Some memories don't fade away, perhaps never will. One such, for me, is a meeting I had on February 17 with the staff of Buckham Library in Faribault, Minnesota.
Delane James, the Library Director, had invited me to talk about cultural differences relating to Africans and Americans. Faribault, like many cities and other communities in the USA, is experiencing an influx of immigrants and refugees from different parts of the world. For Faribault, these include Somalis, Sudanese, and Mexicans.
Having read my Africans and Americans book, Delane wanted me to address the issue of the differences between African and American culture. She felt it would help her staff in their dealings with African clients. I gladly accepted the invitation. As an educator who views teaching as a sacred profession, I have a soft spot for librarians, seeing them as fellow educators.
I had visited Faribault many times before, to attend meetings of the Faribault Diversity Coalition, as a member of its Board. I had also gone there to give talks on cultural issues, to the Faribault Rotary Club, the Faribault High School, the First English Lutheran Church, and the Correctional Facility, as I reported here. I had even given a talk at the Buckham Library, titled "When Africa Meets Faribault".
Talking to the Library staff, I noted their eagerness to understand their African clients, the better to serve them. They asked questions about Islamic practices, for example, given that the Faribault Somalis are Muslims. It was a pleasure to answer their questions. There was one, or example, on the separation of women and men in Islamic societies. I noted that this is true not only in Islamic culture but also African culture, as a manifestation and expression of respect. The concept of avoidance as respect exists in many parts of the world.
Members of the audience who had read my book urged the others to read it. Everyone agreed we should hold another meeting, a book talk and signing, open to the public. This kind of diversity training, whose motivation stems from the people themselves, is most satisfying. Call it diversity training with a human face or, better still, a human heart.