Hundreds celebrate African festival

LEWISTON — Hundreds of people filled Courthouse Plaza Saturday evening to dance, socialize and celebrate the Somali and American independence days as part of the annual African Immigrants Association festival. 

African dancing
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Yar Walouk, 11 of Lewiston carries her friend Amath Lual, 6, also of Lewiston on their way home after taking part in the festivities at Courthouse Plaza Saturday evening. Hundreds came to dance, socialize and celebrate the Somali and American independence days as part of the annual African Immigrants Association festival.

"It's going great," said Mohammed Dini, a leader in the association, as dozens of people gathered in the center of the plaza to dance to the band Rumbaafrica. "Having two independence (days) together is the most beautiful thing you can have."

The association organized the first Africana Festival in 2004, timed to celebrate Somali and American independence days in early July. Somalia claimed independence from Italy and the United Kingdom on July 1, 1960, and the United States celebrates its independence from the British crown annually on July 4.

The first multi-cultural African festivals were held at the Multi-Purpose Center and Lewiston High School. Saturday was the first time the festival was held outside, but Dini vowed it would not be the last.

"Having it in an open, public venue shows it's not only for one community. It's for all communities," he said.  

Although the festival had been slated to begin at noon, few people showed until late afternoon. By 6:30 p.m. a couple of hundred people had gathered and vendors lined the plaza selling food, arts and other products. Light blue flags with a single white star — the official flag of Somalia — dotted the plaza, some of them playfully worn as capes or head scarves by small children. The festival featured African dance and music exhibitions, with audience members joining the demonstrations.

Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert was one of the first to try a clap-step-shuffle-step dance in the center of the plaza.

Gilbert has attended the festival in past years. He believes the event  is important, a way for African immigrants to celebrate their heritage in their new home.  

"Just like it was important for Franco-American immigrants to celebrate the feast of Saint Jean the Baptiste," he said.

Like many at the event, Gilbert mingled, chatting with children, with their parents, with the people who sat nearby. Kaera Bogoreh, of Djibouti, introduced herself and talked with the mayor briefly in French, one of her five languages.  The mother of two, including one son in college, she recently moved to Lewiston from Georgia. She attended the festival with her with her 5-year-old son.

"I am enjoying myself," she said as she watched her son dance.

Firdosa Gedi, originally from Somalia and now living in Lewiston, also enjoyed the festival as she sat at a table and offered henna tattoos for $5. By 7:30 p.m. she'd had at least one customer, though her table was most often mobbed by curious children.

Gedi said she liked the fact the celebration honored both Somali and American independence days. Though she also planned to attend the Liberty Festival today, an event that marks the 4th of July.

"No country but here. That's my country," she said.

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 's picture

100% Accountability

Every person in America needs to be held acountable for themselves, no matter what race or ethnic group they are.

 's picture

Thank you, I so totally agree

Thank you, I so totally agree with you. It's not about the skin color, it's about their whole attitude.

RONALD RIML's picture

And who the hell was it?

That wanted some of the schools to teach French??

Did they think anyone was going to Haiti???

 's picture

Hey, Let em have a little fun

The reporter went to great lengths to reassure us that everything will be all right! She didn't tell us if there were American flags flying but who cares? Larry was being Larry. I am sure the New Mainers enjoyed his shuckin and jivin. Looks like a good time was had by all.

 's picture

How little we need to know

Ir's all so simple. How little we need to know to have a full understanding of other people and of events, and to judge the characters not just of individuals, but of lots of people all at once. So many writers demonstrate such deep understanding despite the challenge of having limited information. Breathtaking!

RONALD RIML's picture


Like the so-called "Religious-Right" does here?

 's picture

Mayor McCheese dancing? that

Mayor McCheese dancing? that probably set international relations back a few years.

RONALD RIML's picture

Juxtapose a few words, and what do you have....

"WTF,,,oh yeah, like independence from the British was a great thing for Somalia (America's South) now wasn't it?? Now that country is (Civil) war torn, lawless, extreme poverty, roving murderous gangs (Ku-Klux-Klan).....

Just so Lewiston doesn't start voting Republican like Dixie (Jesus-Land) did.......

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