African Night shares culture with community, first-generation Americans

Aug 3, 2018


The Native African Christian Fellowship started small with just a few families gathering at someone’s house. Eventually, they found a home for their fellowship at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux City. And now they’re sharing their culture with the community at the Fourth Annual African Night.

The festival celebrates the diversity of African countries, concentrating on the ones represented in Sioux City. It’s taking place this Saturday from 2 to 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, at 1915 Nebraska St.

“You can’t stand from far (away) and expect to know about Africa. Draw closer. We believe in relationships,” said Derrick Okine, who leads the Native African Christian Fellowship every Friday at 6:30 p.m. “Relationships are very important for us. So people should come and relate to us, and that would be a very good thing.”

Derrick Okine and his wife, Theodora, came to the United States from Ghana. African Night is a way for them to teach their American-born children about their traditional music, dances, clothing, cuisine, crafts and customs while also giving others in the community an opportunity to experience Africa.

During the parade of nations, each country in Africa will be represented by its flag. There will also be a fashion parade and a display of African artifacts.

“The way we dress, the way we put on our jewelry or our beads, depicts where we’re coming from,” Theodora Okine said. “And it also (talks) about us as individuals in relation to our ethnicity.”

There will also be food from countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Ghana and Nigeria.

“(The dishes) may look the same, but usually the ingredients may be different. And so we try to tell people that some of it can very hot,” Derrick Okine said.

“Spicy,” Theodora Okine said. “But it’s not too spicy.”

“We want people to taste all of it,” he said.

For the immigrant parents of American-born children, there’s a delicate balance between assimilating and staying connected to their roots.

“We try to know that, oh, we are African. We belong to the continent. This what we are,” Derrick Okine said. “We try to walk with our children, always reminding them that this is where you come from, be proud of it. It might not be the way you want it, but there is a lesson to learn from it and then you can build on it.”

 

Theodora Okine added, “That is not to say that whatever we see here we just push it aside and tell them that this is wrong. We still make them appreciate what they learn here so that life here will be comfortable for them, but at the same time, we try to incorporate what we know from home. So when they also get home, someday, they are not found wanting.”