Marafiki Center was founded in 2019 to generate cultural exchange between Lexington, Kentucky residents and the fast-growing Swahili-speaking community. Many organizations exist that focus on the "new" culture, that is, the culture which immigrants are entering. The implicit message is that immigrants should just learn about this target culture. In assimilating to this new culture, we often lose understanding of our own culture. Marafiki Center exists to maintain the African culture, helping kids to not forget their Swahili language, cultural traditions, and values.
In our new home, we are faced with the question of belonging and often face misunderstandings based on lack of cultural knowledge. Marafiki Center also grew out of a need to offer opportunities for Lexington residents to learn about the diverse African community, as well as the African community to learn more about American culture.
Refugees and immigrants are finding new hope and opportunities in towns across America, including Lexington, KY. Kentucky has become a new home to thousands of refugees in the last few years. “Since 1994, over 30,800 refugees have been resettled in Kentucky... At the close of Fiscal Year 2019, Kentucky ranked 5th in the nation in the number of refugee arrivals compared to other states." In fact, Swahili is now the third most spoken language in Lexington!
In 2016, refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo were the largest group to be resettled into the U.S. Congolese remain one of the largest groups in Lexington, KY as well. Immigrant communities, such as the Congolese and others, contribute significantly to the local economy. “Kentucky residents in immigrant-led households had $3.6 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018.
Marafiki Center strives to support the African community to continue to contribute to the society that has welcomed us into a new home and culture, and in turn, share about our beautiful culture and history.
The mission of Marafiki Center is to create opportunities for cross-cultural connection. We build a bridge of mutual understanding through education, events, and advocating for improved representation of the Swahili-speaking community.