lessons from America

African Inaugural celebrations

(For a slideshow of photos, click here)

My thanks to the Africa Foundation for hosting a vibrant and meaningful inaugural ball tonight. This was not a showy, superficial event for political networking and spotting celebrities. Instead, this was a celebration for local Maryland “brothers and sisters of African descent” – of Obama’s victory, of their own heritage and of Africa itself.

It was a crowd at once more and less diverse than I had expected. There was a strong Nigerian contingent, who with the Ghanaians and Sierre Leonans in the room, heavily outnumbered those with East (or southern) African roots. But contrary to my experiences at some Ghanaian events I have attended in London in the past, there was a surprising number of white faces in the crowd, including a large group of Peacecorps volunteers.

The event didn’t start until well after the scheduled time, and people drifted in throughout the evening. This led to the usual “we are on African time” comments from some people; which always reminds me of one of the key phrases from the British Council’s Interaction Pan-African module I went on: “African time is on time” was the refrain to keep us from being late to sessions.

Eventually the proceedings started, with an MC who dabbled in stand-up comedy but was a professional journalist and runs an impressive non-profit – New American Media – providing a free news wire service for the ethnic press and expertise in African coverage.

The first person I met was Ikeme, a Baltimore resident and one of that evening’s musicians. He played the mbira (traditional thumb piano) but also was an all-round artist and entrepreneur, selling Obama prints he had made as well as musical instruments and CDs.

Bloggers seem to gravitate towards each other, and that’s what happened early on, as I quickly got chatting to a fellow blogger, Nelima. She writes for Minneafrica , a cleverly titled blog covering the African community in Minneapolis.

    She had been following Obama’s campaign since his first stop in the Twin Cities during the Primaries and had heard him on several occasions since. Her cousin lived in DC, so that proved the perfect base for her to come and cover / be part of the inaugural celebrations.

    Jessica was a 20-something local of Sierra Leonan descent, and had come to the ball with two of her friends. She had had no interest in politics and elections before Obama, but – like many people her age – had paid attention this time, eventhough she didn’t become actively involved campaigning. But she still wanted to do her a bit now, and will be volunteering on Tuesday, spending her day as a steward somewhere out on the Mall.

    I’m going to add a few more snapshots of people at the event, after some sleep!


    January 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. […] from London, he has an excellent review of the African Inaugural Ball on his blog. To read click here. Still inauguration is a day away and there are still more African parties. Stay tuned. I will try […]

    Pingback by An account of African Inaugural Celebrations in the DC area. « MinneAfrica | January 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hey SixFifty!
    The beautiful Afro blond Obama rap artist her name is:
    K-Dean LeSean

    FYE, Great coverage…thanks for the press on Emma Agu and the African Inaugural Ball@ the historic OBAMA/BIDEN INAUGURATION 2009!

    Princess Angelinah (I accompanied Emmma Agu as the traditional dancer/tv radio host/videographer for AllAfricaRadio/ & World Axxess. I’m the one with the sun gold afro head wrap and white lace)

    Comment by Princess Angelinah | January 31, 2009 | Reply

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