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Students to light lanterns for Africa in annual event

By Kimberly DeLande
On April 11, 2012


University of Rhode Island's Students for the Welfare of Africa (SAWA) is planning to hold their third annual Lights for Africa event, which was originally scheduled to take place this week, but has been rescheduled due to issues SAWA had with ordering lanterns for the event.

While the group does not have a concrete date as for when the event will take place, SAWA president Tetee Joseph said that it should occur "in about two weeks."

Lights for Africa is an event where students gather on the Quadrangle and light a lantern for Africa. Joseph said the lanterns are a symbol of the optimism for a future where Africa is "liberated from war, poverty and famine."

While the lanterns had plain, clear lights the first year SAWA held the event, the group has decided to use lanterns with colored lights this year. SAWA experimented with using colored lights last year, and, according to Tetee Joseph, the sight was "beautiful, colorful, and amazing" when they sent them into the sky.

Last year, Joseph said, the turnout for the Lights for Africa was "crazy." Initially, 30 people showed up to the event, but the lit lanterns attracted more students toward the Quadrangle. Joseph said even though SAWA ordered a little more than 100 lanterns last year, there had not been enough lanterns for everyone who showed up at the event to light. To prepare another large turnout, SAWA has ordered 250 lanterns for this year's event. The lanterns are also biodegradable, "to cater to those who might be worried about the lanterns' effect on the environment," Joseph said.

According to Joseph, hosting Lights for Africa is a critical event for SAWA to not only unite the campus on the Quad, but to teach students about the ongoing battles that countries in Africa are still facing today. The lanterns, Joseph said, do not only act as beacons of hope, but represent the "epiphanies" people have after learning about the issues that are plaguing modern-day Africa.

"Some people say ignorance is bliss, but I say ignorance is a disease," Joseph said. "If you don't know what's going on outside of your state, then it's hard to say that you know anything at all. When people come out to the Quad, learn about all that's going on in Africa, and see the lights in the sky, they have an epiphany. It all comes together for them."

For Joseph, who is Liberian and has recently returned to URI after taking a trip to Liberia, being able to host Lights for Africa holds personal significance. According to Joseph, Liberia is one of the many countries in Africa that has been "torn apart" by war. Since the early 1990s, Joseph said, the country of Liberia was fighting a civil war. While the war has ended, Liberia is one of the many countries in Africa that is currently trying to "pull itself together," Joseph said.

"As Africans, it's our job to try to educate people about these issues," Joseph said. "Hopefully, we're making a positive impact on campus."

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