Do you like Caribbean food? Dance from Somalia, Eritrea, and Botswana? How does a slideshow and presentation about an Ethiopian man’s journey between the United States and Ethiopia sound? What about a conversation with an American woman who adopted two Ethiopian children? Chances are that any one of these things would stimulate your interest, excitement and learning. Lucky for you, you don’t have to choose just one! The Afro-Caribbean Club has been hard at work putting together their annual event, bringing food, dance, music, images, poetry, languages and conversations of many of the different countries and cultures from Africa and the Caribbean to the experience of the Western community. This year’s event is titled “Africa Through Our Eyes: Unveiling the Misconceptions,” and as the title suggests, it offers a night of cultural exchange and education, through an eclectic lineup of performances, speakers, and tantalizing food.

Tigest Abeteu, president of the ACC, described that in past years, the event has had a real “I want to learn” atmosphere, where people have thrived off the opportunity to learn about cultures different than their own. “It’s really alive, really upbeat, we try to engage the crowd,” she said. “It’s about unfolding the different cultures represented by students from all over Africa that are not there every day.”

This is the ACC’s biggest event of the year, drawing an average of 400 people from Western, the greater Bellingham community, and even Seattle. “This year we’re taking it to the next level, we’re making it really classy and more formal,” said Abeteu. “We’re really excited. We’ve taken the time and energy to make it big and we’re hoping everyone enjoys it. We want to get something out of it, and have other people get something out of it too.”

To accomplish this, the ACC is working with a caterer to bring in a delicious Caribbean buffet, and has two keynote speakers reflecting on the theme of cultural truth versus misconception. The first speaker is Mike Ellis, an Ethiopian man from Detroit who recently took a trip back to Ethiopia. Ellis will be talking about the misconceptions he sees in America concerning Ethiopian culture, aided by a slideshow. The second speaker is Bellingham resident Kate Haskell. She is the mother of two adopted kids from Ethiopia, and will be talking about what her experience of cross-cultural motherhood has been like. Additionally, there will be tons of performances from members of the ACC, ranging from dance to music to poetry and spoken word. “I’m really excited to see how the whole thing turns out,” said Abeteu.

Abeteu said that the goal of the ACC is to inform and make people part of the African and Caribbean cultures that never really get represented in America. “It is not something that you get from anywhere. If you don’t try to maintain what you have then you’ve lost it. If we don’t do this than we lose our culture because we have nothing to hold on to,” she said. “This is how we empower our community.”

“We have a culture that needs to be respected by everyone- not just by Africans. There will be different performances, different groups, different ideas… People are going to be from different backgrounds, not just one group,” she said. The night is all about sharing the diverse array of African and Caribbean cultures that are not widely seen in America, and learning what these cultures are really like as opposed to what many people might believe they are like. She said she is hoping a lot of students come, and that it will be really beneficial for the Western community as a whole.

So mark your calendar! “Africa Through Our Eyes: Unveiling the Misconceptions,” will take place on February 25 in the VU Multipurpose room. Dinner and the program start at 6:30 pm. It costs $10 for students and $12 for general public, and you should get your tickets in advance. This is a popular event; if there are still tickets left, they will be sold at the door, but without advance reservations there are no guarantees.