Tuesday, June 12, 2007
This years 44th Madaraka Day united Kenyans in Minnesota to a gathering at Plymouth Park. Madaraka Day which is on June 1st commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963, after four decades of armed struggle.
The celebration which was organized by a Kenyan committee in Minnesota kicked off Saturday morning, with the set up beginning at 9:00am. By 12:00 noon, the festivities were well underway with Kenyan families in attendance.
After an introduction by the head of the organizing committee, the guest of honor, H.E Peter R. O. Ogego, Kenya’s ambassador to the U.S.A presented a speech. The speech revisited the meaning of Madaraka Day and encouraged Kenyans to remain united.
Kenyans with expired passports got a chance to have them renewed, but more importantly, there was a free AIDS tests.
Amidst all the activities planned for the day, there was free food – hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips – and drinks provided by the organizing committee. There was a variety of African food for sale provided by Safari Restaurant, which is located on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Kids played around in the park as well as in the bouncing castle that had been sponsored for the occasion by Kilimanjaro Entertainment.
As the day wore on, the music pumping from the speakers kept the afternoon lull at bay. Western Union and Vigo, money transfer agencies, passed promotional gifts to people dancing all over the park. Unfortunately, the weather decided to cut the festivities short, when a sudden down pour sent 500 plus people home, a little too soon.
MADARAKA DAY PARTY AT THE BLUE NILE.
The rain may have put a small damper on the day, but it did nothing to stop the party from going on. I walk into Blue Nile Restaurant and Lounge located on East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. It’s a quarter to twelve and I know I’m late for the party. I had to work but nothing was going to keep me away from this party. There are quite a number of people. By the time I get to the bar to order a drink, at least ten feet from the entrance, I’ve said hello to more than ten people. Dj Babu from New Jersey is on stage spinning the music. Traditional Kenyan music blares loud and reminiscent from the speakers. I look around and see nostalgic smiles on faces old and young. I look at my friends and it seems we all have one thought in mind, home, Kenya.
Downstairs, there is another dance floor, a different crowd. More relaxed, as they listen to Lingala, a mix of West African music. Dj Dan is blending each mix smoothly, one after the other.
Back upstairs, the atmosphere has spun. Women dressed in Vitenge’s – traditional Kenyan clothes – are walking in and the music is now the latest Kenyan music. There are shouts and screams of excitement as one song plays after the next, and the spirit of camaraderie is thick in the air.
Madaraka Day brings Kenyans together, but for those of us living in the U.S.A, the day not only brings us together, but reminds us of where we came from, who we are, and the joy of being a united people.