6925 McPherson Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15208
The spirit of Africa is alive and well in Pittsburgh, thanks to Afrika Yetu. Yetu is Swahili for “ours,” and founder and president Elie Kihonia wanted to make sure he and other Africans were not just included in uplifting the African spirit in Pittsburgh but led the conversation.
“We felt like it was important for us to not just be the artists or teachers but become the people who are also sitting at the table,” said Kihonia. “Our culture and identity has to be determined by us, not by professors or scholars or somebody that went to Africa. We felt like it was important to have our own voice and take matters into our own hands.”
Afrika Yetu is the nucleus of arts learning, training and access for the Pan African community. They promote and foster the rich, diverse cultural perspective of people of African heritage through high-quality education, vibrant performances, visual art exhibitions, immigration assistance, and so much more. They aim to universally enrich the African experience in Pittsburgh, especially for immigrants who may be facing challenges.
“We know language is a barrier. We know technology, if you’re not aware of it, is a barrier. We make sure we teach people computer skills in a way that they will understand. [We show] this is how you communicate for free using WhatsApp, Zoom, etc.”
Over time, Kihonia is proud of the progress Afrika Yetu has made and remains committed.
“In Pittsburgh in the 90’s, I was probably the only person walking downtown with African attire. Everyone didn’t feel good wearing African attire and going downtown,” said Kihonia. “We decided it was important to change the mindset from the core. We got ourselves involved in the cultural district. We got ourselves involved in the school district. We got ourselves involved in churches…We work in grassroots ways to promote our culture.”
Kihonia added that African culture is becoming more mainstream daily.
“Today, you can’t run away from it. It’s in every music [genre], including hip hop with afro beats. You cannot hide it when you see movies such as Black Panther that inspires young persons and persons of color.”