Karibu, the African and Caribbean student association at St. Olaf, has entered the 2020-2021 academic year with a fresh set of events and opportunities for participation, spearheaded by an engaging graphic redesign and dedicated executive team.
Tyreis Hunte ’23 and Mbuyisile Tlhwaele ’23, co-chairs of Karibu, alongside Trish Mutsigwa ’23, Lillian Ingabire ’22 and Kgomotso Magagula ’21, treasurer, brand manager and social media proxy, respectively, comprise Karibu’s executive team. The team has a renewed concentration on strengthening Karbiu from within.
“We aim to build our internal community more during the time of social distancing as well as engage with other orgs and the St. Olaf community at large,” Hunte said.
Karibu is a relatively young organization on campus, with first mention in The Messenger only dating back to an article from 2004, in which they were referred to only as an “African club.” The group’s internal focus this year makes sense, then, to strengthen and define the organization so that it may better engage the campus community at large.
This internal focus, coupled with social distancing and quarantine, inspired Karibu’s first event this year, the “Dating 6FT & Worlds Apart” panel discussion. The panel was held Sept. 2, the day after St. Olaf’s two-week quarantine period officially ended.
Longing to find connection in the new and distanced St. Olaf social sphere prompted the event, but the more light-hearted topic also offered members of Karibu the chance to share their personal reflections without the need to educate. In this way the panel was less a lecture and more a conversation between guests in virtual attendance and the five panelists, Magagula, A.D. Banse ’23, Sandra Chimutsipa ’23, Onyinye Emeli ’21, and Sadrin Mukamba ’24.
“As much as it’s important to educate, it’s also good to engage with less heavy topics,” Hunte said. “At the end of the day, we’re still growing adults, and we like to talk and engage with a variety of topics.”
In addition to engaging with a wide variety of topics — further evidenced by Karibu’s second “Hair & Colorism” event — the organization has looked to revamp their digital design with an emphasis on uniformity. Primarily, as Hunte explained, the focus has been on colors. By using a similar color scheme for various publicity platforms, such as Instagram posts, fliers and posters, Karibu has established one consistent aesthetic, something Hunte noted was missing in previous years.
Ingabire and Magagula, Karibu’s brand manager and social media proxy, respectively, have worked to revamp and unify the organization’s digital presence, which is essential during quarantine and continued social distancing.
“We’ve taken the majority of our programming virtually, so social media has been one of our main channels besides our alias to attract members and promote events, whether they are on the alias or off the alias,” Hunte said.
This improved social media and aesthetic presence, coupled with hosting interesting virtual events such as the “Sip & Tea” discussion, has driven more students to engage with Karibu. Because of this increased engagement, Hunte sees the organization’s programming so far this year as successful, not only in building the internal community of Karibu but also in reaching the external campus community at large.
Another aspect of hearing more voices from around campus, of both students from Africa and the Caribbean and students who are not, is an increased awareness of issues within the African and Caribbean regions.
“We’ve been having an increase of non-regional guests and members into our meetings,” Hunte said. “Regional members have been able to engage the topics because they themselves might not be aware of contexts within other countries within the regions.”
“This has given us an opportunity to see how other people see the regions, and gives us the opportunity to engage the topic with people who are not from the regions,” Hunte continued.
The “Hair & Colorism” event — part of a series on “Decolonizing Our Bodies” and held Sept. 23 — was an example of this, as it served more of an educational and informative purpose as opposed to the “Dating 6FT & Worlds Apart” and “Sip & Tea” events, which focused on self-care and personal relationships.
With this event, Karibu engaged in a “conversation around hair and colorism to better understand the historical frameworks of colonizations and their implications in the present,” according to the Instagram description for the post detailing the event. The conversation offered students the opportunity to share and learn from their personal experiences with an added historical context.
The variety of programming so far this year showcases the multitude purpose of Karibu at St. Olaf — to celebrate, to educate, to engage and to promote engagement with the African and Caribbean region at large.
The celebration of African and Caribbean culture starts internally, within Karibu, and then extends to engage the whole College community, as Hunte noted — “Our regions have contributed a lot to the world, so that by engaging with us you’re engaging with the world at large.”