News / USA

Diverse NYC African Diaspora Expresses Unity, Pride and Maybe Clout

Participants holding banners march through the streets of New York for the African Diaspora Parade, Aug. 23, 2014. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Participants holding banners march through the streets of New York for the African Diaspora Parade, Aug. 23, 2014. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Adam Phillips

Over the last two decades, New York City has seen a surge in immigration from Africa.  But until recently, newcomers from Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana other West African nations mostly kept to their own communities. Today, these diverse cultures are coming together to celebrate their common roots, and to demand recognition as a force within the "Big Apple."

Between the traditional drums, the vivid multicolored native dress, the many tribal dialects and the sheer merriment and pride on display at the African Diaspora Parade last weekend, it sometimes seemed a lot more like Mother Africa than the Bronx, New York.

Mali-born Bourema Niambele, who helped plan the event, swayed and marched with other dignitaries at the front of the procession.

“We are coming here to today to celebrate the African diaspora. As Africans in the diaspora, it doesn’t matter where you are born. We all can come together to celebrate our culture," said Niambele.

The parade ended in a park, where an all-afternoon festival of music and dance gets underway.

That is as it should be, said Ngande Ambrose, a Cameroon-born dancer and community leader in an heirloom ceremonial hat that expresses his kingly lineage. For him, Africa itself is a festival.

“Africa is just a land of happiness and joy despite all the problems that have evolved in that part of the world. We still have a happiness dominating in our way of doing things. I am a dancer. Africans have dance in their blood. So they move. We don’t need training. We don’t go to dance school for that. We just dance,” said Ambrose.

Festival organizers say the African Diaspora includes anyone with cultural roots on the continent. That includes Hispanics, whose rhumba and cha-cha dances, for example, are based in African rhythms, and African Americans, whose dialects and traditional foods echo the motherland.  And for Jamaicans like Sadie Campbell, and other West Indians, the link to Africa runs very deep.

“We have a part of Africa that is in us. We come from there. That’s in our genes. We’re proud of that,” said Campbell.

The event also embraced American culture; high school drum corps and hip hop music were part of the day’s entertainment.

Charles Cooper, a Liberian American, is chairman of the African Advisory Council, a coalition of Bronx based community advocacy groups that co-sponsored this celebration. He said creating these connections is what the event is really all about.

“You realize the similarities. This is an event where it’s fun. Folks come out.  Folks dance.  Folks laugh. People that normally would not speak to one another who will pass by one another, in this environment, they are speaking to one another. They're chatting and they are sharing information,” said Cooper.

Karl Rodney, publisher of the Carib News, said that as common ground between these diverse groups gets clearer, the information they share gets more political.  

“There is a growing awareness that the barriers that separated us previously - African Americans, Caribbean Americans, Continental Africans, or Hispanics - are all false.  The agenda is the same. If you want services or a cab, they are not asking where you’re from -  the Caribbean or Africa. You are black!  So if we look at ourselves in partnership in terms of the black or African Diaspora, that’s where we see the potential for even more political influence.  That’s a growing trend. And that is a growing reality,” said Rodney.

If, as activists hope, immigration into New York continues to rise, along with the increasing sophistication and unity among African Diaspora groups, it seems likely that this community’s political power will continue to grow as well. And with it, perhaps, the wealth of African communities back home.  

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid