Thursday, November 23, 2017

Minnesota Black Authors Expo

On November 18, many roads led to North Minneapolis, where the Minnesota Black Authors Expo was taking place. I was there, as one of 40 authors presenting their works. It was the dream of De'Vonna Pittman and Jasmine Boulah to organize and host such an event to showcase Black writing. Working hard for four months, these dynamic ladies  pulled off a feat that impressed the many people who attended the Expo.

This event was well planned and seamlessly carried out. The picture on the left is the cover of the Expo brochure, which contained information about authors and their books.

Here De'Vonna is seen speaking, with Jasmine at her side.

Then it was Jasmine's turn to speak. These two hostesses warmly welcomed the guests and kept us engaged the whole time. There was music most of the time, performed by saxophonist Antonio Jackson.

People started coming to the Expo as soon as it was opened. if not earlier. I saw them when I arrived. I have participated in many books fairs, but the Minnesota Black Authors Expo was the one I liked the most.

What appeared to be space limitation actually fostered lively interaction among all of us. The sheer numbers of people talking simultaneously at the various tables, in seeming competition with the background music, produced an animated, delightful babel of voices which reminded me of  the typical African market as I describe it in my book, Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences:

Crowded and noisy, the African market displays the vitality and exuberance of African life. The language of the market place is vibrant and full of humour....Like many other contexts and situations in Africa, the market is a place for building relationships (p. 95).

That African spirit of the Expo really warmed my heart.

The conversations I had with people touched me very much. These people genuinely wanted to know about the work I do relating to Africa and the African Diaspora. Several of them, upon seeing my Notes on Achebe's Things Fall Apart, told me they had read Achebe's novel.

One lady told me that she wanted to go and live in Africa. At first I thought she was just talking, but I quickly realized that she meant what she said. She wanted to move to Africa next year, and wanted me to tell her what she should do to realize her dream. I gave her some advice, including information about African Americans who have settled in countries like Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania. I promised to connect her with people who can help her further.

Here I am, at my table, with several of my books.

Here I am with De'Vonna, who had come to my table and told me she wanted my "Africans and Americans" book.

This lady exemplified very well the spirit I witnessed during the Expo. She was eager to know about all the books I displayed and was genuinely interested in what I was saying. She bought a copy of Matengo Folktales which she is proudly displaying here.

Though I spent most the time at my table, of course, I did get to meet and talk with other writers. Here on the left, I am with Cavis Adams, author of Granddaddy, his first novel. We had an interesting conversation about our common desire for an Afrocentric focus in our works.

 Here is Penny Jones-Richardson, whose table was next to mine. We talked a great deal, having discovered that we had common interests, she being a life coach and I an educator and cultural consultant. She is the author of Thirty Days of Motivation: A Guide to Reaching Your Goals and Staying Focused.

Here I am with Rita Apaloo, author of African Women Connect, which describes how she formed and ran a networking group of African immigrant women.

My daughter Zawadi joined me at the Expo. She started accompanying me in these events from an early age. She knows what I do and is able to represent me when I am not around.

At one point, Zawadi spotted in the crowd a lady she recognized as her older sister Assumpta's friend. She approached her and brought her to our table where she introduced us. Her name is Cali Bianca. We enjoyed our meeting.

The Minnesota Black Authors Expo was a great experience for me as an African who eagerly seeks to learn about African Americans. Teaching at St. Olaf College, a predominantly white institution, I decided, long ago, to broaden my American experience by reaching out to the African American community. I thank De'Vonna and Jasmine for helping me on that quest.


DeVonna Pittman said...

What an amazing and memorable blog you have created about the Black Author's Expo. I am honored and humbled to have been one of the hosts. Thank you, thank you for first joining us and for making an impact upon everyone you encountered! Next year, we do it again!

Mbele said...

Thank you very much, De'Vonna, for your comments. You organized a great event, and we will remember it always, with much gratitude.