Friday, January 13, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at Concordia University, St. Paul

Janury 16 is Martin Luther King Day. There will be many commemorative events around the USA, and I will be at Concordia University, in St. Pau, froml 9:30am to 3pm with fellow authors, displaying books and talking with people.

Having done some homework, over the last few years, on the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr, I have some understanding of the principles he stood for, especially around the issues of education, human equality and justice for all. When he said people should not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, he wanted not only Whites but also Blacks and everybody else to abide by that principle.

As a writer and educator committed to such ideas, to making a positive difference in the world, I look forward to meeting people at Concordia University on January 16, and exploring the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

African Trickster Tales at Gustavus Adolphus College

Today I went to Gustavus Adolphus College to give a talk on The Trickster. Professor Paschal Kyoore is teaching a course on African Tricksters, and he invited me to visit the class, especially since they have been reading my Matengo Folktales.

I liked the fact that this was a two-hour class, plenty of time to raise and discuss some key issues. I dwelt mostly on conceptual issues and problems around the topic of trickster, starting with the Eurocentric orientation that drives our scholarly discourses. I stated that terms such as folktale, trickster, myth, and legend are themselves problematical.

There is something special about being in a small town in central Minnesota and discussing African traditions. I have experienced this before. I have given talks on Matengo Folktales at the College of St. Benedict, as I mentioned on my Swahili blog, at St. Olaf College, where I teach, at the School of Environmental Studies, and other venues.

Engaging students in reflecting upon human creativity in different cultures is surely one of the great joys of teaching, and I have always embraced that opportunity. Today, therefore, was another wonderful day in my life as a teacher.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another Day With Gustavus Adolphus Students

Today, I met with students from Gustavus Adolphus College who are leaving for Tanzania this week on a January term program that has been around for a number of years. Professor Barbara Zust invited me to meet the students, as she has done in the past, as part of their pre-departure orientation.

Professor Zust had the students read my Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences". My meetings with the students enable us to reflect on what I say in the book. That is what we did today.

However, I first gave an account of the genesis of the book. Readers of the book will remember that I do this as well at the beginning of the book. I then summarized the main lessons I learned in writing the book.

After those remarks, we had a question and answer session, which took most of the time. Since the students had read the book, they had many questions which gave me a chance to elaborate on various cultural issues.

Our meeting today lasted about four hours, making it the longest book talk I have ever held.

As in previous years, the students seemed all excited about their impending trip. I told them how delighted I am that they are going to my country and how valuable such experiences in foreign countries are.

We met at the Mount Olivet Conference and Retreat Center. Located in a rural area, it has excellent conference, lodging, and restaurant facilities.