Saturday October 6th was the close-out day for the Pan African Trade and Investment Summit, fittingly titled African Day.
A few friends and I rode on the light rail to the Mall of America where the celebration was taking place. On any given day, the Mall of America – the nation’s largest retail and entertainment complex – is a buzz with hundreds and hundreds of people. It is the kind of place that magnifies the life and culture of America, and to integrate that with African culture and style was significantly monumental.
I knew we were running a little late, but I was determined to be a part of the day and festivities. I didn’t really have an idea of what to expect as I walked through the mall entrance toward the rotunda where the event was taking place.
It was a wonderful surprise to hear the sound of African beats way before I got to the rotunda. Jabali Afrika, a Kenyan music group that consists of four young men, was on stage entertaining a large crowd with beautiful African drum beats. We made our way to an empty space to get a better view. The group was dressed in traditional maasai print costumes and were expertly playing different beats on various percussion instruments. There was clapping and cheering as Jabali Afrika performed and invited a few people to join in the dancing on stage. Floor upon floor of the mall was lined with people looking in on the celebration while advertently moving to the African beat.
There was a feeling of warmth, joy, celebration, home in the atmosphere as people mingled and interacted with each other. There were families present, kids dancing gleefully as the parents contentedly enjoyed the entertainment.
There were booths too lined with different African arts, crafts, accessories, travel guides, catering service information, tea, coffee and books for Africa. The days celebration which started at twelve were also inclusive of a fashion show by Nyamal Both, contemporary African dance by dancers from Uganda and Congo, as well as poetry and spoken word by Abiola from Nigeria.
Though the event ended at four in the evening, the day’s celebrations continued way into the night at the Blue Nile Restaurant. Babu, a Kenyan DJ based in New Jersey, fused old school tracks, African music, Reggae, Soul and Hip-hop music that left an enthused eclectic crowd hot and worn out from dancing.
African Day turned out to be a heart warming memorable day, and a huge success to its sponsors, Mshale, Kilimanjaro Entertainment and the group of organizers of Pan African Trade and Investment Summit.