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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs