Art, Culture & Events

Celebrating Africa: My Experience at Pan-African Weekend

July 9, 2015

Last summer, I had the opportunity to be the social media intern for Face2Face Africa for their what was then call F2FA Weekend and is now called Pan-African Weekend. It is a weekend dedicated to celebrating Pan-African Achievements, both lifelong and those that the youth are pioneering. I was inspired and rejuvenated in my goals. This summer, I’m not in New York so I’m not able to attend the event, but I still got to do some of their promotional tweeting which made me feel close to the action. If you’re based in or around New York City, you should definitely check out the Pan-African Weekend THIS weekend, July 10th – 12th. Here’s my recap of my experience last year, to help you make up your mind:

We had just finished a long day of soliciting donations for Sunu Thoissane, the cultural arts youth development program started by Mamedjarra. We laid on Amy’s bed waiting for 8:30 so that we could break our fast. (It was Ramadan and I wasn’t fasting, but I sure wasn’t going to be eating or complaining in front of them – so might as well have been fasting).  Ndeye and I were talking about what I was studying and the different fields I was entering. I told her about my communications major turned minor, and she offered me her internship for the summer doing social media and promotion with Face 2 Face Africa. And so started one of the most rewarding parts of Summer 2014.

After sending my resume to Sandra Appiah, co-founder of Face2Face Africa and host of The Sandra Appiah Show, and chatting with her over the phone, my internship was underway. The first day was rough. I’ve done social media before, but not with that kind of intensity! The next day, I discovered Buffer pretty quickly. But for someone as verbose and chatty as I was, getting everything down to 140 characters and including all the hashtags, links and @s needed was a struggle! But I got the hang of it. At the beginning crafting each tweet took about 20 minutes, but by the end, I was pumping them out with fervor.

The actual weekend – July 25th to 27th – was a blast and a half. Most of you have probably seen all the fun outfits that I flaunted throughout the weekend – but getting to play dress up was just the tip of the fun! Getting to meet amazing individuals and also just the general energy and vibe, made it a weekend I would never forget! (But it also helps to have fabulous pictures by which to remember it! All of which are currently locked on my broken hard drive. I’m not sure if the experts will be able to retrieve the data, but I will upload them as soon as I do. So again, sorry for the general lack of photos).

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday outfits respectively.

Friday, Saturday, & Sunday outfits respectively.

 

Friday

Friday was the first time that I met Sandra in person! It included the Young Africans Committed to Excellence (YACE) Master class, in which the honorees, all under 30, got to present on the amazing things that they are doing. Afterwards was the I Am A Professional African Networking Mixer (IAAPA). As well as getting a chance to meet some of the YACE candidates, I also met some fun individuals who were great to connect with, dance with or gave me general advice on life and other things I’m working on.

 

Saturday

Saturday was a red carpet affair, welcoming our Fascinating Africans Committed to Excellence and many other surprise guests. It was a bit confusing and it took me a while to get my footing (and wifi  – I had to be tweeting!) and jump into the swing of things. I also wish I had more confidence to just approach whoever, and say “can I get a picture,” or “can I get your contact info?” Sometimes it was my pride that was keeping me back though, I didn’t want to come across like a fanatic fan or overwhelmed by the person’s success. Well now I’m upset that I missed out on getting a picture with Nana Mensah and Maame Yaa from An African City and I missed out on some good contacts. So my advice to myself is…just go for it. The worst they could do is say no, which they won’t, it’s a networking event & a red carpet affair! 😀 Here’s a recap of the night (and the weekend).

 

Other than that, Saturday was truly amazing! It was just so great celebrating African accomplishments in such a glamourous and fun way. The event was filled with big name stars giving awards to bigger name individuals, 3 wonderful musical performances and gorgeous outfits! Afterwards was the after party. First of all, it took us forever and a day to find a taxi. Then we had a blast, then it took us forever and a day to get home via subway. But all in all, it made for a fun bonding event. Oh New York City at night.

 

My friend Mike & I. He was also a volunteer that weekend.

My friend Mike & I. He was also a volunteer that weekend.

Sunday

Sunday was the chill jazz brunch that was promised. There was definitely still plenty of networking done. But I finally got a chance to chat with Sandra a little more and I tweeted a few tweets. I met more awesome people (for example, the men behind 54 Kingdoms, and Kelechi of Zuvaa) or exchanged contacts with people I had chatted with most of the weekend.

The whole weekend inspired me in more ways that I can explain. It renewed my love for Africa and connected me in professional and engaging ways to those who share that love. Like Masai Ujiri said, Africa will be the greatest continent in the world! And I agree with Sandra, we’ll be around to see it. But it all starts with hard work from those of us at home and abroad. And that work starts now. One thing that kept on being repeated was the importance of the youth (meaning those in their 20s) as the leaders of tomorrow, but from what I saw through the YACE Candidates and others around me, was that the youth were already leading in their own way. We the youth are leaders of today as well. Let’s not forget that.

Events like this are so critical for both Africans and non-Africans. It gives Africans a platform to share our own stories, create our own histories. But it also allows non-Africans to see what is going on beyond the famine and poverty and isolated success stories that mainstream media covers. It shows African Achievement as a constant and a movement. Africa Rising I call it. I’ve also heard it said that we are in the midst of an African Renaissance – I agree. And events like Pan-African Weekend allow that to be celebrated and most of all documented and presented to the world.

 

This year, I was lucky enough to have Sandra extend the internship to me again. And although I won’t get to be at Pan-African Weekend this time around (I’m so sad!), I’ve been able to do promotional tweets throughout the summer. I’m definitely at this event in spirit and I encourage all those who can to attend! Tickets are available here. That link also includes what Pan-African Weekend is all about and information about some of the honorees. Make sure you check it out. And let me know what you think.

Also, do you know any other events out there like this? What do you think about events dedicated to celebrating Africa? What do you think it does for Africans and non-Africans?

 

Yours,

OmolayoNkem

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