Saturday, October 3, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

A New Outlet for my Books

Two of my books, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and Matengo Folktales are now available from Planting People Growing Justice

The founder and director of this organization, Dr. Artika Tyner, is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. She had asked me if I would like to have my books sold by her organization.

She got to know about my books in 2018 when we both attended a fundraising event in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. She bought a numbest of copies and used the "Africans and Americans" book on a program in which she took Americans to Ghana. She co-directed this program with Ghanaian educator Monica Habia. After the trip, Monica told me how useful the book had been as a cultural orientation resource for the trip.

You can visit the website of Planting People Growing Justice. The two books are available in Tanzania as well, from Soma Book Cafe and A Novel Idea.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

My Book Helps Build Cultural Bridges

In the 24 July, 2020 edition of the NewsLeaders newsletter, Juliana Howard, on behalf of Cultural Bridges, a central Minnesota organization helping refugees and immigrants settle and succeed in that region, says some good things about my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences.

Cultural Bridges has as its mission to increase understanding and build relationships with our neighbors who have landed here from another country. Some are brown, some are Black, some are white. All are welcome! says Cultural Bridges. We hope that changing the column’s name to Cultural Connections will broaden our mission. Because many new arrivals come from Africa, I suggest reading the excellent book by Joseph Mbele, “Africans and Americans; Embracing Cultural Differences.” Mbele, a Tanzanian, is a professor of English at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The book is at Amazon and you can explore his website and see the work he is doing at

Sunday, May 3, 2020

My Zoom Presentation to South Central College

On April 28, I made a Zoom presentation to SCC and other U.S. educational institutions use in their Africa study abroad programs. I have given several talks at South Central College
before, including a public presentation and class visits. I had initially been invited to the College to talk about issues in my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, which SCC and other U.S. educational institutions use in their Africa study abroad programs

Due to the current restrictions on gatherings, South Central College invited me to give a Zoom presentation, instead, on "Understanding Each Other: Brothers and Sisters from Two Continents." I did, sitting in my office at St. Olaf College. Let me only say that my presentations are always conversational and easy going.  Listen to me here

Monday, January 6, 2020

Book Added to the Peace Corps Library

 My book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, has been added to the library of the Peace Corps in Washington DC. The director's message includes these words:

We will add it to the Peace Corps library where our staff and visitors can enjoy it.

I look forward to reading more of it as I find the topic to be very relevant and important to our work. I have already begun reading it, and it has reminded me of my own experiences in Togo, West Africa. As I was reading, I was struck by the section on eye contact. I really love the verses you included from the poem by Sufi poet Ibn ‘Arabi about the veiled woman and eye contact, and I got a good chuckle at your stories of misunderstandings—as I, as well surely all of us, have had many such experiences and misunderstandings.

The director's statement of how my book reminds her of her experiences in Africa is similar to what other Americans say about this book after their stay in Africa. Within Africa, the book is currently available in Tanzania from Soma Book Cafe, located in Dar es Salaam, and from A Novel Idea bookshop in Dar es Salaam and Arusha. It is available in Kenya as well, from Bookstop in the Yaya Center Mall, Nairobi.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

An African Storytelling Night at St. Olaf College

Yesterday evening, I made a presentation on African storytelling hosted by Karibu, a St. Olaf College student organization. I have done this a number of times over the years.

It is always a pleasure to share the story of the great significance of Africa in human history and civilization, and to illustrate this with evidence from folklore.

I demonstrated the wisdom and creativity of our African ancestors with several proverbs which we reflected upon. Then I told an Ethiopian tale, "The Donkey Who Sinned," from Harold C. Courlander's A Treasury of African Folklore, which made us think about the odious tradition of "might is right" and related social evils.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Culture and Business Between Africans and Americans

As a cultural consultant, I have lately been thinking about the cultural dimension of business between Africans and Americans. This is part of my longstanding interest in the differences between African and American culture. I am writing this commentary in response to reports of a dialogue between American and Tanzanian businesspeople held in Dar es Salaam in June 2019.
The Americans and the Tanzanians discussed the challenges facing American businesses in Tanzania and the steps the Tanzanians should take to improve the situation. The Americans would like business to be conducted according to rules which are transparent, consistent, and predictable. Deadlines should be kept. Changes should be made in the business environment to ensure ease of doing business.
All this sounds reasonable, but we need to think farther. Africans have been conducting business since time immemorial and have evolved their own ways of doing business. The traditional African market, for example, accommodates barter, haggling, conversation about random topics, and much joking. It is a place not only for exchanging goods and money but also for building and furthering social relationships.
When we talk about business, we tend to think about goods and money. In reality, business is an interaction between human beings, who have values, feelings, and expectations influenced or shaped by their culture. Business is easy if the people involved belong to the same culture. Otherwise, there are challenges.
There are different cultures in the world, and business is inseparable from culture. There is not one way of doing business. American business culture is part of American culture. When Americans talk about ease of doing business, they have in mind business as conducted in their culture. It is normal and easy for them, but is it for non-Americans?
Are Africans, for example, comfortable with the American way of doing business? Do they easily navigate American culture? I have no doubt that just as Americans encounter challenges in dealing with African culture, so do Africans when dealing with American culture.
American business culture is rooted in capitalism, whose driving motive is making money as efficiently and quickly as possible. Whatever stands in the way of making money, such as the random conversations I have alluded to, gets eliminated.
In the African tradition, on the contrary, business has more purposes than just making money, and success is not necessarily defined in monetary terms. Business builds and consolidates relationships. Time is not money, but a resource and opportunity for building social capital.
We can carry these African values into the present world and use business to facilitate mutual understanding among nations. If business could help create a peaceful world, it would be a great success, even without tangible or immediate financial gain.
We need to think about creating and sustaining a business culture that is humanistic rather than obsessively materialistic. As the Bible puts it: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”
This article first appeared in Medium.