State of Maryland Salutes African Community at Inaugural “Celebrate Africa” Gala


Story Photos & Photo Album (Bottom) Courtesy Afrikan Post – George Bright Abu

Civic Center – Silver Spring, Maryland
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Story by Frederick Nnoma-Addison

Maryland Lt. Governor, Boyd K. Rutherford (above), Secretary of State, John C. Wobensmith, and African Union Permanent Representative to the United States, H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, joined some three hundred Marylanders Wednesday night in Silver Spring to commemorate Maryland’s inaugural Celebrate Africa Gala and Awards Ceremony. The event was jointly organized by the Governor’s Commission on African Affairs (GCOAA) and the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI). The elegantly dressed guests included state and federal officials, and members of the African Diaspora, diplomatic, faith-based, and business communities.

In his remarks, Lt. Governor Rutherford congratulated the African Commission and the community for their contributions to the state of Maryland, and pledged the Hogan Administration’s continued support. Ambassador Chihombori-Quao called upon the African Diaspora community to continue to strengthen their bonds, so they share a common and powerful voice that cannot be overlooked. She provided an overview of the evolution of the African Union (AU), formerly Organization of African Unity (OAU), briefed the guests on current developments in Africa, and challenged the African Diaspora and friends of Africa in Maryland to “go back home” and contribute to the motherland.

In his written statement, Governor Larry Hogan stated:

Maryland is enriched by the diversity of its residents, and we are committed to further promoting acceptance, understanding, and inclusion of our wealth of culture. According to the latest U.S. Census, there are over 120,000 Africa-born Americans living in Maryland, and the African immigrant communities are among the fastest growing in the state. The diverse cultures and traditions of all immigrant groups play a vital role in our state. The annual recognition of African Heritage in September is one way we can share and engage in Africa’s unique traditions, customs, food, music, arts, and language, as well as acknowledge the significant accomplishments and contributions that Africa brings to Maryland and our country.”

Governor Hogan also issued a proclamation recognizing African Heritage month, and calling upon all Maryland residents to recognize and observe the month-long celebration.

Celebrate Africa is Maryland’s inaugural Pan African celebration of Africa, Africans and peoples of African descent. The current 21-member African Affairs Commission, headed by Kehinde “Kenny” Oreagba, established Celebrate Africa as an annual event to recognize the economic, social, cultural, political and intellectual contributions of the vibrant African Diaspora community in the state.

The 2017 award winners and sponsors, by category, are:


  • Abuja Country Club
  • Midas Express Shipping & Freight
  • Discovery Learning Alliance


  • Afrique Cuisine Inc.
  • A Unity System
  • Daimler Inc.
  • FTK-Konnect
  • Leeds Realty Group


  • EMS-IT
  • Children’s First LLC


  • Bostat Realty LLC
  • Hebron House Inc.
  • Magnum IT Solutions Inc.
  • Nephrology Associates
  • Zovaya


  • Artistic Family Dentistry of Silver Spring
  • BANA Tech Solutions
  • Connaisseur Paris Men’s Boutique
  • Ezekiel Olubode
  • Finx Consulting LLC
  • IO Spaces
  • Hampton Conference Center
  • Little Ethiopia
  • Ma Winny Casey
  • Providence Motors Inc.

Culture, Food & Entertainment

DJ Donn, Nteboblak of South Africa, Melanie Fonda (3rd Princess, Miss Cameroon USA), Nereida Lobo (Miss Africa-USA), Lilycent Igbani and the Concept & Cultural Heritage Troupe, graced the occasion with their attendance, music or performance. Voice of America on-air talents, Ms. Linord Moudou and Mr. David Vandy hosted Celebrate Africa-2017, after a VOA News Africa 54 Interview on Tuesday September 19, with Mr. Vincent Makori. Afrique Cuisine Inc. (Chef Taba – Cameroon); Epicurean Nutrition Catering (Esther Marandure – Zimbabwe); Shiloh Restaurant and Catering (Toyosi Oriyomi – Nigeria); Sunu Halal Catering (Soffie Ceesay – The Gambia); and Ultimate Catering Services (Kehinde Oladimeji – Nigeria) catered delicious African cuisine for the event.


About the Governor’s Commission on African Affairs

The Governor’s Commission on African Affairs was established on May 19, 2009 by an executive order to effectively address the concerns of the African Diaspora in Maryland. It serves as an advisory board to the Governor and agencies within the Executive Department on matters relating to the Immigrant African population of Maryland, including matters relating to economic, workforce and business development.

Diversity continues to be one of Maryland’s greatest strengths. The governor, and government agencies, rely on the Commission to help expand opportunities for the growing African Diaspora population. Commissioners are appointed by the governor to serve 4-year terms. The current commission has four sub committees that reflect the emphasis of its work.

They are:

  • Culture/ Religion Subcommittee
  • Business Subcommittee
  • Health / Outreach Subcommittee
  • Education Subcommittee

About the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (GOCI)

The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives houses the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism and Volunteer Maryland, and oversees the Banneker-Douglass Museum, community affairs and engagement within the executive branch of Maryland government, faith-based outreach, and the governor’s ethnic and cultural commissions.

The Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives oversees eight ethnic and cultural commissions, established to connect those ethnic communities to state resources, and to effectively address their social, business, education, and health needs. Each commission forms sub- committees to tackle those areas.

The Commissions are:

  • Governor’s Commission on African Affairs
  • Governor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
  • Governor’s Commission on Caribbean Affairs
  • Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs
  • Governor’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs
  • Governor’s Commission on South Asian American Affairs
  • Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture
  • Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs

For partnership and sponsorship opportunities for Celebrate Africa – 2018, contact GOCI at 410-697-9260

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