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Diaspora (USA) | Apr 13, 2004

African Immigrants In USA: It's Time For New Direction

Nkatia-Kumi, James

Some two years ago I wrote an article to this column about the sleeping giant, an African immigrant, who was about to wake up. Now the giant woke up but still yarning in bed.

The immigration lotto has brought tremendous increase of t our population but are we effective? The answer is NO! Like any immigrant population we come together in Associations to provide socio-emotional needs among ourselves. This is very important. No doubt one will need emotional support during bereavement of childbirth. Are these parties enough to make our presence felt?

ORGANIZATIONS:

One interesting situation is that all organizations of the African immigrants have similar objective "to help one another" They all have dues and specific amount to pay during birth or during bereavement.

Unfortunately the professionals whose expertise and knowledge are needed see these organizations as insignificant and narrow-minded and do not join. They want to be 'begged' to be patrons as the tradition at home. My research reveals that Nigeria and South African professional are breaking this stereotype. Many Doctors engineers, nurses, Pharmacist, Teachers at all levels are steering their organizations. TRIBAL ISSUES: Most of these organizations are tribal oriented with narrow objective. There is nothing wrong with that. Assistance to local areas in Africa will be fast and dedication is high. However because its tribal affiliation frequent friction for leadership makes it ineffective. There was a tribal organization from Ghana in New York where the in fighting for leadership resulted in violent fight and many arrested. A similar group from Tanzania and South Africa applied practice of juju to out the opponent.

Personal Aggrandizement:

Some individuals form these organizations only to enrich themselves with the financial outcome. Treasurer is the most sort after position in some of these organization since they will keep the money if the organization is defunct. —— SHAME.

CHURCHES:

Church organizations perform very important spiritual role need when one is away from home. They provide both spiritual and social need of their members. We should not lose site of the fact that Churches in USA especially Black American Churches are a source of political empowerment. The African immigrant church must be an out reach for the community beyond African immigrants. One African church with Ghanaian Minister in Irvington in New Jersey has been successful in blending Africans and community American in its outreach. It is gaining political empowerment. Other churches structured under one person are instrument of fraud and greed. We have a lot of these churches among every African immigrant community in USA and they are growing. 419 & our integrity:

For those of us who may not know 419, it a term of white color crime initiated in Nigeria where the perpetrator tries to extract money for business individuals with the promise of providing fake business product mostly oil. Others also claim they have money in Nigeria and they want to transfer to business individuals in USA. Honest Nigerians abhor this practice and are ashamed of it. The real loss is African immigrants. The US populace does not trust us in genuine business.

EDUCATION:

Many African immigrants, probably due to financial emergency at home have discarded further education. Once again Nigerians are ahead and many East Africans are also in Colleges. The least enthusiasts in education are Ghanaians. Whatever be the reason African immigrants must realize that education is opportunity to achieve the American dream. I strongly believe that when an individual is socio-economic sound he/she will be able to assist mother country in Africa.

BUSINESS ENTERPRISE:

African immigrants business individuals are applying their traditional business practice in sophiscated USA. Immigrants from French speaking countries are involved in street hawking as done in their countries. Overall most African businesses are based on the retail of products consumed by the immigrants. These are mostly foodstuff and clothing. The other group of business is money transfer to Africa. These businesses are family oriented and do not have room for hiring anyone. The growing number of immigrants has enough cash to go into fast food or Dollar store franchise where many immigrants could be hired.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I personally do not believe in negativity but I have mentioned a few of these to make us aware of our shortcomings. African immigrant needs to wake up and fight for a strong political empowerment in USA. We have the numbers and all we need is strategy as individuals and as a group.

a. Every organization that will be formed. Tribal or otherwise must be incorporated as non-profit and register under Federal tax-exempt. It must have solid constitution and Bank account.

b. In order to have political empowerment the organizations tribal or non-tribal should come together in a broader organization for common cause. I do not advocate New York City Ghanaian umbrella organization where various tribal organizations are represented in one organization. There is loose allegiance to the umbrella organization and may lead to corruption.

New York City's may be successful following many years of trials but it is very unpredictable. African residents must be encouraged to form a national organization while the tribal ones will co-exist side by side.

c. The organization should be involved politically. This is the African immigrants weakest area. Our organizations should invite local politicians to meeting and festivities. During elections we have to meet and openly endorse local state or national politicians running for election. We should work hand in hand with lawmakers and attend legislative hearings. During independent day of the specific African countries, individuals and organizations must involve local politicians.

Have you imagine African Unity Parade in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles? Do you see the national and state politician at the front? Let's think about it.

d. The African Churches should invite local political Ministers to preach in their church. Imagine Rev.Al Shapton preaching in your Church.

e. The various organizations must be a forum of education. Their meeting must be a forum where top business consultants would be brought for workshops

f. African organizations and churches must drum up the need for education. Educational Scholarship funds must be established to assist immigrant students.

g. African Embassies in Washington must have lobbyists in Congress. The Black Caucus must be their frequent guest.

The Embassies must reach out to various states where some local leaders with influence in various State Legislature could be utilized as lobbyists

To have influence in USA we need to assert our self in political as well as financial arena. It is never late.

Let Start Now. James Nkatia-Kumi New Jersey USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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