Sunday, October 30, 2011

Muslims in U.S. Colleges: The Somali Experience

Today, in Faribault, Minnesota, there was a meeting of Somali parents and youths to discuss the issue of Muslims in American colleges. Two Carleton College students organized the event. Aware of my longstanding engagement with the city of Faribault, including the Somali population, they invited me to be one of the facilitators of the conversations alongside a Somali Muslim man who has children in college, and a young Somali woman who is a college student.

We talked about admission issues, life on campus, challenges of being a Muslim on campus. I talked about the cultural differences Somali Muslims and Africans in general encounter on an American college campus, mindful of the fact that the school is both a product and reflection of its cultural context. The young woman on the panel reassured the audience, saying that though there are challenges to being a Muslim in an American college, they are not reason enough to discourage someone from going to college.

The gathering gave equal opportunity to young people and parents to air their views, expectations, and anxieties.

The parents stressed, again and again, that they want their children to succeed in school and college so they can have better opportunities in life.

It was humbling for me to hear some parents mention me as an example of what they want their children to be like. At the same time, it was a priviledge to be there as a source of inspiration and a role model for the youths. In fact, one young man recalled that I had spoken to him and his friends at the Faribault High School about five years ago and that he drew inspiration from what I had said on that day.

This was a valuable opportunity for everyone to learn and also to network.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nuruddin Farah in Northfield

This evening, at Carleton College, Nuruddin Farah gave a reading from Crossbones, his latest book, published this year. Several dozen people attended tonight's event.

I have heard Farah several times, over the years, here in the USA. It is always a priviledge to meet such a distinguished writer.

Farah started by giving the context of Crossbones--the eve of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia several years ago and its aftermath. From his reading it was clear that Crossbones brings home the sad realities and challenges that have been part of the experience of Somalia for years.

After his reading, Farah answered many questions from the audience. It was touching to hear him talk about the research he does in preparation for writing a work such as Crossbones. He paid tribute to the many people who help him.

One of the points he made is that he does not see himself as the spokesman or the voice of the Somali experience, even though many people see him as such. He insisted that nobody elected him spokesman of the Somalis. He also joked about his habit of writing trilogies, saying he is long-winded.

After his talk, Nuruddin Farah signed copies of his books. Most of his works were available. I made sure to obtain a copy of Crossbones, since I have the other books. On the left, you can see him signing my copy.

I have taught some of Nuruddin Farah's works, starting with From a Crooked Rib which I taught at Iringa Girls Secondary School, Tanzania, in 1974. I was then an undergraduate student at the University of Dar es Salaam doing my teaching practice. From a Crooked Rib was required reading in the Literature syllabus. I mentioned this to Nuruddin Farah this evening.

I have taught other works by Farah here at St. Olaf College, and I look forward to reading Crossbones.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Online Bookstore

I like the new look of my online bookstore. You can view it here. I did not create this new storefront: the credit goes to lulu. I will, however, be adding features to it, as you will see if you keep visiting it.

I started reading about online publishing more that ten years ago and soon decided to publish some of my work that way. I am still reading, to educate myself, since the field is evolving rapidly. Reading is one thing, however, but being involved in the process deepens my understanding.

When I started publishing online, the e-book phenonemon did not exist, as far as I remember. Nowadays, however, it is quickly gaining ground and might become dominant. I keep pace with these developments, making all my online books available in printed and e-book formats.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Twin Cities Book Festival, 2011

Today, I went to the Twin Cities Book Festival in Minneapolis. This is an annual Festival, organized by the Rain Taxi

Although I have participated in this festival as a book exhibitor for a number of years, this year I inadvertently forgot to make arrangements in time. I was in Tanzania for much of the summer, and when I returned to Minnesota, I realized that all the exhibition tables were taken. Next year I will be more alert, I hope.

Still, I drove the 45 miles to Minneapolis to see the Festival, a major event I never want to miss.

Despite the bad state of the American economy, despite all the suffering and uncertainty this is causing in people's lives, it is amazing that the Book Festival never fails to attract large numbers of people.

As always, I met people I know, such as Shatona Kilgore-Groves, seen on the left. She is a writer and educator in the African American community. This year, I published a review of her first book. At her table, I also saw her latest book, Feeling Down: How to Pick Yourself up in the Word of God.

I watched as people milled about, cheking out books and talking with authors, publishers, editors and other people in the book industry.

The whole day, from early in the morning, people come and go. I have no doubt that thousands of people attended today's Festival.

Most touching, for me, is to see parents who bring their children to these events. What a great way to bring up children. I believe all children like books. I have noted this in my own county as well and written about it.

I spent much time in the used books section on the left. There was a great variety of books here, at low prices.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Off-campus Study Open House, St. Olaf College

Today, here at St. Olaf College, we had what we call the Off-campus Study Open House, an opportunity for students to learn about the many off-campus study programs available to them.

St. Olaf College is noted for its commitment to study abroad, as part of its mission to promote a global perspective. Many students come to this College because of its study abroad opportunities.

Some of these programs are located in the USA but many take students abroad.

During the Open House, program advisors talk with students about their respective programs. I am an advisor for two programs run by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) in Botswana and Tanzania, as well as the Lutheran College Consortium for Tanzania (LCCT) program. In fact, just about a month ago, I returned from Tanzania, where I led students on the LCCT program.

I doubt if there is any educator who would doubt the value of study abroad. It is, indeed, one of the best investments we can make in the lives of our students.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Hailed as a Cultural Diversity Resource

In recent years, many immigrants and refugees have settled in Faribault, Minnesota, especially from Somalia and Central America. This has given rise to many cultural challenges, as has been happening in other communities across the USA.

This year students from the Political Science Department at St. Olaf College and one of their professors studied immigration issues in Faribault. They interviewed 39 community leaders and have produced a detailed report, available here.

I have been involved with the Faribault community for a number of years as a cultural consultant and mediator. I am delighted to see my work mentioned in the report, several times. Here is one reference:

Interviewees identified many existing print resources for cross-cultural education, including cultural sensitivity materials used by organizations like the Red Cross to train volunteers and Joseph Mbele's book Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. Respondents repeatedly pointed to Faribault's abundant "human resources," or specific individuals who are experienced in mediating between cultures to resolve conflicts. Interviewees named Joseph Mbele, ESL teachers and public school cultural liaisons as important human assets to the community. (p. 17)

This is not news to me, having been closely involved with the people of Faribault for a number of years. I should simply note that, as the report shows, Faribault's community leaders have done some really useful work on the issue of immigrants and refugees and learned lessons that can help other communities across the USA.

The Africans and Americans book is available from the St. Olaf College Bookstore, toll free number 1 888 232 6523 and online here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TPDF Saves Ship From Pirates

Source: Daily News

By ROSE ATHUMANI, 4th October 2011 @ 12:24

SEVEN pirates were captured on Wednesday night after attacking an Oil prospecting ship, Sam-S-All Good, 40 kilometres Northeast of Mafia Island, the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF) spokesman, said.

Col. Kapambala Mgawe said the seven suspects attacked the ship at around 9:00 with the intention of hijacking it. Two ships near the area; Monck and Froshiber which had TPDF forces responded to a distress call from the ship under attack.

"The two patrol ships that were in the area with TPDF troops, responded to the distress call from the oil prospecting ship and went to provide assistance and protection," he said.

On arrival at the scene, TPDF forces using search light noticed suspicious people walking up and down the ship brandishing guns.

"The TPDF opened fire in the air as a warning but the pirates did not surrender and instead fired directly at the soldiers. There was exchange of fire, the pirates were overpowered and decided to surrender by throwing their weapons in the sea and raised up their arms," Col. Mgawe explained.

He said the TPDF soldiers arrested the pirates by tying them up with a rope. "One of the pirates was injured in his right thigh, during the exchange of fire," he added.

The pirates were found in possession of 16 rounds of sub machine gun (SMG) ammunition and some pain killers. A TPDF ship has already left to pick up the pirates who are believed to be Somalis and they will be handed over to the police.

"One of our ships has already left Kigamboni today (yesterday) to pick up the pirates, we believed they are Somalis, but we cannot confirm that for sure yet, until they are brought in and handed to the police tomorrow morning," Col Mgawe explained.

The boat that the suspected pirates were using is believed to have drifted off, after they climbed onboard the oil prospecting ship, Sam-S-All Good.

Meanwhile, a five-day sea operation training comprising Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states and Kenya has been completed successfully.

Addressing journalists yesterday aboard SAS Drakensberg of South Africa, Real Admiral and Director of Marine Warfare Karl Wieswer, said the SADC summit agreed to have joint training that will make Indian Ocean safe.

"The purpose of the training is to make the waters of the EAC and SADC safe for trade," he added. Countries that participated in this initial training include Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and host country Tanzania.

Real Admiral Wieswer said smilar training sessions will take place and will involve more countries including those landlocked and depend on the Indian Ocean for their trade.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Africans and African Americans coming together

Come meet greet and engage your brother and sisters in a wonderful day of conversation. Together let’s talk about building relationships and wealth in our community.

Speakers: Mr. Lester R. Collins; Executive Director of Council on Black Minnesotans

Dr. Samuel Zalanga of Bethel University

Date: Saturday October 8, 2011

Location: Center for Families, 3333 North 4th Street Minneapolis, MN 55412

Time: 8:00am – 3:30pm

Cost: Free; Breakfast and Lunch provided

This summit is open to the public and it is free. Attached are event flyer, agenda and vendor registration form, please share these information to your network. Thanks and see you all October 8, 2011. A program of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.


Saturday, October 8, 2011 8:00 am – 3:30 p.m

Theme: Wealth (Africans of the Diaspora Coming Together To Build Relationship and talk about Wealth in the sense of Economic and Culture)

Registration: 8:00 a.m. –

Social Networking/Continental Breakfast: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Call to Unity: 9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.


First Speaker: 9:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. (Mr. Lester R. Collins)

Break: 10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Entertainment/ Enrichment/ Performance: (African Dancing group?) 10:30 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.

Second Speaker: 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (Dr. Samuel Zalanga)

Lunch: 11:30a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Breakout Sessions: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Panel /Facilitators: (Questions & Answers) 1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Wrap Up: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Food For Thought: “What are you going to do to bring us together”?

Mission Statement: The Pan-African Council of Minnesota mission is to strengthen relationships among and between all people of African descent, acknowledge the historical brokenness between African and Caribbean born people and African Americans, and seek ways to reconcile our differences and heal the pain