Continuing Conversation and Community
UWindsor Afrofest Coordinator hopes to build a community that lasts not only during Black History Month but beyond.
Afrofest is a celebration of the African diaspora which has been held at the UWindsor Campus for the last 16 years. While it has typically been held in person, this year due to COVID it will be held in a virtual setting. Each year the festival focuses on celebrating Black history, the future and educating the university population on a variety of topics directed to African heritage. The celebrations consist of various cultural and educational activities highlighting the contributions made by peoples of African descent to the world.
In spite of restrictions, they had a tremendous line-up, including chefs teaching virtual African cooking classes, afro-cinema film screenings, conversations debunking myths and misconceptions around Black mental health and for the first time, Afrofest will also be continuing into March as well a Black Town Hall which happened on Thursday, March 3. This year’s general coordinator for Afrofest, Aisha Aderinto said it best: “February is not enough to discuss Blackness in all its shades and complexities”
Being a Black student herself, Aderinto has consistently been looking for ways to get involved with the Black community here in Windsor, albeit with increasing difficulty coming off the heels of the pandemic. Offering that sense of community is one significant thing Afrofest provides.
Fostering a sense of community
“I think one of the most important things about Afrofest is the sense of community that it delivers to people, especially with Black students there is an issue with feeling isolated within their own campus community when you’re on a predominantly white campus-which, Windsor is.”
Windsor is the third most diverse city in Canada, but as she expressed, Black students can still have a really hard time meeting people who have a similar experience to them. “This conversation is one that extends past the campus community. I think for the most part it’s also just for the Black community in Windsor as well.” With Windsor’s rich Black heritage, the month serves as a perfect opportunity for exploration and community not only for the Black community, but to a further extent, the larger University population at large.
“I think Afrofest has done this wonderful thing of creating this cultural community that would not necessarily exist otherwise. We have such a diverse Black community here, and that is rare in Canada and isn’t something you can find in a lot of other places. And if you are a Black student in Windsor, you should really take that opportunity to look around you to connect with that history and also to connect with the presence and the people here because you might not get that opportunity again.”
Continuing the conversation
At the heart of the festival is the push to engage the public, placing them at the center of the conversation. Looking ahead to the town hall, a discussion dedicated to Black students to have their opinions and voices be central, is the hope that the dialogue opened does not rest there but becomes an ongoing one with more events planned over the year. The goal is to change the emphasis from solely Black history, but to Black futures too.
“We want to have people understand that Black people do not only exist in the history books and in the way history books present Blackness, which is very much entangled with the trauma and the pain and racism that people have had to endure. And to change the way we think about Black people.”
Challenging those notions and engaging in tough conversations is what Afrofest is about. To stay up to date with events make sure to follow Afrofest page on Instagram.