Friday, December 31, 2010

Blogging in Two Languages

I started blogging in 2008, prompted by my two friends, Freddy Macha and Jeff Msangi. I run a blog in Swahili and another in English.

I did not quite know what I was getting into, when I started. Now I know. I have been learning a great deal through blogging, not only about blogging, but also about myself. Along the way, I have benefitted from the wisdom of more experienced bloggers, such as Subi Nukta and Michuzi.

I realize, for example, that blogging in two languages means dealing with two audiences. When I write in Swahili, I feel I am addressing fellow Tanzanians. I am comfortable writing about Tanzanian issues, often in a polemical style, because I am passionate about the issues.

When I write in English, I feel I am addressing the world. I don't even know what that means, but something tells me I am writing for the world, not just for Tanzanians. Still I want my blog to be as personal as possible, reflecting my interests, and accessible to a broad, global audience.

I will be thinking more about all this, and will write more reflections, as I do on my Swahili blog. I wonder, however, how things would be if I could blog in Matengo, my mother tongue. Alas, like most languages, Matengo is not a written language.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Multicultural Marketing

As the world rapidly becomes a global village, with people of different cultures interacting in complex ways, it presents many challenges and opportunities.

For businesses, such challenges and opportunities lie in the field of multicultural marketing. I have been learning about this over the last several years, starting with a conference I attended on March 13, 2008, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Multicultural marketing deals with a practical question: How does a business connect with people of different cultures to successfully market products and services? What is acceptable or appealing to one culture might not be to another culture. This can be as simple as the colour of a product or the sounds and images used in advertizing a product or a service. I remember how Tanzanians reacted to yellow maize flour from the USA, when it first arrived in their country. Being used to white maize flour, they did not like the yellow flour.

As a cultural consultant, I consider multicultural marketing an exciting topic, and I incorporate it in my workshops on culture and globalization.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My African American Readers

Writing Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, I faced many challenges. After publishing it, I wondered how readers would respond.

I was anxious, for example, about African Americans, because I talk and warn about differences between them and Africans. I even claim that African Americans are not African but American.

In due course, Shannon Gibney, a gifted African American journalist, called, seeking to interview me about my book. We did a phone interview, and she had sharp questions. Her review appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. I was touched by Shannon's honesty when she disagreed with me, and both relieved and gratified by her endorsement of the book.

Another high-profile African American response came from the Minnesota Black Pages, whose 2009/10 edition featured a colourful, full-page endorsement of "this ground-breaking book that addresses the sometimes frustrating disconnects between African Americans and African Immigrants," noting that the book's "concise and easy style will provide the reader--no matter their heritage--the knowledge to overcome a great deal of miscommunication and embarrassment" (page 47).

Needless to say, these responses have lessened my anxieties, and I thank these African Americans for sharing their opinions so generously.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing as Hard Labour

I want to talk about writing, considering how easy it is to string together words on an empty page and form a sentence or sentences, a paragraph or an essay. We do that all the time and call it writing.

I am thinking about writing as Hemingway defined it, again and again, as hard work, "something that you can never do as well as it can be done."(1)

I could cite Hemingway's many other statements on writing, but here is one I find most memorable: "There's no rule on how it is to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges."(2)

That is what I mean by writing, often painful and frustrating. From searching for the right word--and often there is no right word--to getting the sentence right, writing can be an excruciating ordeal, sheer Purgatory.

My most recent experience of Purgatory was writing on Litembo. For a long time, I have wanted to write about Litembo, the place where I was born and raised. I remember the place well: its mountains and valleys, its villages and footpaths, and its people.

I have always wanted to put these images in words. Writing that blog post was one way to test and exercise my faculties. I wrestled with words, trying to describe the landscape, the weather at the top of those mountains, the grass, and the ancient little trees clinging to rocks, defying the cold winds.

As I revise my work, over and over, I see it getting better and better. Eventually I publish it, feeling quite good about it. I return to Hemingway's views on writing: "It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done--so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well." (3)

As time goes, however, I discover weaknesses in my published work, and I wonder why I did not see them earlier. Such is my feeling, for example, about my little article on accents.

How I wish I could follow Hemingway's words: "All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." (4)


1) Larry W. Phillips, ed. Ernest Hemingway on Writing (New York: Scribner, 2004), 15.
2) Phillips, 18.
3) Phillips, 15.
4) Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: Restored Edition, ed. Sean Hemingway (New York: Scribner, 2009), 22.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Litembo, A Memorable Place

Litembo is a lovely place. I was born here. As a young boy, I walked its paths countless times, visiting homes, going to school and, on Sundays, to church. No matter where I am in the world, my heart is here.

Litembo made me who I am: the way I talk, feel and see the world.

Litembo is well known, in Southern Tanzania and beyond, because of its church and its hospital. For decades, people from far and near have flocked to Litembo Hospital, where the legendary Doctor Weyer worked, from 1961 to 1996, when she retired and returned to her native Germany. A model of devotion to serving others, she was loved by all and will always be remembered.

Several years ago, people of Litembo built a monument on a nearby mountain side, in remembrance of their ancestors killed there during an uprising against German rule. With this bit of history as an added attraction, Litembo beckons visitors, even those traveling the road between Mbinga and Mbamba Bay.

Litembo harbours cultural treasures, such as traditional Matengo ceremonies, dances, songs, games, and artifacts.

This is where, in the seventies, I recorded Matengo Folktales, an open window into the soul of the people who live here.

These tales express the experiences of the Matengo, their sentiments and outlook on life, revealing their thoughts, speculations, and questions about their environment, about themselves, about their relationships, and about the human condition in general. These tales are an important index and repertory of the Matengo artistic heritage.

Several miles from Litembo mission, as we call it, there is the awe-inspiring Mmbuji Rock, the subject of legends and other folklore. Ibuuta, Matengo fairies, live on this rock. People who live nearby report seeing unusual sights on the rock at night. The Matengo behold this rock with awe and reverence.

I recommend a hike up the surrounding mountains. The trails wind through coffee farms, fields of maize, wheat, and beans. Along the way, there are brick houses with corrugated iron roofs. As one pushes higher and higher, the houses vanish, to be replaced by both fields and uncultivated patches, the abode of colourful butterflies and birds of various kinds. Isolated trees and rocks of different shapes and sizes define the landscape.

It is cold up there, and windy. On the rocks, ancient little trees with stunted trunks and gnarled branches defy the cold winds, their roots wedged deep into the rock crevices. From that height, you can see distant places, where the horizon merges with the sky. This is not a place to spend the day, however, because of the cold winds, but it is a great place to enjoy a panoramic view of this beautiful region in Southern Tanzania.

(Litembo photo at the top of the page is from Peramiho Abbey).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thank You, Joseph Mbele

I see this blog as my private space, where I can express what I want: thoughts, sentiments, recollections, hopes, joys, anxieties, and so on. This blog post is somewhat personal.

As an author and cultural consultant, I always want to know how or whether I am connecting with my audiences. It is therefore gratifying to receive any feedback.

Several days ago, I came across a blog post titled "Thank You, Joseph Mbele," written by someone who had heard me speak at the College of St Benedict/St. John's University. I had been invited there to give several presentations, one of them to Peace Studies students and faculty preparing to travel to Eastern and Southern Africa.

I was happy to read the blog post, and was pleased that the author benefited from what I said about the differences between African and American culture. I thank the writer for this feedback, offered freely. I recall the meeting that evening: a full auditorium, with a table of my books at the back. I spoke for about thirty minutes, based on my Africans and Americans book, and then we had a stimulating question-and-answer session.

I wish to thank all my readers and audiences. I always learn something when I write or make presentations, but readers and audiences help me in that process. Some readers contact me privately, but others go public with their message, like the blogger I have mentioned and the Professional Strong Man, who ends his message with the Swahili phrase, "Asante sana," which means "thank you very much." I wish to return all these thanks, ten times over.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Teaching "A Grain of Wheat"

My African Literature and Politics class is now embarking on a study of Ngugi wa Thingo's A Grain of Wheat. I read this novel for the first time around 1971-72 at Mkwawa High School, Tanzania. It was on the reading list for the Literature course.

I remember quite well the experience of studying A Grain of Wheat. Our teacher was Paul Sorenson, a Danish volunteer. Soft-spoken and focused, he led us through a methodical exploration of this novel, alongside works of criticism, such as an essay by David Cook, titled "A New Earth."

There are memories that seem to last for ever. One such, for me, and close to my heart, is the cover of the novel--both the front and the back--featured on this page.

In those days, the author's name was James Ngugi. A Grain of Wheat and Ngugi's other writings touched us in a special way. Because of our rural backgrounds, most of us could relate to the lives of Ngugi's characters.

I have just introduced Ngugi to the class, with remarks about Kenya's colonization, settlers and the alienation of land, the Kenyan people's resistance against colonialism. I dwelt on the Mau Mau uprising and the Emergency.

I mentioned Ngugi's earlier works, such as Weep Not Child, The River Between, and The Black Hermit; his advocacy of writing in African languages, his stand against imperialism and for decolonization. I look forward to rich and memorable conversations with my students about A Grain of Wheat.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teaching "God's Bits of Wood"

After discussing Ferdinand Oyono's The Old Man and the Medal, my African Literature and Politics class picked up Sembene Ousmane's God's Bits of Wood, enabling us to continue our exploration of African Francophone writing.

I was happy to introduce Sembene Ousmane, Africa's leading film maker and one of its most accomplished writers. I talked about his life, work and travels, the evolution of his writing and his decision to make films. I talked about his politics as reflected in his life, writings and films.

After years of studying epics, I now see God's Bits of Wood in terms of the epic genre. The struggle of the workers, epitomized by the strike, is a classic epic tale, reinforced by Maimouna's songs from the ancient legend of Goumba N'Diaye, "the woman who had measured her strength against that of men."

This legend foreshadows the role women play in God's Bits of Wood. Mindful, however, of the many female characters and their roles, we dwelt on specific characters: Old Niakoro, Maimouna, Ramatoulaye, Ndeye Touti, and the little girl Adjibidji, who reminds me of another little girl, Raka, in Anita Desai's Fire on the Mountain. Both are free spirits, perpetually crossing the boundaries their societies impose on girls and women.

God's Bits of Wood methodically explores the trials and tribulations of a society under siege, reminiscent, in some ways, of Albert Camus's The Plague. Both texts explore what happens or might happen to human beings under such extreme conditions, as suffering persists and intensifies, seemingly with no end in sight.

We talked about themes in the novel: oppression, discrimination, racism, religion, colonial education, the politics of language, the relationship between the old generation and the new, and between men and women. In discussing these themes, we invoked the ideas of people like Frantz Fanon and Ngugi wa Thiong'o. I gave the class plenty of time to read the novel, and I believe the experience was worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Visit to the School of Environmental Studies

Today I visited the School of Environmental Studies (SES) in Apple Valley, to talk about folklore and the environment. Although I have visited this school many times, each visit is a new and refreshing experience.

As in the past, Todd Carson, the class teacher, invited me. I told the students today that I love and respect their school so much that I would never decline an invitation to speak there.

I discussed the evolution of language and folklore as vehicles for human survival and development. I talked about how humans have used and continue to use myths, legends, folktales, and other folklore forms to make sense of the world around them. Through incantations, rituals and ceremonies, humans have sought to influence the world.

Discussing stories of the origin of the world, I mentioned the Popol Vuh of the ancient Mayans, having just taught it in my folklore class at St. Olaf College. I also mentioned the widespread African story of how God separated himself from humans.

I talked about how story telling appropriates advances in technology, such as writing. Nowadays story telling goes on in newspapers, television, and social media such as blogs and Facebook and Twitter. In response to a question, I said that all disciplines are, essentially, forms of storytelling.

Since I visit the SES when the students are reading selections from Matengo Folktales, I always get to share some tales. Today, I told one tale from that book, "The Monster in the Rice Field."

My visits to the SES are always memorable. The students are different every year, but always delightful, brimming with intellectual curiosity. They ask great questions, and the two-hour session ends rather quickly. (Photos by Todd Carson).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Teaching "The Old Man and the Medal"

My African Literature and Politics class is not over yet. We have still five weeks to go. After reading A Wreath for Udomo, we moved on to Ferdinand Oyonos' The Old Man and the Medal.

I was keen to teach this novel, having read it as an undergraduate student at the University of Dar es Salaam, around 1974, under Professor Gabriel Ruhumbika. He introduced us to Francophone literature, having studied at the University of Dakar and the Sorbonne. I deepened and extended my understanding of Francophone literature as a graduate student at the University Wisconsin-Madison, under Professor Edris Makward.

With such a background, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to teach The Old Man and the Medal. I started with a brief overview of French colonial policies, emphasizing the notion of assimilation, gave an overview of the colonial experience in Cameroon, then moved on to literary history, incorporating the oral as well as the written tradition.

I talked about Ferdinand Oyono alongside Mongo Beti, briefly mentioning and discussing their key works, as well as their place in African literature. I made sure to state that anyone looking for an engaging fictional treatment of missionary work in colonial Africa needs to read Beti's The Poor Christ of Bomba.

During class discussions, it was inevitable that we would go back to Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism as well as Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon's chapter, "Concerning Violence," affords a framework for talking about the kind of colonial city depicted in Oyono's novel. The Old Man and the Medal provides good opportunities for discussing colonial politics around class and race, as well as for exploring indigenous African life and values.

We noted the ironies of this novel, around themes such as the friendship between Meka and the colonizers, and how Meka ends up being arrested and jailed by the same system that awards him the medal. We noted, as well, the sad ending of the novel, as Meka, in the wake of all his recent troubles and disappointments, finally declares, "I'm just an old man now..."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Iringa Fall Festival

Today I attended the 12th annual Iringa Fall Festival at Roseville Lutheran Church. This was an occasion for members of the St. Paul Area Synod of the ELCA and Iringa Diocese, Tanzania, to review and celebrate their partnernship.

This partnership involves not only matters of faith and fellowship but also programs in such fields as education, agriculture, and health. Various other synods and congregations across the USA are involved in such programs, with partners across Africa and other parts of the world.

Early in the program today, we heard a recorded message from Bishop Owdenburg Mdegela of Iringa. He recounted the many benefits of the partnership and thanked everyone involved and looked forward to an even brighter future. We also watched a video documentary of the life and work of the late Rev. Dr. Benjamin Ngede, a powerful testimony to a truly remarkable life.

The event drew many participants.There were several guests from Iringa, whom I was delighted to meet. They came from Tungamalenga and Kihesa. I met many people who know me, from hearing me speak in their churches or other venues, or from reading my Africans and Americans book. Some had heard, from Professor Per Anderson of Concordia College, that I was taking LCCT students to Iringa next year.

One of the speakers, Rev. Don Fultz, standing with his wife Eunice in the photo on the left, surprised me by introducing me to the audience, declaring that I wrote a wonderful book. He brandished a copy, urging everyone to read it. At the end of the Festival, I was accosted by people looking for the book. Fortunately, I had some copies.

There were about a dozen speakers, on such topics as Tumaini University, Radio Furaha, Saccos, the volunteer experience, the Agricultural Institute, the Endowment Fund, and Ilula Hospital. There was even a photo contest, and booths with information about these programs as well as Tanzanian items for sale. I saw people wearing Tanzania's kitenge outfits.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Africans and Americans: A Book Talk in Faribault

I have visited Faribault again and again, over the last few years, to participate in various educational and cultural events. On October 21, I went there again, at the invitation of the Buckham Memorial Library, to talk about my Africans and Americans book. I had mentioned this invitation in a previous blog post.

People came from Faribault and neighbouring towns, as well as Minneapolis. Delane James, director of the Library, introduced me.

I started with a brief account of my work at St. Olaf College: teaching global literatures in English, Folklore, and advising study abroad programs.
I noted that my interest in cultural differences developed in the course of my graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1980-86. There I experienced life in a foreign culture for the first time and began acquiring the knowledge I share in my Africans and Americans book and other writings.

I highlighted the main lessons I learned while writing the Africans and Americans book, and the lessons I learn while offering cultural orientation to Africans and Americans or while helping resolve conflicts between them.

One of these lessons is that we all grow up in our cultures with the idea that our culture is normal. We do not even think about it, just as we do not think about the fact that we are breathing.

The problem is that we tend to see our culture as the norm. We get a reality check, often a rude awakening, upon encountering a different culture. That encounter can result in problems between us and other people. Drawing upon my book, I gave examples of problems that occur between Africans and Americans.

I stressed, as I always do, the importance of learning, to know ourselves and others. We have no alternative, with the world increasingly becoming a global village and people of different cultures criss-crossing the globe and settling everywhere. Every place will feel the impact of these trends: from American cities, towns, and communities to the remotest parts of the world. I mentioned Tanzania, my own country, and the influx of foreigners there, from places as far as China.
After my talk and a period of questions and answers, there followed a book-signing, a ritual much beloved by Americans.

This was a worthwhile event. I had an attentive, engaging, and delightful audience and we were all very pleased. Delane urged everyone to organize similar events in their respective communities or places of work.

There are more photos of the event here. Milo Larson, chair of the Faribault Diversity Coalition was there, and he wrote a note on Facebook:

Great Forum by Joseph Mbele last night at the Library, always learn something new about the different cultures whenever I hear him. Everybody should see him just once, would be a more harmonious place.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

At the Rural America Writers' Center

My visit to the Rural America Writers' Center last evening went well. I was delighted to see the place and meet some of the people who carry on its mission. Born and brought up in a rural place, I was inspired and would like to establish such a center in my home area.

After being introduced, I described my work in the classroom and in the world, emphasizing the teaching of global literature in English and Folklore as well as consultancy work in cultural matters, especially those affecting Africans and Americans.
I talked about Matengo storytelling and told the tale of "The Monster in the Rice field," included in Matengo Folktales.

Then I talked about the importance of understanding cultural differences, citing my experience with Africans and Americans. Most people present read their works, prose and poetry, and shared stories. They bought copies of Africans and Americans and Matengo Folktales. We had wonderful conversation, which we continued later at a nearby restaurant.

The Rural America Writer's Center is a congenial meeting place for writers, with a nice small library. Writers read their work here. The Center also publishes The Green Blade, a magazine featuring established and emerging writers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Reading at the Jon Hassler Theater, October 20

This evening, from 7:00pm, I will be at the Jon Hassler Theater, as the featured writer for this month's Rural America Writers' Center Third Wednesday event. Here are excerpts from the announcement from the Center:

Joseph Mbele will be the featured writer at this month's Rural America Writers' Center Wednesday event. In his first book, Matengo Folktales, Mbele has translated ten folktales of Southern Tanzania (from his mother tongue of Matengo), having recorded them in the mid-70's. In his most recent book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences--Lulu Press 2009, Mbele, having lived a significant part of his life on both continents, provides sociological insights on both cultures in the hopes of preventing cultural misunderstandings which might "poison or ruin relationships between Africans and Americans."...In conjunction with his most recent book, Mr. Mbele's more recent interests and engagements are associated with providing cultural orientation to Americans traveling to Africa and for Africans living in America...Mr. Mbele will be reading excerpts from his recent book on Wednesday, October 20th at 7:00pm at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview, Minnesota.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Book Talk: Faribault (Minnesota), October 21

On October 21, I will go to Faribault, Minnesota, to talk about my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and sign copies.

Sponsored by the Buckham Memorial Library and the City of Faribault, the talk and book signing will be held in the Buckham Memorial Library, from 6:30 to 7:30pm. I have spoken in Faribault a number of times, as reported, for example, here and here, and I look forward to the October 21 event.

Delane James, director of the Buckham Memorial Library, posted the following invitation on Facebook:

Dear Friends:

I hope you will be able to join us in the Great Hall at 6:30 p.m. as St. Olaf Professor Mbele speaks about his book, Africans and American: Embracing Cultural Differences.

Professor Mbele visited with our library staff last spring and we all agree... he is incredible! We are thrilled to be hosting this event and hope you can make it!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Twin Cities Book Festival, October 16

Yesterday I attended the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis, an annual event organized by Rain Taxi. It was another memorable day of meeting people, talking about books, writing, publishing and many other things, as I wrote on my Swahili blog. Here are photos from the event, the two at the top showing my book display.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Twin Cities Book Festival Approaches

The Twin Cities Book Festival is just around the corner, October 16. I look forward to being there, as usual, meeting writers, publishers, editors, and book lovers. It has always been a treat.

As an exhibitor, using the Africonexion label, I have all my books ready. I look forward to talking with people about my experiences as an educator, writer, and cultural consultant. I will write about it all on this blog, as I have always done. For more information about the Festival, read here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The 2nd Pan African Summit, Minneapolis

Today, after many months of planning, we had the Pan African Summit, at the Center for Families. Dozens of Africans and African Americans attended. We listened to presentations that offered much food for thought. These were followed by honest and enlightening discussions. This summit was in certain ways better than the first one, and I cannot even pretend that I will be able to present an adequate report of it here. I will only touch on some of its highlights. I plan to return to it again and again in future blog posts.

The proceedings started with opening remarks by Edmund Ocansey, chair of the Pan African Summit planning committee. He stated the purpose of our gathering, recalling the journey we had traveled since the first summit, and described the schedule we were going to follow during our proceedings for today.

Then he introduced the keynote speaker, Gerald Montgomery, and called him to the podium. A former U.S. marine and a holder of a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering Technology, Gerald is a member of the planning committee, as you can see in various previous posts on this blog. He is also a writer and a keen analyst of the African and African American condition.

Gerald spoke about Geo-Africanism, a concept he has been developing to help people of African ancestry come to terms with their origins and identity. He noted that when people say they are of Irish descent, for example, we accept it without any problem, but when an African American says he or she is of African descent the issue becomes problematical. Geo-Africanism is a concept that gives African Americans the chance to claim their ethnicity. Gerald wants African Americans to learn how to be African. They should seek to know African countries. After eating some African food, they should go online and learn about the people and the country it came from. Echoing a theme from the first summit, Gerald said African Americans owe Africans a welcome to the USA. He wants Africans to be a bit more forthcoming and open minded towards African Americans.

Dr. Kofi Mensah a distinguished scientist in the process and product development division of the General Mills company, gave a slide presentation on Pan Africanism, its history, ramifications and challenges in a time perspective, as well as its potential as a force in the world today and in the future.

He noted, for example, that other groups with common heritage are forming alliances and networks. The people of African descent need to do the same, to achieve unity and work towards their collective advancement.

He stressed the importance of education: Africans should learn about African Americans and vice versa, through seminars, courses and one-on-one interactions.

Pam White, CNP, the Founder and President of the Health Empowerment Resource (HER), recounted her own life story of growing up as a disadvantage girl who became a teenage mother, resentful when people told her to go back to Africa. Later someone taught her about her African heritage, about kings and queens, and restored her pride in her African heritage.

She went on to study and became a women's health-care nurse practitioner, finally starting her own clinic for "women of color, and underserved populations." HER seeks to empower and assist women in learning how to live healthier and longer by reclaiming their self-respect and a sense of balance.

Pam offered a compelling account of the specific health issues and challenges of "women of color" arguing that it is important that patients have the opportunity to be served by people who share their cultural and other background. (Photo on the left by Edmund Ocansey)

After the presentations, we split the gathering into two: an African group and an African American group. We had done the same during the first summit. This time, however, we had an African facilitator for the African American group, and an African American facilitator for the African group. Each group was requested to discuss the issues they had concerning the other group.

Before we split, however, we had a delicious lunch, with African and African American food. (Photo on the left by Edmund Ocansey)

There were tables for vendors, and organizations and individual businesses had an opportunity to showcase their products and services. In addition to everything else, books, brochures and other literature are a valuable resource for the kind of dream the Pan African summit is pursuing. (Photo on the left by Edmund Ocansey)

Some of the issues mentioned in the first summit came up again. For example, an African American said that Africans come to the USA, take "our jobs," take the wealth and return to Africa. They do not seem concerned about the problems and struggles of African Americans. They do not, for example, concern themselves with the blacks in prisons: they don't visit them or do anything to help out. I think this is a topic for a whole meeting.

An African American lady complained about Africans talking in their languages even when she is around. For example, she visits an African store or hair salon, and the Africans just keep talking in their language, not caring that she doesn't understand. She wonders whether they are talking about her, and why they don't respect her as a client. I think this is a legitimate complaint.

It is always good, when we gather to explore such complex and difficult issues as the relations between Africans and African Americans, to have some moments of relaxation. Accordingly, halfway through the proceedings, Ghanaian drummers came and put up a spirited performance. We danced an relieved some of the solemnity and tension of the dialogue.

I learned a great deal during this summit, as I had during the first one. Africans and African Americans need to recognize that they have a very long way to go to understand one another and to fully acknowledge their different histories and experiences. Whether they like it or not, these different histories and experiences have shaped and continue to inform their different mindsets and outlooks, which can cause misunderstandings and most unpleasant confrontations.