1st Cup Cafe is slowly becoming a pillar in the Twin Cities Pan African community. Walk into this cafe on any given day and you are likely to see a rainbow of Africans congregated around a topic or issue vital to our local and Diaspora community. In one such meeting I attended few weeks ago, the cafe played host to three local politicians (Sen. Lawrence Pogemiller, Sen. Linda Berglin, and Rep. Karen Clark) talking about recent and future legislations that could affect all our lives.
But this is not about that meeting.
It is the one recently 1st Cup played host to two back-to-back events. First up for the evening was a book release and signing by a local author and economist from Tanzania. Mr. Swallehe Msuya’s book, “The Kitchen Party” is said to be a Romeo and Juliet story staged in Africa, and peopled by Africans. One of many reasons to sync your calendar to First Cup’s.
But this is not about Mr. Msuya’s book release. Not really.
When this event concluded, most in the house stayed for the next. This being the current and most ambitious installation of “The Bridge”. The Bridge is a series of networking events that was first a monthly gathering of African professionals and like minded people coming together to honor and thank one of their own. Instead of monthly, organizers decided to make it quarterly in order to invest the time and resources needed to make it bigger and better. This was the inaugural event.
And indeed it was bigger and better. Before Nneka Onyilofor took to the stage and welcomed people, the cafe was standing room only. Without wasting anytime, Nneka invited the first honoree of the evening. Koffi Mbairamadji is a painter and story teller from Chad. Koffi took the opportunity to direct the audience’s attention to four colorful painting that seemed to have taken a natural places among the regular beautiful art works decorating 1st Cup. But these were different. Yes they were just as colorful and beautiful as the permanent pieces. But the detail devoted made it more than clear they were more than beautiful hangings made merely to appeal to aesthetic sensibility. These were dictionaries on canvas. Take for example the Egyptian piece. Because of my limited understanding of the Egyptian civilization, I’m not going to try to explain the piece. Koffi did, but since I didn’t have a recorder I can not recall it all. From what I got from his explanation, upon that canvas was the great and expansive history of the Egyptian Civilization. All on a 2 feet by 2 feet canvas! If all books were penned by this man, I thought, we would all be geniuses!
And if Mankwa sang our songs, listeners would breath our sighs, tear our cries, and smile our laughs. Mankwa Ndosi was the second honoree. She is a well known and respected performance artist and art administrator in the Twin Cities. Mankwa is one of those musicians who understand that music is not written on paper crafted between bars, but build in our bodies and sang through our pores. It is not just words pitched in all the “right” notes, music is our life. It is talk, it is movement, it is silence, it is the beating of our heart in that organic ability of transforming oxygen to carbon dioxide. There is no right or wrong way to be human. Hence, she says, sometimes I just want to sing badly.
This evening Mankwa used her entire being to summon the spirit of Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and Phoebe Snow. Each calling sweet as it was mesmerizing. This was the whole body coming together to talk for itself, no need for words.
Next up, Prof Mahmoud El-Kati delivered one of his calls for Pan-African history, understanding and its importance in today’s African Diaspora. It was this consciousness, he lectured, that helped free Africa from the grip of colonization. And it is that which is needed today to help it break free from all that plague our communities.
For more information on this and upcoming Bridge events, please contact Petros Haile of African Global Roots at firstname.lastname@example.org