Sedem Dankwa (Ghana), Kim Bako (Zimbabwe), and Brian Sawe (Kenya), 2020
Originally authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory,” further researched by the Archives staff.
last updated on 02.10.2021
All of the Black, international alumni this exhibition has featured so far have made influential changes to the Davidson community by being the first, creating organizations to further the dialogue on African humanity, becoming doctors, professors, lawyers, sharing their artistic and athletic talents, as well as simply surviving Davidson, and so much more. This last photograph shows how the accumulation of all these experiences and histories of Black international students have shaped the present by highlighting this year’s graduating Black international students. The photo captures (from left to right) Sedem Dankwa (Ghana), Kim Bako (Zimbabwe), and Brian Sawe (Kenya), all part of the class of 2021, sitting on a bench outside of Chambers, wearing face coverings. Sedem is laughing warm-heartedly at Kim, who he just called his “African queen,” soliciting Kim’s embarrassed but delightful response as she is seen staring back at Sedem with her hand on her cheek. Meanwhile, Brian is enjoying the teasing between his two friends and laughs along with them.
With the boys dressed button downs and polos while Kim wears a plaid dress paired with a pink headwrap, they came ready to model. Brian is also wearing the timeless Kenya beaded bracelet, a token and remembrance of home. Another important fashion statement, telling of the times, is that all of them are wearing face masks. November of 2020 marked the beginnings of the third wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S., which is why the students are all wearing face masks and were required at Davidson College while outside at all times throughout the semester. Taken during their fall senior semester, amidst a pandemic and online classes, the photo shows the importance of the little laughs and small gatherings with friends, or a photoshoot, during a semester like no other. Reflecting on the past three and a half years at Davidson, none of us, who all met through international students’ orientation, could believe that graduation was around the corner.
Compared to the first picture of Benoît emerging out of Chambers and considering the 57 years of Black international students’ contributions between the two, the main difference is the friendship, laughter and confidence captured in this photo. Sedem’s laid-back, arm on bench pose is representative of his comfortableness in a place like Davidson. Their ability to laugh and enjoy these moments together despite the ongoing troubles around the world that have caused Sedem and Kim to be stuck in the U.S., unable to return to Ghana or Zimbabwe due to international travel restrictions for an entire year, while Kim and Brian’s study abroad programs were cancelled abruptly the past spring because of COVID-19, to now taking online classes for the foreseeable future, shows the importance of the friendships and bonds they have fostered throughout their time at Davidson. All of them also embody components of the alumni featured in this exhibition. They were all involved in the DASA e-board and the African Dance Team at some point in their Davidson career; Sedem has been an integral part of the Davidson chorale, just as Brian has been to Davidson’s club soccer team, and Kim works at the admissions office to share the realities of life at Davidson to prospective international students, carrying on the legacies of Black international students to future Black international students.
Brian, Sedem and Kim’s stories are still “yet to be told,” since they have their lives ahead of them, but during their time at Davidson, they have been able to carry on the legacies of the Black international alumni featured, while simultaneously making their own changes at the college for future generations of Black international students. Looking past the international festivals, African international students throughout time have helped place their mark on Davidson’s campus in a multitude of ways, of which this exhibition only highlights a few. Their recognitions and impact go beyond the eight photos displayed here.
While walking around campus in search of other locations to take photos, Kim said that we should take pictures with Yinka Shonibare’s “Wind Sculpture,” which was permanently moved outside the E. Craig Wall building. Kim movingly said “this is our mark on campus” referring to the sculpture, since it is covered in African print and made by an African artist, in the middle of Davidson’s campus. This symbol of Africa was also recognized and celebrated by Brian and Sedem, as well as the entire student body in 2018 when it first arrived. However, engagement with it has declined, just as the involvement by the white community at Davidson with African culture and Africana Studies has. Reminiscent of the calls of empathy and participation that DASA, the Melodemics, Andrew, and ultimately Africana studies makes to the greater society, at the very least, I hope this exhibition encourages you to go to the next DASA meeting, and when the time comes for performances or game, go to the next African Dance show or basketball game, participate in mutual aid and learn about the African diaspora through the work that Black international students continue to do for the Davidson community. With the “Wind Sculpture” there to remind you, it should not be complicated.