Books For Africa 35th Anniversary Gala: A Book For Every Child

Books For Africa’s 35th Anniversary Gala on Wednesday, September 13, at the Depot at the Renaissance Hotel in Minneapolis, was an inspiring and highly successful event attended by more than 350 supporters from around the country and around the world.

BFA 35th Anniversary Gala - A Book For Every Child

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The festivities were emceed by T. Mychael Rambo, who also entertained the crowd with his great singing.

The highlight of the evening was the keynote address by His Excellency Philip Jada Natana, the ambassador from South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation, to the United States.

The ambassador stressed the importance of books and of the role played by Books For Africa.

“This is not only a celebration of 35 years, but a chance to send more books,” he said. “Thanks to Books For Africa, most of (South Sudan’s) libraries are going to be filled with books for the first time in the history of our country. It is only through education that we can address the challenges of poverty, lack of health services and gender inequality.”

More than $380,000 was raised at the event and, as a result, Books For Africa has planned shipments to South Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Uganda and more.

Relive the excitement with the full recording of our program!

Ambassador Natana also spoke earlier in the day at a special event for members of the Summit Society and other VIPs. He was joined by Her Excellency Elsie Sia Kanza, ambassador to the U.S. from Tanzania, who provided the keynote speech at the Summit Society VIP event, and also attended the Gala.

And the ambassador was interviewed earlier in the day by an editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which later published an editorial entitled “Books For Africa’s story of hope.”

The editorial said that Books For Africa is helping to fill “an ever-increasing need for education—and an ever-increasing need for books. It’s a need that for 35 years the St. Paul-based organization Books for Africa has heroically tried to address…While a nongovernmental entity itself, Books For Africa’s outreach helps the U.S. government, and by extension, America, through its exemplary ‘soft power’ diplomacy, all while staying firmly rooted in Minnesota.”

Ambassador Natana was quoted as saying that returning refugees named schools as their top need. He added, according to the editorial: “Education is really actually a very major factor in stabilizing any society. And if you look at the region and most of the violence or the people involved in the violence, the fighting on behalf of the government, or fighting for rebel groups, it’s because they never had that opportunity of really going to school and getting some skills that can provide them with jobs.”

Patrick Plonski, Books For Africa’s Executive Director, told the editorial writer that the 35th anniversary “is an opportunity to celebrate, but it’s also an opportunity to take stock of what needs to be done in the future, because there are still many schools and libraries and universities that don’t have enough books.”

In the years since Books For Africa was founded by Tom Warth in 1988, it has become the world’s largest shipper of books to the African continent, sending over 59 million high quality books and computers to each of the 55 countries. We have partnered with the United Nations, the African Union, USAID, the Peace Corps, the Library of Congress, the Department of Defense, U.S. embassies across Africa, many African embassies in Washington, D.C., Rotary Clubs across the globe, OPEC, and key companies including Thomson Reuters, Merck, Medtronic, Salesforce, Nestle, Cargill, Land O’Lakes, and Delta. And our books are now shipped to Africa from Atlanta, London, Paris, Montreal, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Houston, and Annapolis.

It was only fitting that founder Tom Warth concluded the evening with a call to action:

“My dream is for us to provide 400 million children on the continent a book to take home. How many of you grew up in a home with not one book? Hands up? I think it’s safe to say most of those 400 million children are in a house with not one book!

I may not be around for our 50th Anniversary, but most of you will be and so I expect you to accomplish this goal.

Sometime in the future the African Book Famine will be no more. You may well be the ones to have ended it and thus put Books For Africa out of business. This should be the ambition of all of us!”