnerable people in my country.”

And over a 15-year period, Opiyo grew to be that person,

becoming an attorney, and founding Chapter Four Uganda, a

human rights organization that provides legal services for social

media activists, members of the LGBTQ community, and

Ugandans facing persecution. His tireless efforts for freedom

and justice helped his organization play key roles in successfully

challenging Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014,

and initiating laws that criminalized torture.

Encouraging the use of collaborative, non-violent, and honest

civic participation, he sees hope for the future of Uganda. “In this

broken system, there are moments of brightness…individuals in

the system that will do what is right, sometimes at a huge

expense…they keep me going.” He explained that regardless of

the tumultuous nature of politics in Uganda, “we still see the four

walls of the courthouse…as a springboard of what we can do for

this country.”

7

At Stanford, Opiyo continues to conduct his research on the

impact of foreign funding in Uganda and the reform of criminal

justice methods by government officials against the LGBTI

community, letting students know that they are equally capable

of creating more promising futures for others across the globe. “I

would like to show the interconnectedness of our struggles and

to inspire the community and students to use their privileged

positions in the Silicon Valley to impact lives around the world,

perhaps in much the same way that I am trying to do.”


FOR THE LOVE OF LANGUAGE

Every May CAS holds an African Languages and Cultures

Night, celebrating the selection African languages taught

on campus, from Amharic to Zulu. Additional languages

such as Hausa,Tigrigna, Igbo, Zulu, Kinyarwanda, and

Swahili are also offered upon request.

Normally, Stanford students taking African language

courses gather to perform in front of an audience with

over 100 attendees, for our annual African Languages

and Cultures Night. This year, however, CAS celebrated

virtually, creating a e-Zine of the community’s favorite

songs, stories and works from the continent. Visit the

CAS website to check out the catalogues!

“Twi gave me a new family at Stanford. It also

gave me the chance to meet Professor

Nkansah who taught me a lot of History

about Twi. I believe Twi can help my

conversations with strangers in the future,

because language unites people. I intend

to take many more Twi classes at

Stanford.”

— Clinton Kwarteng

8


AFRICA TABLE SPOTLIGHTS

Africa Table is a dynamic weekly series that has been a part of CAS culture for over 30 years. Attracting hundreds of participants each

year, Africa Table connects CAS students, alumni, and the surrounding Stanford community to high-ranking officials and experts in their

fields of study as they highlight the academic, political, and social issues of the continent. This year, John Knight Fellow Monturayo Alaka

and a history Ph.D. candidate Liz Jacob gifted Africa Table with their works. Here are some of their views on presenting at Africa Table.

HOW DO WE REPORT AFRICA UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS?

Motunrayo Alaka began her Africa Table

presentation with this question, amidst what

she referred to as a ‘30-year notice.’

Explaining that the continent would reach a

population of 4 billion by 2020, Alaka tied the

wealth, infrastructural development, and

overall success of the continent to how

strategically the media collaborated with

civil society to attain true democracy. “The

implementation of law, and the state of

dignity or indignity for the African person is

often determined by politics. Politics

determines policy directions that drive a

country’s quality of education, health,

agriculture, technology, economy, security

and more.” With Nigeria’s general election in

2019, with the lowest participation rate the

country has ever seen, Alaka argues that “the

media is positioned as the lead agent

of change,” being the potential

watchdog of government against

mistrust by the people. “Journalism

is central to democracy. A strong,

independent media is an instrument

of transparency and accountability

and a critical lever for combating

corruption, human rights abuses,

and regulatory failures at all levels.”

In September, Alaka started Report

Until Something Happens (RUSH,) an

initiative that calls for reporting on

an issue until it generates public

interest, putting the government and

other authorities under pressure to

respond. Already the CEO of Wole

Soyinka Centre for Investigative

Journalism in Nigeria, she plans to

use her platform and to continue

building her vast network of journalists

to foster an in-depth, issue-focused,

facts-based media strategy

enabled by story follow-up advocacy,

continuous engagement, social

media, and technology. “I am open

to collaborations across disciplines

and borderlines that seek to solve

the challenges on the African

continent and ensure that the

people’s rights are upheld.”

AFRICA TABLE FAVORITES

Kenyan Feminisms in the Digital Age

Nanjala Nyabola

March 6, 2019

9

Who Gets In and Why? Race, Class, and

Aspiration in South Africa’s

Elite Schools

Dr. Jonathan Jansen & Samantha Kriger

April 17, 2019

How does Social Change Happen?

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro

May 8, 2019


SEXUAL INSULT AND FEMALE MILITANCY IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE

Liz Jacob gave an incredible presentation on the Adjanou, a female militancy ritual

of the Baule women in Côte d’Ivoire. “In times of crisis, women strip naked, coat

themselves in kaolin clay, and sing and dance to exorcize malevolent spirits from

their communities. Gesturing to their genitals as they pound their pestles into the

ground, they point unambiguously to the source of their spiritual power: their

status as mothers,” she shared. Jacob explained that, over the course of the 20th

century, these women drew on their maternal moral authority in moments of social

crisis to affect change in their communities. “Because they are bringers of life, these

women remind wrongdoers that they also have the power to take it away. From a

disrespectful husband to an unscrupulous government administration, no one is

immune to women’s rebuke.”

Jacob’s research revealed how the Adjanou has equipped Baule women with a

unique, enduring language that often translates into public action, despite the ways

it has become endangered over time. “Dancers of Adjanou are not absent from

Ivoirian politics today. Already, party officials have solicited them to pledge their

support to the PDCI’s 2020 electoral campaign. Communities throughout Côte

d’Ivoire continue to fear and revere the spiritual power of Adjanou. But while

Adjanou is a vital performance of women’s authority, it is important to avoid

romanticizing women’s bodies as sites of power. With conversion to Christianity,

the practice of Adjanou has become increasingly rare. Though not hostile to the

practice, many view it as the domain of their grandmothers and choose not to

engage in the ritual. Does this mean that women have relinquished their claim to

political and moral authority in their communities? Of course not. For many Ivoirian

women today, ‘traditional’ practices like Adjanou exist along a spectrum that also

includes ‘modern’ modes of public critique like party politics and grassroots

organizing.”

When asked about her experience presenting at Africa Table and being a part of the

CAS community, she praised the way community members engage her work.

“Those who attended my talk asked thoughtful, yet rigorous questions. It feels

good to be pushed to think more critically by a community of people who genuinely

care about you and want your research to be the best it can be.” Hoping to

share her knowledge teaching history at a university after completing her doctorate,

she is grateful for the direction CAS has taken her work. “Research doesn’t

happen in a vacuum. The materials I’ve gathered on lonely days at the archive only

take on meaning when shared with friends and colleagues. When discussed with a

fellow Africanist over coffee, a one-off archival curiosity can transform into the

basis of an article or dissertation chapter. CAS creates the social world that fuels

my intellectual life. My work wouldn’t exist without it.”

Facebook’s Free Basics and Digital

Civil Society in Africa

Dr. Toussaint Nothias

May 29, 2019

Catastrophizing Politics and

Revolutionary Movements: A View

from Algeria

Dr. Thomas Serres

January 29, 2020

Namibia: A Success Story of a

Developing Nation

Justice Hosea Angula

February 12, 2020

10


CAS GRADUATE STUDENTS AND FUNDING

Anna Kimmel

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019)

Location: Algiers, Algeria

Wallace Teska

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019)

Dakar, Senegal

Jitka Hiscox

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019)

Location: Kampala, Uganda

Nic Lyons

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019)

Location:Nairobi, Kenya

Liz Jacob

Susan Ford Dorsey (2019)

Location: Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Eric Brubaker

Research and Language

Fellowship (2018)

Location: Arusha, Tanzania

Latifah Hamzah

Research and Language

Fellowship (2020)

Location: Kumasi, Ghana

Abisola Kusimo

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019

Location: Accra, Ghana

Stefania Manfio

Research and Language

Fellowship (2019)

Location: Mauritius

Jasmine Reid

Research and Language

Fellowship (2018)

Location: Johannesburg,

South Africa

Josheena Naggea

Research and Language

Fellowship (2018)

Location: Mauritius and

Rodrigues

11


KRISTEN WILSON

Thanks to the generous Ford Dorsey grant and the supportive infrastructure at CAS,

I have been able to make great strides with the dissertation process. My project,

“Defining The Yorùbá Body: Articulating The Practice Of Egbogi As Embodied

Epistemology” interrogates materiality and the power dynamics inherent to

wellbeing especially as they pertain to social relations. So far, I have been able to

clearly elucidate indigenous notions of embodiment with respect to the eminence

ascribed to balance within Yorùbá cosmology. Additionally, despite the uncertainty

with continuing my research funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been

motivated to organize COVID-19 relief efforts for the worst afflicted communities

here in Nigeria where I was doing field research.

The reality is that, in practice, indigenous therapeutic strategies still occupy a niche

role within many communities around the world, even if their potential benefits for

public welfare and the healthcare industry have yet to be realized responsibly and

strategically. Traditional therapeutic practices are not reducible to the sum of their

parts because strategies of care are nurtured in communities and embedded in

individual psyches in ways that invalidate racialized and/or colonial histories. This

work takes indigenous therapeutic strategies seriously, making clear what they have

to offer those who wish to provide care successfully to the whole human being.

OSEI BOAKYE

I don’t think I can express in enough words how pivotal of a role

CAS played in the formulation of my dissertation, both in terms of

financial and emotional support. CAS asked of me not what I

knew of Africa but what I wanted the rest of the world to know

about the continent; and to that end, it admirably provided me

the tools and space to provide an answer to that question. CAS is

the window that many at Stanford get to view Africa, and for that I

am proud to be forever affiliated with this awesome institution.

I’m a historian and I did my field research in Ghana. My dissertation

is titled “Beggard Nation: An Economic History of Ghana,

1946-1976.” As for what I hope the reader gets? I hope the reader

takes away the notion that the current state of affairs in Africa is

directly linked to its colonial legacy but at the same time, the

actors are more diverse than most imagine.

AFRICAN STUDIES FELLOWSHIPS

Susan Ford Dorsey Fellowship for Field Research in Africa

The African Service Fellowship

The Summer Research and Language Fellowship

12


THE POWER OF SHIFTING FRAMES

“Frames is a novelty and

necessity in the current

campus and global

climate, as it centers

topics and questions that

students are interested in.

This kind of student-

driven, peer learning cuts

across all majors and

classes, centering voices

often at the periphery.”

— Isi Umunna

Shifting Frames (AFRICAST 195)

is a student driven, dialogue

based, and intellectual community-focused

course, exploring

and challenging the taken-forgranted

framing of key African

issues and debates. “Frames is

an experience and a hope,”

explains Dr. Laura Hubbard,

Associate Director of CAS, “a

possibility of rethinking how

voice and representation work in

the learning environment.” A rare

gem in the thousands of courses

at Stanford, Shifting Frames

“shows that it is completely

possible for folks to learn to

de-center their voices or to bring

their voices forward and to feel

like they are learning, and in a

genuine environment.”

“Frames allow us to build a

strong community that lasts

beyond Stanford. It is an

important space that brings

African-centered voices from

various backgrounds. It might be

the only space where folks in

different academic disciplines

with a common interest in the

continent meet to rekindle their

fire and interests while exchanging

knowledge at the same time.”

— Thierry Uwase

13


HOW CAS TRANSFORMS THE

STUDENT EXPERIENCE

BY DUMISILE MPHAMBA

In Fall quarter of freshman year, I had no friends. I didn’t

understand any of my frosh dorm-mates’ pop culture

references. And I hated dining hall food. On a Wednesday

morning in November, I woke up to news that my hometown

was flooded with military tanks. Zimbabwe was

experiencing a coup d’etat. I was terrified about what

would happen to my family. I remember being too

distraught to attend my math lecture and I barely

made it to PWR that day. Eventually, I realized I

needed to talk to someone.

After ruling out my American RAs and dreading

the long wait time at CAPS, I remembered how

Zimbabwean seniors at Stanford had told me

about a place called the Center for African

Studies. I sent the center an email to say I

needed to talk to someone and, figuring

that it would take too long to get a response, I marched over to Encina Commons. The distress

on my face must have been obvious because, from the moment I walked into the door, Ariane,

Isi and Valdes (all staff members at CAS) welcomed me and I collapsed into a puddle of tears

in their arms. That is how I discovered CAS - and it was the first time I’d felt at home since

coming to Stanford.

Since then, I have worked as a student programs assistant at CAS, and it has transformed

my Stanford experience. Through working with Laura and the student staff, I

see how the team commits to identifying community needs, sharing innovative event

ideas, and laboring to make our dream of a healthy CAS community a reality. From

large events like the photo shoot and cooking event to smaller ones like Faces of

the African Community and kickbacks every few weeks, I see the power of

opening space for people to forge relationships and find a sense of home with

each other. I remember being especially touched when I learned of the

long-standing Frosh Care Packages tradition in CAS. The week before finals,

upperclassmen package personalized notes of encouragement and jars of

treats, and deliver them to every single CAS frosh. Being African and/or an

international student at Stanford can be an incredibly isolating experience;

CAS works to provide a support network for each person to thrive

and feel like they belong.

I was recently struck by the realization of how deep the CAS community

runs. The staff tirelessly organized a virtual photo exhibit in lieu

of the usual in-person event. At the end, people lingered on the

Zoom call for almost an hour to talk about how CAS was the first

place at Stanford that made them feel seen. I was transported

back to that day in 2017 when I first discovered CAS - the place

that has now become my rock and the anchor for many other

students like me at Stanford. In CAS, I and many others find

nourishing for our mental health, sharpening of our

intellectual vitality, and celebration of our full selves.

14


COOKIN’ IT UP EVENT HIGHLIGHTS

At this year’s annual CAS X SASA Cooking Event, Cookin’ It Up, nearly 200 students, parents and Stanford community members

gathered to cook and share their favorite meals together. With good food, prepared in the presence of warm company and great

music, this event succeeded in capturing what a hub CAS is for learning, sharing, and support.

“To me, the cooking event is a communal endeavor in

love where we all come together in kitchens to cut,

chop, boil, fry and clean together. I love Ghanaian

food, and it gives me joy to introduce other people to

some of the dishes (they are spicy!) It is always a

refreshing time in the community as we laugh and

dance to booming music across the kitchens and hug

each other as we stand in line to get food.”

— Samuel Mensah

“The cooking event is one of the most

beautiful times of the year when I see and

feel how embracing everyone in our

community is. From putting hearts into their

dishes, to keeping the kitchen on fire with

dance moves, to helping each other out in

whatever we need, everyone plays a part in

making every minute of the cooking event

magical. This event not only brings us all

together to have fun cooking and feasting on

beautiful delicious food from all over the

continent but also gives us an opportunity to

get to know and celebrate each other on a

deeper level.”

— Bethel Bayrau

15


SENIOR REFLECTIONS

“CAS gives space for me to shift my perspective

by hearing others’ stories. Laughing over

delicious food, dancing along with music videos,

and discussing current events all serve a vital

education: how to embrace your unapologetic

self. The full depth of who your identity—your

culture, interests, and history—are welcomed.”

-Zoe Mhungu

“The CAS family created a space where I could

be my whole self. Being totally authentic

helped me deepen my understanding of the

world, challenged why I believe in hope, and

taught me how to have a genuinely good time.

As a wholly welcoming space, CAS helped me

grow in ways I didn’t know I needed.”

-Chielo Mbaezue

“CAS has been the core of my life at Stanford. My

best laugh was at CAS, my best friends and fans

were at CAS, or if not, I pulled them there. The

best jams I listened to in my four years were at

CAS and my best job was at CAS. I will never

forget the spontaneous but well planned

kickbacks CAS did for us in week five when

midterm fever was kicking in. CAS is so

wholesome!”

-Ken Nturibi

16


ALONE,

TOGETHER:

VIRTUAL CAS &

THE STUDENT

PHOTO EXHIBIT

By Laura Hubbard

Photography by Arafat Mohammed

Every year since its 50th anniversary,

CAS has gathered together for a portrait

exhibition. The unveiling of the CAS

family portraits—images taken of

community members with words written

across their bodies declaring what CAS

means to each of them—is a longstanding

tradition. This year’s exhibit, called

Home: CAS Connected. CAS Unwavering,

shifted online in the wake of the coronavirus

pandemic.

Images emphasized the connectedness

and unwavering spirit of the CAS community,

despite a global pandemic that left

students, faculty, and staff scattered

across the world. And as the day for the

exhibit approached, the murders of

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and

countless others inspired grief and anger.

On May 31, the CAS community gathered

together virtually to view the photos,

which were organized into four categories:

Oasis, Energy, Hub, and Family. We

sought to share back to one another the

endless power and never-yielding love

that is captured in each frame.

The theme song of the exhibit,

“Brighter Days” by Sauti Sol, played

as the images flashed across the

screen. Student poets and writers

Ayoade Balogun, Josh Nkoy, and

Cynthia Mchechu read original

pieces written to celebrate and

empower the CAS community.

Together through an open mic,

students also reflected on the

meaning of CAS in these uncertain

times. Words of gratitude were

offered up for the CAS family, “where

being seen fully, supported, and

able to be unapologetically whole is

possible.” As the photo of Roxane

Somda declares, CAS is a space

where “it’s all about us, not me.”

17


“Coming to Stanford, one of the things

that struck me the most was CAS; the

people and the programming that

created the magic of the African

community. I always admired the

photos on the wall, and could not wait

till I experienced a Photo Reveal of my

own. Unfortunately, we could not be

together to share that experience, but

CAS ensured that the community was

not broken up by the physical distances

between us. We hosted weekend

hangouts, and put together the best

virtual Photo Reveal and Senior

Celebrations within our ability, and

watched as the community continued to

bond over our screens. I could not have

been happier to see the joy and

togetherness that the work we did on

the Photo Reveal brought to the

community.”

— Carolyn Asante Dartey

18


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines