This year’s 2nd African Awards Gala presented by Mshale was absolutely phenomenal. The special event honored members of the African community in Minnesota who have and continue to make an impact through leadership and volunteerism. As a young African, I found the achievements of the honorees and guests remarkably inspiring.
Interacting with notable Africans made me hopeful for our community’s future here in Minnesota. Present at the gala were doctors, lawyers, human rights activists and community leaders. To be in the same room with such accomplished Africans was a gratifying experience. Despite the challenges in their personal and professional lives, especially as immigrants to a new country, these people continue to make a difference in others’ lives.
It is easy to get bogged down with negative perceptions of the African community making it easy to forget about our successes and societal contributions. This celebration certainly reminded those of us in attendance of the great work that some among us are doing.
Although all the attendees were winners, the four honorees were Elly Roimen-Mathenge, who received the Student of the Year award, Ahmed Sirleaf, who got the Community Leadership award, Dr. BraVada Garret-Akinsanya, was the Friend of the Community awardee, and the recipient of the African Business of the Year award was the Metropolitan Transportation Network, Inc. Robyne Robinson, award-winning television journalist turned politician, was the gala’s emcee.
I was touched by Dr. Garret-Akinsanya, a licensed clinical psychologist, whose remarks emphasized the importance of a unified African community. Her emotional speech made me think about how we are all connected and how we should be working to better our community so that our children can prosper in the future.
Adetokumboh M’Cormack, an accomplished Hollywood actor of Sierra Leonean descent, gave the keynote speech. M’Cormack, who has appeared in the film Blood Diamond; and the television shows Lost and 24 demonstrated that being in touch with one’s identity can have a profound influence on one’s personal and career growth. It was imperative for young Africans like myself to hear how keeping my identity makes me a stronger individual.
To witness and to be a part of such a successful event for Africans and by Africans was spectacular and has motivated me to do better as an African so that I may also influence those younger than me just as I have been inspired.
Credit should go to Mshale’s President and Publisher, Tom Gitaa, for perfectly executing an event that many will remember and cherish. I am inspired by Gitaa and proud of his contribution in recognizing the hardworking Africans in our community.