Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preparing to Teach a Seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo

When my Department asked me to teach, next spring, a seminar on West African Literature, I thought about various options. I have taught the works of a number of West African writers, such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Sembene Ousmane, Mariama Ba, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ben Okri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have even, several times, taught an advanced course on Soyinka.

This time, however, I thought of doing something different, something I have not done before: a seminar on Ama Ata Aidoo, a writer who has been producing work from the mid sixties, in drama and fiction, and has continued to create.

Nobody would be surprised if someone offered a seminar, on, say, Ayi Kwei Armah, Achebe, or Kofi Awoonor. But a seminar on woman writer seemed out of the ordinary. Yet, there are such writers, including Flora Nwapa and Buchi Emecheta. I therefore thought Ama Ata Aidoo would be an appropriate choice and a great learning experience for me and for the students.

In the late sixties, as a secondary school student in Tanzania, I enjoyed the short stories of Ama Ata Aidoo. I still remember, for example, the story-telling skills she displays in her "In the Cutting of a Drink." Even as a young reader, I found this story fabulous.

I have taught several of Aidoo's works, especially The Dilemma of a Ghost, which I find profound in its exploration of the differences and tensions between Africans and African Americans. I have also taught her other play, Anowa and her novel Our Sister Killjoy.

I look forward to trying to place Ama Ata Aidoo in the context of the last several decades of African writing in English, and in the context of African women's writing.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Conversation With Patrick Hemingway

Three days ago, November 25, I had another wonderful conversation with Patrick Hemingawy. I called him at 5:50pm, and we talked for half an hour.

It is clear that Patrick enjoys our conversations as I do. He was, again, very generous with his comments about Hemingway, and very insightful. I set out to ask him a pecifically about his time in Iringa, Tanzania, and Hemingway's visit there, in 1954.

He told me a great deal, with his characteristic humour and amazing ability to remember details, without mixing up the chronology. He remembers other people who lived there. He gave me valuable hints for a research project I want to undertake this summer in that area, to document Patrick's time there and related matters.

It was very nice to hear him say, again, that when Hemingway hunted in the area, what we call Ruaha National Park today was not yet a national park. That designation came later, with much assistance from Chief Adam Sapi Mkwawa.

Patrick told me about how pleasant life was in the area, for the Africans, without the kind of increased population he knows exists. There was a hotel not far from Sao Hill, owned by an English lady who was an early activist within TANU, the nationalist movement. I knew at once that he was talking about the late Lady Chesham, for he had told me about her in a previous conversation.

The more I talk with Patrick, the more I discover how much he has taken after his father, including an alert mind a great sense of humour. I don't think I have ever met anyone with Patrick Hemingway's sense of humour about wideranging topics, anyone who talks and laughs so much. But he talks about important subjects.

It is a great joy to be or talk with him. He never gets bored and he always holds the audience captive. He is a gifted story teller.

I am always amazed and humbled when he mentions my book,Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, describing it as a very well written book. He has done this every time we have talked, and this time he said plainly that he wishes he could write Swahili as well as I write English. Such a tribute from such such a very famous person, who has written great introductions to Ernest Hemingway's books, and is very highly respected in his own right, is truly humbling.

For an earlier blog post about my first encounter with Patrick Hemingway, read here,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Reflections on The 2013 Twin Cities Book Festival

The Twin Cities Book Festival on October 12 in St. Paul, Minnesota, was another memorable, successful event. In order to be on time for the opening of the Festival, I left early, at 8:00am, arriving at 9:00am. As I was setting up my table, many other exhibitors were doing the same.

I had paid $80 for a half table, and was assigned table number 12. I had registered my exhibition under the name of Africonexion, a little company I own and run, which publishes my books and coordinates my seminars, workshops, and  presentations. The focus is the challenges and opportunities presented by cultural diversity.

As usual, people started arriving early, and when the doors opened, the exhibition hall became a hive of activity. It was heartwarming to observe so many people moving from table to table, talking with authors, booksellers, and publishers, browsing through books and buying books. 

I hear much about the declining fortunes of the book and the book industry as we know it, but being in an event like this festival makes you forget completely that there is such a decline. The number of publishers alone, and the many many titles on display, is enough to give you second thoughts.

Above all, none of these people seemed despondent. On the contrary, they exuded good cheer and optimism. The large number of readers and book buyers underlined the point, at least for me, that the book is here to stay.

Because I was at my table the whole time, I did not get the opportunity to hear the guest writers and observe other programs which were part of the Festival. But this could not be avoided, and it did not diminish the fullness of my satisfaction.

I met and had conversations with a good number of people, and was pleased to see them browse though my books, giving me an opportunity to talk about my work. I cannot express well enough how humbled I was when the people who bought my books asked that I sign them.

It was another very memorable Festival, thanks to the hard work, diligence, and commitment, of Rain Taxi and the many volunteers who worked hard and cheerfully, throughout the day answering questions and helping anyone who needed help. I look forward the 2014 Festival.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Twin Cities Book Festival, October 12

The Twin Cities Book Festival, the biggest book festival in the upper Midwest, USA, is here already. It will be held tomorrow, October 12, at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. An annual event, this Festival brings together thousands of book lovers, writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, illustrators and critics.

I have participated in a number of these festivals, and I am ready for tomorrow. I look forward to talking with many people, sharing ideas and experiences about writing, publishing, and related subjects. As usual, I will be exhibiting my books. In the video below, you can hear me talking briefly about my most popular book: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

St. Olaf International and Off-campus Studies Open House

Today, here at St. Olaf College, we held another international and off-campus studies open house. An annual event, around this time, it is an occasion to showcase the many international and off-campus study programs we run. St. Olaf is a top-ranked college in the USA in this field.

We have programs in different parts of the world, a number of them in African countries, including Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, and Namibia. I am the advisor for the ACM Tanzania and ACM Botswana programs.

Students interested in, or curious about, these programs get the chance to learn more by talking with program advisors.

It is always a pleasure to talk with students seeking to study abroad, to tell them about the countries they are thinking about, the educational system, the people and the culture, and such things.

Studying abroad is a valuable part of the students' education, and we encourage it seriously.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Afrifest Foundation Board Meeting, October 5

Yesterday, we had another Afrifest Foundation board meeting, at the Center for Families in Minneapolis. We noted that we have received our much awaited 501c 3 from the International Revenue Service. This is great news. With this status, the Afrifest Foundation will have more opportunities to explore and more independence in certain actions.

The meeting was attended by Nathan White, who chaired it, Wycliff Chakua, Denise Butler and Joseph L. Mbele. We also welcomed two new board members: Dayolin Pratt and Dennis Omwenga. We told them how Afrifest has, over the years, braved all kinds of challenges including naysayers and prophets of doom, and built a strong organization which knows exactly where it is going, and which has already built a large network of, collaborators, friends and well-wishers.

We had a rich agenda, including reviewing the Afrifest festival we held on August 10. We are grateful that we decided to go ahead with the festival, even though the situation made it difficult for us to plan as elaborately as we normally do. We were driven by the idea that, no matter what, having the festival every year was very important. We noted the generosity of our sponsors, such as Wells Fargo Bank. We will soon start planning for the 2014 festival. With the 501c3 status in our hands, our spirits are experiencing a big boost.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Afrifest Went Well, Including a Visit by Senator Al Franken

It was a sunny day today in Minnesota and Afrifest 2013 took place, as planned, at the Northview Junior High School in Brooklyn Park.

As promised, there were children's games. There was not an idle moment for them. In addition to the games, the children  got to learn a little bit of African drumming. I stopped by several times to take pictures, and on one of those occasions, I was able to hear the master drummer telling the children the place of the drum in traditional African culture. I heard him talk about how Africans used the drum to communicate messages.

The "gates" were open at noon, and people came and went throughout the rest of the day.

There were a number of vendors, such as Liberation Clothing and Gifts & which was also present at last year's Afrifest.

Wells Fargo, a major sponsor of Afrifest, was there, just as in the past. Many festival volunteers came from Wells Fargo. They were very visible in their red t-shirts.

The festival proceeded against the backdrop of music from different parts of Africa. The DJs did a remarkable job, playing a wide variety of African music.

Here is the food stand. Their food, including rice and chicken, was terrific.

As an educator, I share knowledge about the African experience. In addition to my books, I hung posters on the fence behind me. These posters--text and pictures--deal with Africa, Africans, and African diaspora across the ages. They describe and discuss Africa as the origin of human beings, the evolution of African kingdoms, slavery and the slave trade, with particular emphasis on the global nature of slavery and the slave trade, not just the trans-Atlantic dimension. There are posters on colonialism, the struggle against it, panAfricanism, contemporary challenges and future prospects.

A few minutes after 4:30, Senator Al Franken (Democrat, Minnesota) showed up. There was much excitement as people crowded around him to greet him and talk with him. What a generous and gentle man. He genuinely appears to enjoy meeting people. Everyone who wanted to take pictures with him did so. It was a truly memorable day.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Afrifest Twin Cities is Here Again, August 10

Afrifest 2013 is just around the corner, August 10. A pan-African educational and cultural festival designed to educate and connect people, Afrifest has been around for seven years now, its crowning achievement being an annual festival showcasing the history, politics, arts and culture of people of African descent.

Over the years, Afrifest has featured musical performances, fashion shows, vendors and educational displays. There are a lot of activities and games for children.

I have always been touched to see children meet and play with children from different countries and cultures. Afrifest is an opporttunity for them to cultivate a pan-African consciousness at an early age.

In these seven years, through my involvement with Afrifest, I have met and learned about many many people: Africans, African-Americans and others. I cherish the connections I have made.

Every individual, whether from Africa, the Caribbean or the USA or elsewhere has unique experiences and perspective. Talking to each of them is like going through a valuable educational experience. Equally important is the opportunities I have to share my own experiences and perspective as an African, a writer, educator and cultural consultant.

On the left is the booth of Liberation Clothing & Gifts from Afrifest 2012. I bought a lovely Bob Marley T-shirt here.

From the beginning, I have involved my own children in Afrifest, because I know the social and educational value of such involvement. They get to meet different people and see the displays representing different countries and cultures.

I always set up a table, as one of the vendors, on which I display my books and other educational materials. My children enjoy assisting me. They are able to talk to people about my writings and my work as an educator and cultural consultant. They are able to speak to the media on my behalf, as can be seen in the photo on the left.

As a member of the Afrifest Foundation board, I wish to invite everyone  to Afrifest 2013. Just to give you a sense of the diversity of Afrifest offerings this year, there will be a soccer tournament, health and wellness fair, vendors, food, and games for children. As a parent, who firmly believes in the value of events and programs such as Afrifest, I encourage all parents to bring their children to Afrifest 2013. For more information, visit the Afrifest website

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Conversation About Tanzania and Americans

This morning I drove from Northfield to Rochester, to meet with Pam Schwalbach and Charles Mpanda. Pam is American and Charles is Tanzanian. Both are passionate about working with Tanzanians and Americans to foster understanding between the two nations. They seek to accomplish these goals through travel and tourism and offering people of both nations the opportunity to know one another through living and working together.

Charles and Pam run a tour company, Tanganyika Ancient Routes, whose motto is "Travel,  Learn and Serve." They are also involved with Simple Hope, a non-profit that Pam and her friend Karen Puhl founded. Working in rural Tanzania, the mission of Simple Hope is to "to save and empower lives through faith, nutritious food, clean water, education, and other identified long term sustainable processes."

Our long conversation today dealt with all these issues. We spent much time brainstorming on cross-cultural orientation and developing tourism that is truly educational and liberating. We realized that we all are passionate about cultural orientation to enable people to interact and work together free from problems that are likely to arise due to cultural differences.

Charles and I first met in Arusha, on June 21, 2008, when I conducted a workshop on Culture and Globalization, which he attended. In the photos from the workshop, he is seen wearing a jacket and a cap. He has been in the USA for a few weeks, and he suggested that we should meet. We are all happy that worked out.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Meeting With Atum and Ahmad Azzahir

Today, I had a meeting in Lakeville, Minnesota, with Atum and Ahmad Azzahir, remarkable educators who specialize in working with people of African descent. I mentioned them several days ago in this blog, having met them at the Power of Unity Summit organized by the Council on Black Minnesotans.

We explored our interests and philosophies as educators. We discussed the need for the decolonization of the mind as articulated by people like Frantz Fanon, Julius Nyerere, Walter Rodney, and Ngugi wa Thiong'o.

Atum spoke of her work with the Cultural Wellness Center, which is based on the premise that many of the pathological conditions afflicting people of African descent stem from the isolation, dislocation and alienation of contemporary life. What a great idea, I thought to myself. Ahmad directed our attention to issues of African philosophy and value systems, such as described by Julius Nyerere.

We all agreed that if we could recapture the communalistic ethos of traditional Africa, we would go a long way towards healing our contemporary communities. I highlighted the values embedded in folktales and proverbs as examples. Though the values of capitalism--materialism and individualism--permeate our world, we need to create space for an alternative, humanistic value system.

I was happy to share my experience as a researcher and interpreter of oral folklore, which embodies the philosophical, ethical and aesthetic knowledge and heritage of the Africans. I had brought copies of my books, which Atum and Ahmad are seen holding in the photo.

Although I had known about the work of Atum and Ahmad for many years, our first meeting--a brief one--was during the Power of Unity Summit. We resolved to look for an opportunity or opportunities to meet and discuss issues of common concern. Today we had our first meeting. We met for three hours, and yet the time seemed to just fly by.

We look forward to more meetings, more discussions. Despite the challenges involved in trying to get people out of conventional patterns of thought about their place in the world, their identity, and the need to decolonize the mind, the possibilities and prospects are endless.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Council on Black Minnesotans Summit Ended Today

The Power of Unity Summit, organized by the Council on Black Minnesotans concluded today with a picnic. From around noon, people came, at their own time, and stayed as long as they wished. This was a great opportunity to meet informally and network. continue the kind of conversations inaugurated during the summit, and network.

I arrived at around 1:30. There were many people there, and there was plenty of food. There was storytelling by Nothando Zulu, drumming, and music by the Les Exodus band featured in the photo above.

In the course of a little over two hours, I had wonderful conversations with a number of people. One of these was Edward McDonald, Executive Director of the Council on Black Minnesotans. We talked about the artist panel that he moderated yesterday, and I said I enjoyed the panel very much and wanted to make a contribution to the discussion from the perspective of folklore. The traditions of folklore remind of where artists came from and how they functioned in non-literate, non-capitalist societies.

I also spoke with Tene Wells, a key Summit organizer, whom I have gotten to know in the course of the last few weeks after she sought me out and asked me to participate in the Summit. I also talked with Jamela Pettiford, the sister who played the role of Harriet Tubman in yesterday's dramatic rendition of the Underground Railroad.

I also spoke with author Amoke Kubat whose book, Missing Mama, I bought yesterday. I told her I had started reading the book and like it. I was humbled to hear her say that she bought three of my books, in order to explore more the perspective I articulated on Friday during my panel discussion with Professor Mahmoud el Kati.

As I was on my way out of the building, Atum Azzahir called me. She was with her husband, Ahmad Azzahir, and we had a great conversation around issues such as traditional African philosophy. Upon learning that I am Tanzanian, Ahmed told me he is a faithful disciple of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. I told them that I had known about them and their work for many years, and that I acquired Ahmed's book, Time Dimensions and Community Development, many years ago.

 I look forward to continuing the conversations with all these remarkable people, who do great things for the community.

Once again, I think the Council on Black Minnesotans deserves a lot of praise for planning and executing the Power of Unity Summit, which has been a very successful event. exxxxrummung

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Power of Unity Summit: Council on Black Minnesotans

Yesterday the Power of Unity Summit organized by the Council on Black Minnesotans, started in St. Paul. It continued today, and will end tomorrow. A few days ago, I mentioned this Summit.

What a memorable weekend this is, filled with discussions, displays, and performances around the experiences, struggles, and achievements of people of African descent.

Among the highlights of yesterday's events was a showing of a documentary recorded specifically for this Summit. It features a number African Americans talking about the history of the Black experience in Minnesota and ends with testimonies of a number of recent African immigrants.

The organizers made a wise and commendable decision to provide space for the expression of both the African and the African-American experience and viewpoint. This was evident right from the beginning of the Summit yesterday. The first plenary session was a conversation between Professor Mahmoud el-Kati (an African-American) and me (a Tanzanian).

The two of us, guided by moderator Adrian Mack's questions, were able to describe and discuss not only the commonalities but also the differences in the historical and contemporary experience of people of African descent. We sought to get the audience to think about the global African experience, in Africa, the Americans, the Middle East and beyond.

We highlighted, as well, the fact that there are differences, and also tensions, among people of African descent. The dispersal of people from Africa to different parts of the world led to different experiences and challenges, which have created different mindsets.

I attended several events today, including a reenactment of the story of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, seen in the photo at the top of this page, with Jamela Pettiford as Harriet Tubman and Joyce Marrie as Sojourner Truth. In the course of the Harriet Tubman story, Fredrick Douglass made an appearance. As soon as I saw the actress approaching, I knew she was playing Fredrick Douglass. We all played the role of slaves escaping from a plantation through dangerous landscapes.

The other event I want to mention is an artists' panel, seen in the photo on the left, which addressed the following issues:

What do artists need to do to build stronger relations within communities?
How can you make a living as an artist in Minnesota?
How can we increase the value of the arts in Minnesota?
Share your most enterprising idea and what you have done to make it real.
How could the State increase the value proposition for our art?

 The Summit has been a rich and varied experience, and here I am only mentioning parts of it, the parts I attended. I must reiterate, however, that I am truly pleased by the incorporation of both Africans and African Americans in the composition of discussion panels, performances, and other activities as well as the food served to participants.

The photo on the left is of Anuak dancers from the border region of South Western Ethiopian and South Sudan.

 I am grateful to be participating in this Summit. I have gained a better understanding of the Council on Black Minnesotans and discovered the Minnesota History Center which is hosting the Summit on its premises. As part of its contribution to the Summit, the Historical Society Museum decided to feature, in its bookstore, the books of writers participating in the Summit. I am one of those writers.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Graduation Day at St Olaf College

 Today was graduation day here at St. Olaf. As usual, many people attended: the graduates, their families, friends, and, of course, professors.

This day brings mixed feelings among the graduates. They are happy to have completed their studies, but also sad to leave a place and a community they were part of for four years.

In the photo on the left, I am with one of the students who graduated today. She was part of the class I taught in Tanzania in January, "Hemingway in East Africa."

In the photo on the left, I am with another graduate, one of the students I took to Tanzania in 2011, on the  LCCT program. He studied for one semester at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cultural Relations Summit for Minnesotans of African Descent

A number of people showed up today at the Golden Thyme Coffee shop in St. Paul, Minnesota, to be interviewed for a documentary on people of African descent in Minnesota.

The documentary will be shown at the Cultural Relations Summit for Minnesotans of African Descent, which is scheduled for June 28, 29, and 30. The Summit is being organized by the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Black Minnesotans.

Some of the people who came for the interviews at the Golden Thyme appear in the photo. From left to right are Adebayo, Joseph Mbele, Tene Wells, Professor Mahmoud el-Kati, and Adrian Mack. Tene Wells worked hard to coordinate this project.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Finally, I Have Met Patrick Hemingway

Yesterday and today I was in Montana, meeting with Patrick Hemingway, the only remaining child of Ernest Hemingway. At his request, we met in a town called Craig.

As someone who studies and teaches Ernest Hemingway's works, I had, for years, dreamed about meeting Patrick Hemingway. I knew he has much to say about his father's life and work. This weekend that dream came true, and I am thrilled.

Patrick spent 25 years in Tanganyika, later Tanzania. He worked as a tour guide and then as instructor at the Mweka Wildlife Colllege. When Ernest Hemingway went on safari in East Africa, 1953-54, Patrick accompanied him for part of the time. I knew that there is no other person alive who knows more than Patrick the story of Hemingway's African connection.

In the coming days, maybe not right away, I plan to tell the story of how I first contacted Patrick, about two years ago, and how, finally, my dream of meeting him came true this weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Writer Jim Heynen at St. Olaf College

Today, writer Jim Heynen visited St. Olaf College for a reading and book signing. He read some of his short stories and excerpts from his latest novel, The Fall of Alice K.

I was priviledged to coordinate Jim's visit and to introduce him to the audience. Jim had taught in the English Department at St. Olaf College, from 1992-2007. He was a great colleague. I told him then that I greatly admired his stories of farm boys, since I also grew up in a rural area, steeped in farming.

Jim is a prolific writer. Starting with collections of short stories such as The One-Room Schoolhouse, and the The Man Who Kept Cigars in His Cap, he went on to write novels for young adults, including Cosmos Coyote and Being Youngest. He also writes poetry.

Jim's reading today was delightful. Everyone liked his stories very much. After the reading, Jim signed copies of his book, as can be seen in the photos featured here.

Jim's visit was sponsored by the St. Olaf College Bookstore and the English Department. Here on the left is Jim, flanked by Ruth Block of the St. Olaf College Bookstore and me.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Daughters in a Fund-raising Event for ThreeSixty Journalism

Today, two of daughters participated in a run to raise funds for ThreeSixty Journalism. The event was held in Minneapolis.

In 2009, one these girls, seen in the photos wearing a headband, was selected to join ThreeSixty Journalism's summer course. This is a competitive program for high school students interested in journalism and the media. The students learn about writing and creating programs for the media. It is a great opportunity to gain journalistic knowledge and also meet leading reporters and other media people.

As part of her field training, my daughter went to a Somali community in Minneapolis, to carry out interviews. Based on this work, she published this article. Her work was also published in Twin Cities Daily Planet and Star Tribune.

I am happy to see my daughters involving themselves in such worthy causes as today's fundraising event.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

African Career, Education & Resource (ACER) Fair

Today I participated in the  African Career, Education & Resource, Inc (ACER) fair at Park Center High School,  Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. Service providers in such fields as health, employment, education, were there to showcase their services and share information on their programs.

I met people I know and new ones as well. The lady in the picture at the top here and on the left was my student at St. Olaf College about 13 years ago.

Some years ago, she read my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, and is an avid fan of it.

Other acquaintances who were there include Dr. Alvine Siaka, the coordinator of African Health Action and Rita Apaloo, coordinator of African Women Connect. Rita is also a long-term fan of Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. As usual, we had much to talk about, concerning what we are trying to do with the African community in Minnesota.

Among the new people I met today is Iqbal Duale, Community Education Specialist for an organization called Planned Parenthood. We discovered that we have common interests and are involved in in cultural diversity issues. We plan to keep in touch.

It is heartening and gratifying to be with such people, whose commitment to social causes is unshakeable, and who are not deterred by problems and challenges encountered on the way.

A few days ago, I mentioned ACER, the organizer of today's fair. I did so in a blog post about a meeting of the board of the Afrifest Foundation. ACER and the Afrifest Foundation have decided to collaborate, and I decided to participate in today's fair partly to facilitate that collaboration. I am the chair of the Afrifest Foundation. I was delighted to meet the ACER volunteers and to note their welcoming and cheerful spirit.

I participated in today's fair under my business name, Africonexion. I had my table, seen on the left, where I displayed my books and other publications. I talked with people about the books and about my work as a cultural consultant dealing with Africans and Americans. As always happens, I met different kinds of people, including those who are working in institutions or organizations which require the kind of resources I offer, notably publications and presentations. I look forward to being in touch with these people, to learn from their experience and share my own experience.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Afrifest Foundation Board Meeting: April 2013

Today, the Afrifest Foundation Board met at the Center for Families, in Minneapolis. I was glad to be back in the fold, after travels in Africa.

As usual, we had a rich agenda. One of the decisions we made was to appoint key directors of the Foundation, whom I have featured on this page.

Here, on the left,  is Wycliff Chakua, who will continue as Treasurer and will serve as interim Secretary of the Foundation.

Here is Nathan White, the originator of Afrifest, who will continue to serve as Executive Director and President of Afrifest Foundation.

Here is Joseph L. Mbele, owner of this blog, who will continue in his role as Chairman of the Foundation.

We reviewed progress made towards our attainment of IRS 501c3, and it seems satisfactory.

We also took note of our partnership with ACER, the Duluth Festival, and Carifest. Everything is going well on that front. We reviewed emerging partnership opportunities, such as the possibility of working with event planner Rick Aguilar.

We welcomed Denise G. Butler, Outreach Coordinator of ACER, who wants to join the Afrifest Foundation Board.

We have come a long way, and we look forward to the future, with an increasing diversification of our portfolio of programs and activities, as well as solid partnerships with other organizations.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Farewell, Chinua Achebe

Around 8:20 this morning, my youngest daughter told me that her older sister had texted to say that Chinua Achebe had passed away. I was dumbfounded and could hardly say anything.

I have struggled the whole day, in vain, to find the appropriate way to pay tribute to this giant and icon of modern African literature.

 Achebe helped shape the direction of African literature, not only through his own writing, but also through his role as editor of the African Writers Series which launched the careers of many African writers.

Achebe was a sage, in the best tradition of the wise village elders. Watching interviews, I note that he exuded humility and charm. Committed to the idea that the artist is a teacher, Achebe helped us Africans to understand our place in the world, our weaknesses and our potential.  A profound humanist, he touched hearts and minds around the world.

Although I never met Achebe, I have been lucky to have taught his works regularly, discovering, each time, more dimensions of his creative genius and timeless lessons.

Though no longer with us in person, Achebe will continue to touch people. For the rest of our lives, we will be paying tribute to this gifted storyteller, who gave Africa a voice in the world.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reflections on my Book Talk in Faribault

Some days ago, I posted a message about a book talk I was to give at South Central College. The talk dwelt on my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences. Rebecca Fjelland Davis subsequently wrote a report on her blog, including comments she published in Goodreads:


Our class, "Culture and History of South Africa,"  read Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences last week. The author, Joseph Mbele came to visit us on Tuesday. It was unanimously considered a DELIGHT.

The book is a fast read, and Joseph Mbele writes in a conversational, welcoming style that sucks you right in, keeps you laughing, and keeps you reading. 

In person, Joseph proved to be one of the most brilliant, funny, warm, and gentle human beings I've ever met. My students loved him; the two hours with him flew past.

Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural DifferencesAfricans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences by Joseph L. Mbele
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the most delightful read about the differences between Africans and Americans and how we relate to each other. My students loved it, found it fascinating, and flew through it.

If you have students, friends, neighbors, classmates, ANYBODY you know from Africa, this book is for you. If you are traveling to Africa, like my students and I are, it's a MUST.

Best part? Now whenever I am late (no, that never happens), I can say I'm on AFRICA TIME.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Book Talk in Faribault, Minnesota, February 26

A few weeks ago, I got an invitation to speak in Mankato, to a group of students preparing to go on a study abroad program in South Africa. The focus of my talk was to be what I say in my Africans and Americans book. The invitation came from Scott Fee and Becky Davis who teach at the Minnesota State University Mankato and South Central College respectively.

I will be speaking at the South Central College in Faribault, Minnesota, from 10:00am. Students in Mankato will follow my talk via a television connection.

Some years ago, Scott took a group of students on a similar trip to South Africa and he invited me to speak to them before they traveled. My talk then was also on cultural differences as expressed in the Africans and Americans book. I am, as always, happy to be able to share my perspective on this important topic.