African Languages Initiative

Ndibe anyi ndeewo unu,

My name is Jessica Chinwendu Alozie, I am a Junior Health Administration Policy Program major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In what I have noticed, UMBC is a very diverse University in terms of population and the different demographics of students that are present. However, in terms of creating an environment through which cross-cultural experience is not only welcomed but easily accessible, I see gray areas. Those gray areas being places where this University could stand to benefit from the experience of cultural diversity, rather than the presence of cultural diversity.

As a current member of the Executive Board of the African Students Association as well as an avid enthusiast of African culture, language and tradition, I am deeply concerned with the lack of representation that African students have on campus. A trend that I have noticed across all demographics is the lack of interpersonal relationships with individuals from other demographics. In having interpersonal relationships students from different backgrounds are able to come together and share in the translation of their lived experiences so that they might come to a better understanding of one another and in turn increase communications between each other. Such purposeful interaction will result in students being more adequately equipped to be able to face the challenges that surround us especially given the current political state of America. Students at UMBC are not just asking for diversity, but inclusion, intersectionality. Of what use is a diverse population of students when there is no sharing of that diversity?

In a recent interview, President Trump insulted African and Afro-Caribbean nations. During a conference in France, acclaimed African Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was asked if her books are read in Nigeria, and if there are even libraries in Nigeria. Such poor representation of Africa and African cultures in the media result in the furthering of the perception of Africa as being deprived, and Africans as being primitive. UMBC boasts a large population of African students. However, aside from the African Students Association and the limited resources allocated to the Africana Studies Department, African students are not encouraged to showcase Africa. To bring Africa and her people, her languages, her foods, her rich cultural heritage to academic row.  I argue that if there is value in African history, in African cultures, in the African student body present at UMBC, in Africa the continent,  why does UMBC offer only one African language?  

The Mosaic Center and I are hosting an event this coming May, where I will be discussing the homogenous African identity, and how African cultures, languages, and traditions are being lost in translation due to the influx of Africans leaving Africa for western countries. Establishing in those western countries and creating a brain drain in African countries. During this event, I aim to lay the foundation for the expansion of the language department to include more African languages, specifically Igbo language. Not as a token to the African student body, but as a representation of interpersonal, intersectional diversity. Langston Hughes described that a dream deferred dries like a raisin in the sun, such is happening in Africa. Africa is drying and the world has angled its mirrors and is reflecting sunlight directly on my continent. African Historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke describes Africa and Africans  as being “the most written about and the least understood of all of the world's people.” The colonization of Africa may have been torn down, but the colonization of information about Africa continues. I am having this seminar, not for immediate change, but to start a conversation, not to change the world, but to spark and inspire the mind that will.

As a part of the promotion for this seminar, the Mosaic Center,  and I are planning an ‘African Parade of Cultures.' This parade will include cultural African dance performances from African students at UMBC  as well as an Igbo cultural dance group called Ojemba. This group performs traditional cultural dances that are tied to Igbo culture, called a masquerade. The group will come with all of the cultural gear (the figure you see in a costume) which comes from Nigeria, as well as drumming and they do dance performances. This would not only showcase cultural diversity at UMBC but also provide engagement, being something that has never been seen or done at UMBC.  

Unfortunately, the Mosiac center, which is funding the majority of my seminar, will not be able to fund this Igbo masquerade performance so I have created this gofundme to seek the help of my community. Please donate, change is not the accomplishment of one but the determination of many.


Jessica Chinwendu Alozie
Baltimore, MD

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