COLUMBIA — This Saturday marked the 10-year celebration of Missouri's Nigerian cultural organization, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa of Mid-Missouri.
Nigerians from across the state, mainly Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis, met at the American Legion in Columbia for food, live music, dance and a long list of speakers, typical of many African gatherings.
The organization's purpose is to share Yoruba culture with the Mid-Missouri area and to foster cultural, economic and social ties among its people, according to Oduduwa president Emmanuel Oyelola of Columbia. The Yoruba are the majority ethnic group in the southwestern part of Nigeria and their population is substantial throughout the United States.
"I didn't realize there were this many Nigerians living in central Missouri," said Mike Beahon, who was invited to speak at the event. Beahon, of Fulton, ran a brewery almost 28 years ago in Nigeria and found out about the Oduduwa organization at a Rotary meeting several months ago.
His wife, Mary Ann, said the event brought back wonderful memories of when they lived in Nigeria 27 years ago. She mentioned the music, the friendship and the many children at the celebration. Before the event, the only Nigerian in Missouri that the couple knew of was former MU basketball forward/center Tajudeen "TJ" Soyoye. Soyoye also attended the event.
The Oduduwa aid Yoruba newcomers to Mid-Missouri and send support back home to Nigeria. The organization is also involved in Columbia. Members participate in Columbia's Adopt-a-Spot on Walnut Street, hold Yoruba language classes at the Black Culture Center and Columbia Library, and host several cultural and artistic events.
"Wherever our tribe goes, we always want to participate in any community
development in the city where we are," Oyelola said.
Oduduwa Secretary Femi Ogungbade, known as Prince Femi Ogungbade back in Nigeria, said organizing the Yoruba community makes it easier for them to participate in the local community.
"We are here today to pay back the community which has given us our sense of being and sense of pride," Oyelola said.