July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Kenyan native tells of Africa

MEDINA — From origins to Obama, the Fellowship Baptist Church wrapped up Black History Month by asking someone who knows Africa and its people — Kenya native Jackie Gakunga Kibogo.

On the last Sunday of the month, the church presented “Give a Thought to Africa” to educate its fellowship about Africa and its diverse cultures.

Kibogo and Louise McMorris, who organized the service, talked about famous blacks in the Bible, such as Zipporah, the wife of Moses, and Simon of Cyrene, who carried Christ’s cross.

“Black history didn’t start with slavery, Martin Luther King or Obama,” McMorris said while opening the service. “There are people in the Bible who look like us — I consider that black history, too.”

Many church-goers dressed in traditional African garb, including Kibogo, who wore a bright scarlet dress, called a kitenge, in Kenya. She explained there is no universal name for such clothing because, like language, food and culture, each of Africa’s countries are vastly different.

“There are 53 countries in Africa, and each of those countries has a different language, and in every one of those languages, there are 50 dialects,” Kibogo said.

Kibogo was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where she attended an all-girl boarding school. After graduating, she moved to New Mexico as the Kenyan representative to the Armand Hammer United World College. For the past five years, she has been a Brunswick resident.

Like Africa as a whole, Kibogo explained that Kenya’s population is very diverse, with 35 million people and 40 different ethnic groups.

For example, President Barack Obama’s father was Luo, which Kibogo said is the second largest ethnic group in Kenya.

Kibogo does not know Obama or his family, but has other friends in high places in her home country: her godmother is Wangari Maathai, who is the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Maathai won the award for fighting an oppressive regime and empowering women, having them come together to create micro-economies and support their families, Kibogo said.

While the day was about Africa, McMorris and Kibogo said they preferred to keep “black” out of Black History Month. “Black history” is part of world history, they said.

“I don’t like the term ‘black history,’ ” Kibogo said. “It’s history. I think the history books need to be rewritten because we were there. It’s everyone’s history.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@ohio.net.