threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Welcome to America – Themes in the life of an African Immigrant August 11, 2011

The American Psychological Association recently held its 119th Annual Convention in Washington D.C. As an African immigrant woman, I am also very excited because one of APA’s new directives this year includes an Immigration Taskforce charged to examine the intersect of psychology and immigration on a number of levels ranging from individual mental wellness to policy implications. I was privileged to attend one of the APA Convention sessions: “Humanizing the Dehumanized: Psychological Implications of the Immigration Experience”. Yes, I was thrilled to be in the midst of others who were passionate about this subject. Dr. Suarez-Orozco (Immigration Taskforce team  lead) opened up the plenary session with a quote that reminded me of the paradox of our times when it comes to the contention around immigration in America:

“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest – lost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Statue of Liberty – USA)

What are your thoughts about this statement? How does this compare to your initial or present experience in America?… Sounds quite like an open invitation with a promise of freedom and refuge doesn’t it?…

To most, however, the warmth of such an invitation is rarely a reality. The immigrant experience in the United States is filled with isolation, language barriers/communication issues, loneliness, culture shock, limited access to resources, and loss of identity. The experience is often ripe with psychological distress and sociocultural barriers which can last for years. 

Relocating to and navigating a new environment/new world is never easy. My personal story is uniquely mine but it has universal themes that reflect the common immigrant’s experience. Immigrants are one of the fastest growing populations in America. In 1990, 8 million children had 1 immigrant parent compared to 16.6 million in 2006. Further, 1 in 4 school-aged children are predominantly second generation, english as a primary language learners, and have foreign-born parent(s). With this shift in the demographic fabric of America, there are increasing myths, stigma, and misperceptions about immigrants. My goal is to write from a personal perspective as I discuss various topics related to the immigrant girl and woman’s experience. I invite you to also comment or share your experiences. My posts will pull from interviews and surveys that I have conducted over the past year as well as personal anecdotes.

I have identified some themes that I will touch upon in a number of upcoming posts (just for starters):

  1. Impact on Family
  2. Education/Academia
  3. Employment
  4. Mental Wellness/Resilience
  5. Culture/Ethnic Identity Categorization

Do you have any other suggestions of topics that I should tackle? Please comment and I will be sure to discuss them. Thanks!

 

Life in ANIMATION May 19, 2011

Map of Africa indicating Gross Domestic Produc...

Image via Wikipedia

HELLO!!! I took a long hiatus and now I am back… It certainly was not a loss of words or ideas to freely write about…life has just been happening in high-def animation too quickly to pause and process. I apologize for the brief pause because that is a diservice to you and many other transient readers. Let us try to re-cap some hot-happenings in my world and continue full force ahead! 

As usual, since Africa is always on my heart and all its causes integrated into my fibers, I have been heavily advocating and supporting African-led, African-sponsored, and Africa-focused events throughout the Metro DC area. One of them that has my fingers tweeting like crazy ( @threadsofrfabrc) is Secretary Clinton’s Global Diaspora Forum that is going on in Washington D.C. from May 17-19th, 2011. (Follow them on twitter @DiasporaAtState) It is all very exciting and I kept hearing the echo of Horace Walpole’s statement “Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion” in the shadows of my mind. There were a number of great initiatives launched but my top three were:

  1. IDEA – International Diaspora Engagement Alliance
  2. BOOM – by m-Via. (global mobile banking services launched in Haiti and Mexico) 
  3. African Diaspora Marketplace – USAID and Western Union (Our African atm service system, lol)

All of which should radically spark a faster globalization movement built on connecting immigrant linkages with their native country roots. It is incredible how all of this is based on using extended relationships to leverage opportunities. As Africans, we have a huge extended family network who often depend on us for financial support. Over the years we have sent significant sums of money for school fees, household support, funerals, investments, housing etc… In fact, in 2009, $20,742 million USD was received in the form of remittances by countries in Sub-Sahara Africa, constituting about 2.2% of that area’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

It’s great that the Diaspora is being recognized in powerful ways, politically for diplomacy and peacebuilding, economically for innovative development and businesses ventures, and socially…well we know how to party and have a good time! But more importantly, in Africa, the way we do business is through relationships, people to people without intermediaries… Our sense of connectedness has always been our strength and now our opportunity!

It’s feels great to be an immigrant!

Stay tuned for information on Africa’s representation/image in the media – I will be twitting from tonights African Diaspora for Change event “Media Check: Africa”…follow me  @threadsofrfabrc