The African Eloquence Youth Celebration is a cultural outreach program that aims to showcase the rich and diverse cultures of Africa. The main goal of this program is to support African youth to realize their full potential and raise awareness of Africa as a continent of rich and varied cultures.
This one-night event will feature an exhibition of the vibrancy of African culture, and will include: talents, costumes, dancing, drumming, presentations and poem recitals. Vancouver Island African middle/high school students will present on various African countries and cultures, helping them build self-esteem, confidence and eloquence.
When I was a refugee in Ghana, I found my own voice through pageant events similar to African Eloquence. Arriving in Victoria, I quickly realized that there were no events focused on empowering and celebrating our youth. My commitment to this initiative was reaffirmed in 2009 when I saw one of our youth, a 15-year old girl from Nigeria, demonstrate great courage and enthusiasm through her performances. She did not place that year, but it was my pleasure coaching her. In 2010, she completely wowed the audience and won.
There are so many individual stories that continue to inspire me: seeing the community come together to celebrate, witnessing increased confidence and pride in our youth. Two of the past winners (2009 & 2010) have since enrolled in a four year degree program at the University of Victoria, 2012/2013 academic year.
The African community, African youth of Victoria, BC in particular, have been searching for ways to maintain, sustain and preserve their cultures. They are searching for spaces to call their own where they can educate the public about the rich and diverse cultures of Africa. The spaces would also allow them to showcase their beautiful, rich and diverse cultures through music, drumming, food and art for all to enjoy. Spaces can include sustainable cultural events and the creation of an African Cultural Centre.
The African youth in our community have lost their confidence and eloquence, attributes needed to survive in North American Society. A history of violence, war, financial strife and marginalization serves to silence our communities. The creation of empowering African spaces will create stronger communities to the benefit of our society. African Eloquence is about creating positive spaces and empowering African youth.
1. The solution is to organize more educative, fun, social and cultural event for the community to come together, get involved and share in the African heritage.
2. Provide opportunities for African youth to regain their confidence, self-esteem and eloquence, and to provide a strong community to support each other.
3. Canvas and lobby for a long term and sustainable space for the African community to call their own(i.e. The African Cultural Centre).
4. Lobby more for financial assistance to help African youth realize their maximum potential, and relieve them off the financial burdens so that they can focus on their education. This would include setting up scholarships and awards to encourage them further their education to the highest level.
5. Promote and showcase the local talents to the greater Victoria community while providing positive role-models for African youth.
6. Create safe spaces for Africans, Canadians and Afro-Caribbeans to experience the rich and diverse cultures of Africa together. This will allow us to support each other and strengthen our communities.
African Eloquence is a University of Victoria Student Club and is connected to the African Heritage Association. We host an annual event called the African Eloquence Youth Celebration.
We recruit local African youth to take part in this event (held in late March) throughout the year through collaborations with local high schools. If a youth expresses interest, we visit their family to discuss the goals of the event and the commitment required. Event participants (African youth) are provided with ongoing coaching in developing a talent segment, a short essay on a country in Africa and in preparing for a question and answer portion. The ongoing coaching and dress rehearsal create a strong sense of community among the African youth and the African Eloquence volunteers - the event itself is icing on the cake.
African Eloquence Youth Celebration is a one-night event that showcases and celebrates African culture through song, dance, traditional costume, artwork, educational presentations. The event includes ten "contestants" - local African youth - who show leadership, community involvement, and cultural eloquence. A panel of community members evaluates the contestants based on quality of presentations, talents, and responses to the question and answer segment on contemporary cultural issues. The evening also features a special guest performer like African hand drummer Jordan Hanson, who led the audience in a brief djembe session, and local Senegalese cuisine from Le Petit Dakar.
Last year over 200 community members attended and it was truly an electrifying and memorable event. The positive impact made by this event is demonstrated through the number of past contestants who stay involved following the event. They take on roles with the contestant recruitment team, the fundraising team, the contestant coaching team and the community judge panel. This continued involvement demonstrates the lasting impact of the event. The impact of this event is also demonstrated by the growing number of community partners and strong attendance year to year.
There are many NGOs based out of Victoria that support important humanitarian work in the continent of Africa, but none of these organizations support the local African community. Victoria has two organizations supporting new immigrants and refugees: Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre (VIRCS) and the Intercultural Association of Victoria (ICA). These organizations have the primary focus of providing settlement support to new immigrants and refugees. While they have some interest in hosting cultural events, they do not have the capacity to support long-term community building initiatives for marginalized cultures. African Eloquence partners with these organizations inviting them to send representatives and promote the annual event to their communities.
The Victoria "African Awareness Society" focuses on raising awareness of issues facing new African immigrants. They are a strong partner in African Eloquence; however, they do not have specific initiatives to engage and support youth. This is how African Eloquence distinguishes itself – while working with existing organizations.
African Eloquence is open to Africans, Afro-Caribbean, and Canadians with a strong affiliation to Africa. The main goal of the African Eloquence project is to support youth of African heritage to realize their full potential, as well as raise awareness of Africa as a continent of rich and varied cultures.