Tickets sold out to the Nigerian Students Association’s 12th annual Nigerian Independence Day Gala last Saturday, hosted in Northwest Labs.
Around 400 students from Harvard and other universities like Boston College and Yale attended the festivities, which included dance performances, spoken word poetry, a fashion show, and an afterparty in the Student Organization Center at Hilles. This year, the gala centered around the theme of “Soro Soke,” which translates to “speak up” in Yoruba.
To adhere to Covid-19 guidelines, NSA required vaccination and for attendees to provide proof of a negative test, as well as wear masks for the afterparty, per organizers.
NSA vice president Nnaemeka “Nana” Anyanwu ’23 said he was thankful that the group was able to hold the event in person this year after the virtual Independence Day Gala held last year.
“While it was still relatively successful especially in the online format, it obviously wasn’t the same,” Anyanwu said. “Being able to celebrate our culture in the same building and in the same place together is really one of the most powerful aspects about it.”
The event featured two keynote speakers: Olufemi O. Vaughan, a professor at Amherst College who oversees its Black Studies program, and Chidi C. Achebe, a doctor who runs Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center, a health clinic in Dorchester, Mass.
Chinaza K. Asiegbu ’22 said the fashion show is a long-running tradition at the gala and serves the purpose of showcasing another aspect of African art through clothing.
“A lot of people in the audience were asking about the fashions and where I got my dress or where other people got their tops and pants,” Asiegbu said. “So it really is exposing people, even people who don’t know anything about African culture, to what Africa has to offer in the fashion world.”
Typically, NSA collaborates with a local African artist that helps design and coordinate the pieces for the show, she added.
Asiegbu said that walking in the fashion show allowed her to feel proud of both her Nigerian heritage but also of how diverse her culture is.
“I think it’s just so empowering to have people of different genders just walking and having a lot of pride in their culture,” Aseigbu said. “Also, the crowd’s energy is always amazing.”
The gala also featured spoken word poetry from Remka Y. Nwana ’23, a new song by Jaeschel O. Acheampong ’24, and performances by Uzo L. Ngwu ’23 and Omo Naija X Wahala Boys, Harvard’s Nigerian dance troupe.
The gala was also a charity fundraising event. This year, NSA chose to raise money for Lagos Food Bank, a nonprofit which fights hunger and malnutrition in Lagos, Nigeria.
The NSA raised over $5,000 for the organization, per Anyanwu.
Gala attendee Maya E. Counter ’24 wrote in an email that she thought the Gala was “vibrant and fun.”
NSA president Olayeni C. Oladipo ’23 said the NSA hopes to engage more with Harvard students in upcoming events.
“We were happy that everybody had a good time,” Oladipo said. “We’re looking forward to engaging more with communities at Harvard and outside of Harvard in the future.”
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.