Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Afrifest Foundation Looks Ahead

I have just returned from Minneapolis, to attend the Afrifest Foundation Open House. The Afrifest Foundation board had wanted to hold this event to inform people about the new direction that the Foundation is taking, designed to make it better than it is.

Nathan White, Executive Director, welcomed the gathering and introduced the Afrifest Foundation briefly as an organization working to bring together diverse people in Minnesota and beyond in order to learn about and celebrate the history and culture of Africans and people of African descent. Then, at his request, we took turns introducing ourselves.

Nathan continued to present an overview of the Afrifest Foundation: its origin, the dream and the journey traveled so far. He mentioned accomplishments, including successful staging of the annual Afrifest Festival, partnerships with companies, organizations and individuals. He mentioned challenges encountered along the way, such as the tendency among some Africans to focus only on their own ethnic group or country. The Afrifest Foundation has a bigger dream: promoting Pan Africanism. Nathan's introductory remarks set the tone for the meeting.

Nathan then invited me, as chairman of the Afrifest Foundation board, to offer my remarks. I talked about my experience of working with Nathan from the very beginning, and why I value stepping out of the college setting where I work, and being involved in the broader community, to both teach and learn. I highlighted the value of Afrifest for our community as a forum for learning about ourselves, our history, culture, and place in the world. I see the Afrifest Foundation as an amazing place for our young people to volunteer and do internships, activities that are highly valued in the U.S. educational system and society at large. As an educator, I contribute to the mission and vision of Afrifest Foundation through educational programming such as the Pan African historical exhibit I present during the annual festival.

I mentioned that during the Festival, I also display my books and other writings, and talk with people about African and African Diaspora culture, folklore and other subjects. I showed copies of those books around.

After my talk we had an amazing Jamaican lunch catered by S&M Catering, whose owner, Shabba, is seen on the far left, in jeans.

Then Nathan led us through the rest of the agenda: objectives, mission, keys to success, board responsibilities and new member sign up process. As the Afrifest Foundation seeks to extend its activities, it needs more board members. He invited people to sign up.

We had good conversation, sharing ideas and suggestions. Shabba joyfully reminisced about participating in Afrifest last year as a food vendor and shared ideas about promoting the Afrifest Foundation among people of various Caribbean islands. We exchanged contact information.

This was a rich and inspiring meeting, which covered much ground and left everyone with a clear sense of the importance of the mission of the Afrifest Foundation. At the end of the meeting, all the board positions were filled up. The Afrifest Foundation is poised to forge ahead in pursuit of its new vision of having not only the annual festival but several other events during the year.

For more information about the Afrifest Foundation, read this interview. There is more, such as this report of a business meeting and this record of a fashion show.

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