Pasada dancing, traditional foods and learning new languages can all be found at the Cape Verdean Student Association (CVSA). 

Cape Verde, or Cabo Verde in the native language of Portuguese, is a country made up of a group of small islands off the coast of West Africa. According to Cape Verde USA’s website, Rhode Island is home to more than 15,000 Cape Verdeans, one of the largest communities in the United States.

CVSA President Justice Douglas opened her arms to those from all backgrounds to come celebrate Cape Verdean culture, including traditional dancing and song. 

“You do not need to be Cape Verdean to be a part of this organization,” Douglas said. “What you need is to have an open mind to be able to come and learn about a different culture.” 

Douglas, a senior at URI, is Puerto Rican and Native American. She joined CVSA as a first year representative before moving on to treasurer, vice president and now president. 

“I’ve been a part of CVSA since my first year, and I fell in love with the culture and fell in love with the people,” Douglas said. 

The CVSA was re-recognized by the Student Senate on Sept. 29 after they were briefly unrecognized last semester, according to Student Organizations Chair Katie Siegle.

“[Cape Verdean students] come to CVSA because they know that this is where they can be their authentic self in terms of their culture,” Douglas said. 

CVSA community service chair Alexis Batista, a senior at URI, is grateful to be able to celebrate her Cape Verdean roots at CVSA meetings. 

“Being around other people who are from the same background as me makes me feel at home,” Batista said. “CVSA is helping me get in touch with my culture.”

The organization has weekly meetings, at which members can learn a new word in Portuguese with the “word of the week” activity, or learn how to perform the traditional dance pasada, a Cape Verdean couple’s dance. 

Meetings also sometimes feature game nights, including Jeopardy with Cape Verdean music and fun facts. 

Batista said that the meetings are“refreshing,” and a good way to teach people about the culture of Cape Verde.

The organization also hosts events, such as the annual All Black Affair Union Party and the Halloween Bash, co-hosted by Uhuru Sasa, in which members of each organization come together for dancing and food. 

“We get catering, real authentic Cape Verdean food,” Douglas said. “[The students] love it.”

Douglas said that in her role as president, she has aimed to promote Cape Verdean culture and help more people learn about it.

“What I really try to do is shed light on the importance of the Cape Verdean culture and its heritage, the different traditions that they have, and how much of a family-oriented culture this is,” Douglas said. “It’s very close-knit, I love everybody in our organization.”

The Cape Verdean Student Association meets weekly on Thursdays at 6 p.m. in the Multicultural Student Services Center. President Justice Douglas can be reached at justice_douglas@uri.edu