Immigrants are a force in Philadelphia, but their educational needs are neglected. As of 2016, Philadelphia’s immigrant population had increased by 69 percent since 2000, accounting for more than 232,000 residents.
An estimated 1 in 4 children in the city immigrated themselves or were born to immigrants, and Philadelphia’s labor force has about 1 in 5 immigrants.
Africans make up the fastest-growing segment of this immigrant population, yet belong to a marginalized group.
In the School District of Philadelphia, immigrants and native-born students of African backgrounds rarely see themselves reflected in curricula. What message does this absence of their people, their histories, their cultures send to children? “You don’t belong — Philadelphia isn’t your city, America isn’t your country.”
Students of African immigrant backgrounds endure bullying for being African, “too black,” or speaking English with an accent.
Historically in America, Africans have been viewed through a stereotypical lens of wildlife and backwardness. These perceptions persist and continue to hurt Philadelphia children.
I stumbled onto an active movie shoot in Central Park and got a front row view of the huge film and television industry in America.
I went to Central Park the other day and was about entering that wooded haven when I ran into an active movie set. I saw police cars, a taxi rigged up with cameras, film crew setting up and running around to get things in order. So, I hung around wondering what would happen soon.
I was expecting to see Will Smith dressed as detective chasing Jamie Foxx dressed as a crazy psychotic alien serial killer and Angelina Jolie jumping out of a tree and blasting Jamie Foxx with a laser gun. After a while nothing happened so I approached a crew member and asked him what was going on and why wasn’t there any action. He laughed and told me they were waiting to film some National Football League stars. They were there to make a promotional movie for the start of the NFL season. Continue reading “I got my first movie role in America”→
I had a fleeting encounter with a little boy who opened my eyes to the Brooklyn Library System
I had just moved into an apartment on Bradford Street by New Lots Avenue in East New York and went for my first walk around the neighborhood. I arrived from the dainty and verdant streets of East 56 Street just off Flatland Ave., my first place of abode in New York. At the time of my arrival, I did not know that East New York area was one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York, with one of the highest murder rates and various problems with crime associated with unemployment and drug abuse. I only noted that the neighborhood was not as clean as where I was relocating from. Continue reading “The Little Boy At The Front Of New Lots Ave Library”→
A recent visit to Harlem brought me face-to-face with a socio-economic phenomenon called Gentrification.
I recently got to watching Netflix’s Luke Cage, Marvel’s bulletproof super hero from Harlem. And after also watching shows like Showtime at the Apollo and Amateur night at the Apollo, Harlem became a place I had to visit. I went to Harlem through a long route, first to the Yankees Stadium in Bronx and across Macombs Dam Bridge to 155th street in Manhattan. I took a long walk through Sugar Hill and Upper Manhattan on St Nicholas Ave. I listened to the patter and laughter of children and their parents on the playground that adjourned the avenue and stared at the neat rows of buildings on the other side of the road. Underneath me I heard the whir and rumble of the trains in the subway. It was a long walk to the landmarks that define the heart of Harlem. The landmark called the Apollo Theater by 253 West 125th Street.
A visit to the World Trade Center made me reflect on America’s capacity to rebuild and regenerate
There is a saying that we all can remember where we were on September 11, 2001 when two planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Truth is I just can’t remember my exact location that day but I remember watching on television as a plane ploughed into the North tower at 8.46am local time and while people were still processing what just happened, a second plane plunged into the South tower. Another memory of that day was seeing both towers collapse and disintegrates in a cascade of concrete and steel.
September 11, 2001 was a momentous day in global history, an unprecedented attack on America on a scale as audacious as the attack on Pearl Harbor. It brought a decisive response from America and defined the presidency of George W. Bush. America took the war to the terrorists who planned that brazen affront, Al Qaeda, chased them into the caves of Afghanistan, overthrew their Taliban collaborators and finally killed their leader, Osama Bin Laden after a ten year manhunt. Continue reading “Rebirth and renewal at the World Trade Center”→
I arrived the United States of America recently and visited Minneapolis for a week before moving to New York. Since then I have had interesting encounters with the American people, their culture and lifestyle. The America I saw in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was a compassionate America. Minneapolis is a beautiful city of wealth and a compassionate spirit. I saw the gentleness and understanding of bus drivers, the charity shown the cities less privileged and the large African community there, mostly Somalis and Ethiopians, is a testament of the accommodating nature of the city. I was overwhelmed when I visited the US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings NFL team and the venue of Super Bowl LII. I have never seen such an edifice that accommodates almost 80,000 people built with such minimal use of space. I hear it cost 1.6 billion dollars.
Since arriving New York I have lived in three different parts of Brooklyn; Flatbush, East New York and Bushwick. In these three neighborhoods I saw distinctively different communities. Flatbush has a lot of people of Caribbean heritage, East New York has a lot of African-Americans and Bushwick is decidedly Latino.
This got me thinking about the diversity of America. My arrival in New York coincided with the July 4th celebrations and I saw families and friends celebrate with barbeques, parties and fireworks in almost every household on the street I stayed on. Yet a few days later I ran into a huge carnival in Linden Boulevard Park where people from Belize were celebrating their national day. In Bushwick several homes were adorned with the Puerto Rican flag. I gathered that the huge Puerto Rican community in New York celebrated their national day on June 9th, a few weeks before I arrived the city.
So America is a country of immigrants who celebrate their being Americans and also their heritage. Human beings are creatures of identity, and as Shakespeare noted, “birds of the same feather flock together”. The benefits inherent in commonality of culture, language and historical experiences may be the reason these diverse peoples stay close to one another in neighborhoods and work collectively to contribute to the greatness of America. Seeing all these different American communities inspired me to start this blog and indeed this website. In the Laundromats and Family Dollar shops I visited in New York I kept seeing free copies of Caribbean or Latino focused community newspapers. And being a former journalist and community newspaper publisher I just thought of the native-born African community in America. I came up with the idea of this website for every native born African in America to tell their American story. This platform is for every native-born Kenyan, South African, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Egyptian and all from Africa’s fifty four sovereign countries who are living in America to tell the story of their successes, celebrations, failures, encounters, challenges, pains and experience.
I saw a lot that I yearned to record in the past month. I had new experiences like been bedazzled in Times Square or entering a Food Bazaar Supermarket and being blown away by the overwhelming variety of food stuff and produce. This blog is one month late, but better late than never.
I will post updates regularly on my experience in America and look forward to hearing from everyone who also has stories to tell about their American odyssey.