ASU holds annual Harambee showcase themed ‘The Power of Words’

The April 16 event celebrated African cultures while addressing issues of gossip, classism and sexual assault.


Brina Ratangee

The traditional Nigerian Igbo wedding scene during the Harambee showcase, as photographed on April 16, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Brina Ratangee)

Brina Ratangee, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: This piece contains brief mention of sexual assault.

The African Student Union (ASU) hosted its annual Harambee showcase at Langford Auditorium on April 16 from 7-11 p.m. CDT. This year’s theme was “The Power of Words” and featured different cultural dances, skits, vocal and instrumental acts, fashion shows and guest performances from Vanderbilt Lakshya, VIVID and Melanated A Capella.

Kimani Coye, Harambee marketing chair and junior, said the intent behind this year’s showcase was to celebrate Black culture and also raise awareness about issues of gossip, classism and sexual assault.

“When the co-chairs decided on ‘The Power of Words,’ we based our marketing campaign on the rebootedGossip Girl.’ The Basket Mouth Twitter page, individual posters and the main poster all were meant to exemplify how words can be even more powerful and amplified on social media,” Coye said in a message to The Hustler. “Even with the heavy themes present in the show, we are proud to showcase so many elements of Black joy and celebration.”

Senior and Script Co-Chair Mark Wilkins said he and his fellow co-chair as well as the director aimed to demonstrate the theme in an engaging way. They praised cast members’ efforts to help them to achieve this goal. 

“We pulled in aspects of Vanderbilt, popular TikToks and African culture while still getting our message across,” Wilkins said in a message to The Hustler. “We could not have done it without each and every one of our actors who brought our ideas to life and showcased their talents.”

Senior and Harambee Co-Chair Clara Dokyi said that topics of gossip and sexual assault were included and addressed through skits because they affect many Vanderbilt students but are not openly discussed on campus.

“[Harambee] is a show for entertainment but, at the end of the day, we want people to leave with something to think about,” Dokyi said. “Words do hold power; words can kill; words can heal; words can make someone laugh; words can make someone cry—and it is super important to watch the words that you say, even in fits of emotion.”

Junior and Harambee Co-Chair Grace Oladapo echoed Dokyi’s comments and hopes the audience took away the message that words and actions have consequences. She said she hopes continued efforts are taken to come together as a unified campus to celebrate differences and address trauma and hate.

Several performers and audience members expressed their admiration for the show and the ways in which it celebrated diverse African cultures and heritages. Sophomore Mina Mohammed, who performed in the Ethiopian and Eritrean dance, said the crowd contributed to the success of the event. 

“It was so beautiful to see the continent of Africa celebrated in this way,” Mohammed said. “The crowd was electric, and, honestly, I had the best time.”

Harambeee showcase
The Congo Seben dance during the Harambee showcase, as photographed on April 16, 2022. (Hustler Staff/Brina Ratangee) (Brina Ratangee)

First-year Sam Boison, who played Dr. Mensah, a professor who allows his hatred to take priority over his responsibilities, in the skit, echoed Mohammed and noted that the rehearsals leading up to the showcase were as meaningful as the showcase itself.

“The rehearsal process truly put my creativity to the test in different ways,” Boison said. “My castmates were so talented and helpful along the way. I have never acted in a production of any capacity before, so it’s a blessing that Harambee was my first time.”

First-year Gabrielle Baugh said Harambee was the most engaging of all the cultural showcases she has seen this year.

“The show was exhilarating,” Baugh said. “I love how interactive the skits were, and I really enjoyed the beautiful showcase of African cultures and fashion.”

Catered food from Gojo Restaurant was served in Alumni Hall prior to the showcase. Sophomore and Chair of Food and Decor Princess Onyeanula said the wide array of authentic African foods perfectly complemented the show itself.

“It’s just a different feeling when you’re serving food to people, and you know the food gives them a semblance of what they’ve been missing since they’ve come to Vanderbilt,” Onyeanula said. “Being able to share culture with other people who don’t know much of it but are just so willing to learn is amazing.”