Mama C. kickstarts BSU’s African Awareness Week

By Matthew Reed
Comment Staff

As one would walk down the hallway, one could hear the beat of the drums and the wafting smell of the prepared food. The event had begun.
March 24 kicked-off Bridgewater State University’s African Awareness Week which began with the Visual and Performing Arts of Africa, an event which featured activist Mama C.
Mama Charlotte Hill O’Neill, or Mama C. as she is known by, is a ex-Black Panther who went into exile in Tanzania. There, she and her husband Pete O’Neill founded the United African Alliance Community Center and helped secure the rights of Tanzanian citizens to have their opinions heard.
“Mama C. does painting and open word and other activities,” said Nikkia Watson, the vice president of the African Student Association (ASA).
At the event, Mama C. talked about when she first arrived in Tanzania.
“We were pioneers,” she said. “We knew nothing about farming.”
She also read a poem relating to the time when she almost lost her true self among the culture.
“It’s in the marrow of my bones,” said Mama C. about volunteering to help others.
Also during the event, she said she wanted to spread a nurturing nature as well as peace and love and friendship among people of different races and creeds.
This was then followed by a performance on the nyatiti, a lyre-like instrument. The college students who participated in the program and went over to Tanzania over the years were at the event and gave testimonials and told touching stories about the children that they met.
A film about her and the association was shown while they served African style food. After the film, the students came together and performed a hip-hop style jam for Mama C.
But African Awareness Week is more than just this event. On Tuesday, Ifeanyi Menkiti, a poet who hails from Nigeria, came to BSU. Menkiti is also a philosophy professor at Wellesley College and the current owner of the Grolier Poetry Bookshop.
There are many various lectures that have occurred over this week. One was from Professor Hadidja Nyiransekuye where she talked about the genocide in Rwanda. Destiny Ihenacho, who is part of ASA’s public relations, said, “It was a very eye-opening topic.”
Another distinguished lecture was about the events in Senegal and sex equality and the gay rights movement.
“It’s going to be nice because it’s current events,” Watson said. “It’s not history, it’s happening right now and we can talk about what to do to help those people with what is happening in that country.”
Through these events, there are many goals of African Awareness Week.
“It’s a way of bringing people together and bring people out to the events to actually know about, not just the culture of African Americans but all types of African culture,” Ihenacho said. “It’s not just for Africans, it’s for the whole BSU community to be aware that we have such school groups.”
Watson said African Awareness Week will help inform BSU students and break down barriers.
“We want to start breaking the stereotypes of how people see Africans, African culture and Africa in general and to enlighten people on the current events and the history,” Watson said.
African Awareness Week will end on Friday, with the last event being the West African Drumming and Dance with master djembe drummer Issa Coulibaly.

Matt Reed is a Comment staff writer. Email him at


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