September 10, 2014
By Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director, African Economic Development Solutions
The Little Africa Fest at Hamline Park, held on August 23rd brought together the vibrant energy of artists and the warmth of Hamline-Midway neighbors – leading to a very successful event.
Artists performed a variety of acts, including: community drumming by Jesse Buckner and Solomon Bedane; African dances by Tujare (Indy) Mohamad; and poetry by Hassan Hussein. Participants sampled African food and wine at Snelling Café, traditional Ethiopian coffee at Sunshine Café and more African wine tasting at Fasika restaurant. Other popular attractions at Little Africa Fest were beautiful art work by African artist Sara Endlaw and Yiran African Arts and Design. Jon Reynolds and Witt Siasoco brought their “street corner letter press” to the celebration as well.
The many successes included:
- Bringing together a diverse mix of African immigrants as well as residents from the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and other parts of the metro – including people from 15 cities and 32 zip codes!
- Introducing non-African customers to African restaurants and helping business owners develop new product offerings.
- Illustrating the vision of Little Africa: The mission of Little Africa is to leverage the rich and diverse business, arts and cultural assets of Minnesota’s growing African immigrant populations to build sustainable wealth within these communities.
- Introducing many to legislative leaders for the first time – Minnesota Senate President Sandy Pappas and Representative Rena Moran were guests at the event.
- Launching the Little Africa Book Club. Dr. Debra Beilke of Concordia University and poet and community leader Hassan Hussien will kick off the club on September 24 from 6:30 to 8 pm at Snelling Café to discuss the book, Americanah by Chimamanda Nzogi. Copies of the book will be available for borrowing at the Little Africa Free Library at Snelling Café.
- Launching the African Market Potential Study funded by the McKnight Foundation and conducted by Concordia University in partnership with African Economic Development Solutions and African immigrant groups.
- Bringing pride to the community and the neighborhood. Festival attendees repeatedly expressed pride in the celebration of African cultural and business assets.
- Deepening support for the concept of Little Africa – 92 percent of the African immigrants surveyed at the fest supported the concept of Little Africa. This corresponds to an earlier survey by AEDS on business owners who also strongly supported the concept.
The success of Little Africa Fest owes much to the work of the Little Africa Development Group – Mesfin Negia, Dr. Kehinde Odusote, Michael Fondungullah, Hassan Hussein, Karifa Jalloh, Dr. Bruce Corrie and AEDS Board of Directors -Teshite Wako, Amano Dube, Habtamu Awetu, Abdirahman Ahmed, and Leila S. Paye-Baker.
Major sponsors of the Little Africa Fest were LISC, Central Corridor Funder’s Collaborative, Mosaic on a Stick, and Concordia University. For more information, contact: Gene Gelgelu Executive Director at African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) at 651.646.9411.