I returned this evening from Rochester, Minnesota, where I attended a get together organized by the Kenya Community in Rochester to celebrate Heroes' Day, popularly known as Mashujaa Day. Mashujaa is the Swahili word for heroes. Kenyans hold this annual celebration on October 20, to honour their national heroes, from the struggle for independence to the present time.
I learned about today's gathering from Olivia Njogu, who is seen second from right in the photo on the left. She is a member of the board of the Rochester International Association, which organizes the Rochester World Festival. She met me at this year's festival, which I wrote about on this blog. Recently, Olivia read my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and wrote me, saying how much she appreciated it. I am grateful to her.
This is not the first time I have attended Kenyan events here in the U.S.A, and I have always enjoyed them, as I have written on this blog. I had the same experience today. I had hardly parked my car when several Kenyans came out to receive me. It did not matter that I knew none of them. We introduced ourselves and launched into animated conversation.
This was a family event, involving children, young people, and adults. In addition to endless conversation, joy, and laughter, there was plenty of food and African music. Kenyan music touched my soul with gentle waves of nostalgia for the times I visited Kenya, starting in 1989.
The ladies in the photo on the left manifest the cheerful spirit that permeated the whole event.
Most of the people who attended I had not met before, but there were several who remembered me from this year's Rochester World Festival. It was a humbling experience to be recognized that way.
This was not a wholly Kenyan affair; even though I did not get to talk with everyone, I did talk with a guy from Nigeria and another guy from Uganda.
Having established a sizeable network of friends and acquaintances among the Africans in the Twin Cities area, I am happy to see myself doing the same in the Rochester area. As a writer and educator, I know that all this is good not only for me, but also, and more importantly, for the future of our African diaspora community, for Africa, and the world.