Africana Studies hosts ‘Mardi Gras Amazing Race,’ a chance to learn about Black History


Rashanda Booker (right) celebrates her first Mardi Gras at Fresno State as the first university diversity officer. (Aileen Guzman/The Collegian)

By Aileen Guzman, Contributor

Meta Schettler, Fresno State’s Africana Studies Program coordinator, recently gave Rashanda Booker, the new university diversity officer,  a warm welcome with a celebration of Mardi Gras the Fresno way.

Booker, who came to Fresno State from Louisiana State University (LSU), said she loved Mardi Gras. 

“Today is actually the last day of Mardi Gras in Louisiana, and then after this everybody goes to Ash Wednesday. It’s fun. It’s culture. It’s a city that thrives on love and letting the good times roll. You see so many different ethnicities and so many people just having fun. It’s beautiful,” Booker said. 

Booker was welcomed in the University Student Union Free Speech Area. The department of Africana Studies held an activity for students to learn more about Black History during the  “Mardi Gras Amazing Race,” held before Booker’s introduction. 

In Louisiana, the whole week is spent celebrating a carnival-like event before the fasting season of Lent and Ash Wednesday.

Africana Studies Program hosted the “Amazing Race,” which started and ended near the USU. The race allowed participants to learn about Black history and earn small prizes while they sought out their next clue. 

Adjoa Aikins, a student leader for the program, said the goal for this scavenger hunt was to get students both involved and informed about the program.

“The whole thing is to promote racial justice for people on campus but also for the community to get involved. So what we’re trying to do is get students to go on a Mardi Gras scavenger hunt and give them four phrases that complete into a sentence that is a Mardi Gras ritual,” Aikins said. 

Meta Shettler (right), the Africana Studies Program coordinator, and Adjoa Aikins (left), a Media, Communications and Journalism student. (Carlos Rene Castro/ The Collegian)

Schettler also taught at LSU between 2000 and 2002, but before her arrival there, she mentioned moving from Philadelphia to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Schettler has been a part of the program since 2000 but recently became a coordinator last fall. 

“When I heard Dr. Booker was coming from Louisiana …, I felt like, wow, we should do a Mardi Gras celebration for her just to welcome her to Fresno State,” Schettler said. 

Students stopped by the booth to pick up candy, beads and start the scavenger hunt. In teams of two, students worked to complete activities and search for hints between the USU Africana Studies table, Cross Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC)  Harambee Room, Office of Diversity & Inclusion Room and the Library circulation desk. 

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval at the Africana Studies Program’s “Mardi Gras Amazing Race” event. (Carlos Rene Castro/ The Collegian)

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval was one of the many participants who stopped by the Africana Studies booth to collect beads and candy. 

The Africana Studies Program will be hosting Sanibonani  Open Mic Night.on Feb 23 in the Ellipse Gallery. This next event is open to the public and attendees are encouraged to read their original work or select from their favorite Black poets.