UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Dancing, singing, comedy highlight African Culture night at UND

Hundreds pack Memorial Union’s large ballroom to celebrate the many cultures of Africa

Students paraded the flags of African nations at the 2023 UND African Culture Night event. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today

Glitz, glamour and dancing were the themes of the evening on Saturday, Feb. 25, as attendees of the 2023 UND African Culture Night made their way into the large ballroom of the Memorial Union.

The annual event is one of the largest cultural nights at UND. The event invites participants to explore the diverse cultures of UND students of African background through dance, humor, food, education and fashion.

And there was plenty of fashion on display on Saturday night, as individuals, groups of friends and families showed up wearing a global panorama of styles. Hundreds of people attended from the UND campus community, the Greater Grand Forks community and beyond, with people and performers also traveling here from Fargo and Minneapolis.

Originally from Liberia but now living in Fargo, Napoleon and Nancy Clark said they looked forward to watching their daughter dance on stage. They also enjoyed an event that celebrates how different cultures can interact.

“It’s great to have different cultures come together,” Napoleon Clark said. “You have American culture incorporating African culture, which is great.”

The event was emceed by UND student Lyle Williams, and Precious Dada, a UND student and vice president of communication with the North Dakota Student Association. Williams worked the stage in the manner of a veteran show host, exhorting the audience to shout “Africa!” whenever he raised his microphone. And while Williams introduced different entertainment acts and bantered with the audience, Dada offered more background on the performers, as well as the following introductory remarks:

“I’m thrilled to see all of you here ready to embark on this unique journey and exciting experience with us,” she said. “Let’s make this an unforgettable evening.”

Members of the Afro Caribbean Dancers perform at African Culture Night. Photo by: Shawna Schill/UND Today

Following a procession of students carrying one of the flags of the 54 African nations (with cheers erupting after each flag passed by), and a pre-celebration invocation by Doris Lebby, president of the faith-based organization Love in Action, UND administrators and community members took a moment to reflect on the event.

Art Malloy, vice president for student affairs, told attendees to “learn from diversity.” Delore Zimmerman, a UND grad and co-founder of both Praxis Africa and Praxis Strategy Group, an economic strategy company, spoke about multiculturalism. Zimmerman, who at the spring commencement in 2022 received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree, said he is a firm believer in diversity making a society stronger, not unlike a “rope with multiple strands.”

And then came the performers.

A singer brings down the house at African Culture Night. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today

Starting off the evening’s entertainment were the Grand Forks-based Caribbean Afro Dancers, who danced to upbeat music and immediately brought people to their feet. Even people seated at their tables swayed to the beat while the dancers went through their performance.

And the group didn’t stop dancing even when they were done. Off stage, they continued to dance to the music of following acts, including performers such as Brian and Glory, who sang and rapped individually before singing together.

African Culture Night drew hundreds of attendees to the large ballroom in the Memorial Union. Photo by: Shawna Schill/UND Today

At this point in the evening, the audience was so thoroughly engaged that an almost electric feeling sparked across the large ballroom. That feeling extended through dance acts such as the All-Star Afro Dancers from Fargo, a group of elementary school-aged girls, who brought their A-Game Saturday night.

“Let’s make some noise!” Williams said when the girls left the stage. The audience, already volubly applauding and cheering the girls, got even louder.

“They can dance!” shouted an attending father, who was accompanied by his two children who often ran in front of the stage to take photos.

The entertainment proceeded with audience support through more dance groups, spoken word performances and a comedy video about being the child of an African mother (hint: get the chores done before she comes home from work), before concluding with an after celebration in the small ballroom.

Guests make use of a photo background at African Culture Night. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today