We are a student organization committed to promoting awareness about the African continent, and fostering cultural and social ties with people of African descent and those interested in Africa in and around the Stanford community.
SASA is committed to fostering cultural, political, and social awareness about the African continent, promoting dialogue about pertinent issues affecting the continent, creating an intellectual and social space for Africans at Stanford, and fostering fellowship between SASA and members of the Stanford and Bay Area community at large.
From the onset of our organization's founding in 1979, which is reflected by our acronym "SASA" (which means "now" in Swahili), SASA seeks to convey the urgency and importance of not only African issues, but also the African presence throughout the world.
The first African student to come to Stanford reportedly came in the early l950s. For a long time afterwards, there was only an occasional student from Africa within any period. It was not until the early 1970s that the trickle developed into a flow. This was largely attributed to the fact that in the past most African countries associated a good education in the United States with the older universities of the East Coast such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. It is only in the late 1950s and early 1960s that the universities of the West Coast such as Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, UCLA and USC, received comparable recognition from African countries.
Historically, prior to the establishment of indigenous campuses, most Africans studied mainly in Europe. This was partly due to the control the former colonial authorities had over education in the colonies. There was also the widespread belief that American universities, the bulk of which ran on commercial lines, offered comparatively inferior education. No need to say that this attitude has since changed as evidenced by the number of African students currently enrolled in campuses right across the USA.
Students from Africa inevitably had various backgrounds, perceptions, and of course, diverse reasons for being at Stanford. For a long time, however, their miniscule number did not justify the creation of any formal organization that could more concretely represent their needs and aspirations.
An Earlier African Students Organization
In the mid-l960s a Stanford African Students Union was formed. The format ion of the Union was timely–it came about the time the Stanford African Studies Committee was being established. The Union worked closely with the Africanists on campus and sponsored programs aimed at promoting socio-political and cultural awareness of Africa and Africans at Stanford and the adjoining communities.
The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) disrupted the organization. The members were split into two groups–Nigerian vs. Biafra. The divergence of ideas led to personality conflicts—there was no common ground and consequently members “drifted” apart and the union went into oblivion.
The Birth of SASA
During the mid and late l970s, however, things changed—the Stanford African student population had progressively increased over the years. African students realized that an informal organization could no longer take care of their concerns.
On December 4, 1978, at a meeting of African students, an interim organizing committee was appointed to draft a constitution and prepare an agenda for the first formal meeting of a new African Students Association.
On January 7, 1979, the first meeting was held and the draft constitution was approved. The Stanford African Students Association (SASA) came to being. The acronym ‘SASA” was carefully selected for in Swahili it means “Now.” It clearly expressed the dominant feeling among African students of the urgency with which the problems facing Africa had to be confronted. In blessing the birth of the newly born child, it was agreed that SASA’s aims and objectives be:
(1) To foster unity among members and to promote social, political and cultural awareness of Africans at Stanford,
(2) To provide a forum for the discussion of issues pertaining to Africa.
(3) To promote understanding between Africans and Americans.
(4) To promote solidarity of Africans with Third World students.
(5) To foster cultural and social ties with all peoples of African descent within the Stanford community.
Program of Activities
Nguyuru Lipumba, a Tanzanian graduate student at the Food Research Institute was elected first President. The new organization immediately launched programs that have since been part and parcel of the University community: Africa Dialogue, a lecture series on individual African countries given by African students was established. The most important program, however, was the “AFRICA WEEK,” an event held in the Spring Quarter and which through discussion forum, traditional African foods and dances tried to expose the Stanford community to Africa. Each Africa Week addressed a theme—a focus. The theme of the first Africa Week was “Africa Liberation and Africa-American Relations.” Other activities of SASA included the introduction of “AFRICA SPEAKS,” a weekly program on KZSU Radio which attempted to provide up-to-date information on events in Africa.
Subsequent SASA Presidents have improved upon the initial foundation. Past Presidents included Morgan Ohwovoriole, a Mechanical Engineering graduate student from Nigeria and Riak, a graduate student in Education from the Sudan, and Kwaku Osafo, a graduate student from Ghana at the Food Research Institute.
In the 1980-1981 period, SASA embarked on a program that had as its main purpose the creation of more Hr and the strengthening of existing one with the communities in the Bay Area. Through its reach-out program, SASA in cooperation with African-American church groups in Oakland and Berkeley made it possible for African students to be involved in the not too unfamiliar worship ceremonies in several churches. The African dialogue, established earlier, was given more impetus, thanks to the involvement of Mr. Phil Davie. African students welcome the opportunity to visit various high schools in the area and to give vent to their understandably nostalgic perceptions of African countries.
During the activities of Africa Week in the Spring of 1981, Professor St. Claire Drake, a Black Scholar of great renown and an active Pan-Africanist, was amidst the festivities of the African Cultural Night, honored as the Patron of the organization. Apart from the no nation of a patron, the Africa Week was notable for SASA’s involvement with the Stanford East African Relief Organization. Proceeds from the event of the Week were channeled into the efforts to help minimize the food crisis in the horn of Africa.
In May 1981, a new executive committee was elected with Mwesiga Bangu as President. Under his leadership, SASA continued to make great strides in several areas of endeavor.
In conclusion, lest it be construed that SASA never had a share of the inewable problems of a new, young and ambitious organization, let it be stated that SASA too had its fair share. Like any young organization, it had to learn to walk before it could run, however much it subscribed to its whole raison d’etre—SASA! That SASA is still breathing today, that it has graduated from crawling, walking; that it is very close to running, is largely attributed to various groups and individuals. To these people, SASA would like to pa thankful tribute.
Finally, we would like to emphasize that the objective and spirit of SASA is the liberation and development of Africa. Members of SASA would be betraying this spirit if they do not return work in Africa for the benefit of working masses of Africa. We should also continue to work for the unity all African peoples.
LONG LIVE AFRICA!