threads of our fabric

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

What about the youth?… May 30, 2011

Never have I been more certain of the critical importance of the voices of young people in society than yesterday…I had the privilege of presenting the Threads of Our Fabric Project at the annual Lebialem Cultural Development Association (LECDA). The theme “3C Convention” (Culture, Committment, and Construction) complemented my project quite nicely. My project focuses on examining the unique attributes of the African Woman and showcasing all her wonderful qualities with world. Along the way changing the representation of her image and encouraging young emerging African women to *Dream*Create*Live*Inspire*

In many parts of the world, the voices of youth, particularly girls, are continually silenced. To most being young is often associated with rebelliousness, inexperience, and simply a happy-go-lucky carefree unreliable character. I believe that all these supposedly negative attributions are the trademark beauty and blessing of being a young person. For example, rebelliousness can endow a person with a daring spirit and a creative outside of the box thinking. Such qualities are useful in situations where the status quo is a false substitute for the desire to be part of a great story… The longing to be part of something grander than self…

I remember quite vividly my teenage years; rollercoaster emotions, casual attitude towards everything, and trapped in a perpetual war with a good number of adults who I believed were always meddling in my affairs. As a teen the yearning to be an adult was an all consuming maybe borderline obsessed wish…I saw freedom from the influence of parents, independence and employment. To me being an adult was like heaven. Now as I reflect on those years, there was a critical element that significantly provided a buffer against many negative influences…a few adults who believed in my potential and always saw the best in me.

Throughout the 3C convention, I kept thinking “What about the youth?“…I hope that some of the information I provided during my presentation will offer some guidance as LECDA develops more youth-friendly and youth-involved programs. From focus groups with African Immigrant Youth, most of them thrive in an environment that encourages creativity and utilizes interactive engagement. Many adults shy from working with young people, I don’t blame them…it’s a thankless, challenging, nerve-wrecking, frustrating, unpredictable, intense task…but the most rewarding experience in one’s lifetime ! The more adults invest time, energy, and love in the lives of young people…the higher likelihood that the reward will be phenomenal…It’s been proven true countless times over…How do I know?…I am walking proof.    

Reflection: How can one nurture a love for culture, tradition, and heritage in youth aside from creative arts?

 

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Camer Spotlight… March 17, 2011

This sums up why I created the Threads of Our Fabric project…Enjoy!! (Click here).

Note: Stay tuned for very exciting news! The Threads of Our Fabric Project is going international 🙂

 

Threads of Our Fabric February 19, 2011

It is still quite surreal seeing my name in print…Here is an article from the Silver Spring Gazette on a part of the The Threads of Our Fabric Project…Enjoy and thank you for your support!

Silver Spring woman hopes focus groups will connect female African immigrants

Focus groups will connect female African immigrants

by Alison Bryant | Staff Writer

Sharon Asonganyi considers her life a vibrant tapestry.

Threads of childhood in Cameroon weave through fibers of adolescence in the United States. A strand of a career crosses another of family. Femininity knots up with friendship.

“My fabric is so diverse,” Asonganyi said. “It’s the influence of Africa and America in one. When we start adding all these fibers of my fabric, it’s very diverse.”

And it’s this colorful cloth — the events and experiences that shape a life — that Asonganyi wants to help African females living in Silver Spring unfold through focus groups. Threads of Our Fabric, a program Asonganyi founded, will bring together African females between the ages of 15 and 24 to discuss themes such as identity, roles, family expectations and tradition.

Groups of about 10 young women will meet every other week beginning in March to network and connect, Asonganyi said.

Asonganyi said she emigrated from Cameroon to the United States at 13 in 1997 and found herself struggling to embrace a new culture while holding on to that of her home country. Upon first arriving, Asonganyi wanted to blend in with her American peers, she said.

“I didn’t want to braid my hair,” she said. “I didn’t want to be identified with African. I didn’t want to be different.”

But over time, she said she learned to find a balance between her identity in America and her roots in Africa. A balance that’s not necessarily easy to find.

“You’re negotiating all these things … in a new country,” Asonganyi said. “Figuring out who I am, what’s important to me and trying to understand, somewhere in between, their culture and tradition.”

The struggle prompted Asonganyi to form the focus groups that will help other young women experiencing similar emotions to talk and reflect. Sitting together, she said, African females can openly and honestly discuss the challenges with identity and negotiating young adulthood in a new country.

“Our relationships are very important to us,” Asonganyi said. “In periods of stress, women tend to default to relating, and I think that would be something really good in this group — to promote the culture of relating. This is African to African or recent immigrant to recent immigrant.”

Asonganyi said she has reached out to churches, African restaurants and stores to track down women who might be interested in attending a focus group.

Fijoy Fisiy, a friend of Asonganyi who also emigrated from Cameroon, said she met Asonganyi through a mutual group of friends from Africa. Asonganyi, she said, had been talking about starting a program for more than a year and a half.

“I said, ‘Well, go ahead and do it because you’re so passionate about it,’ ” Fisiy said.

Fisiy said she did not have the luxury of connecting with other immigrants when she first got to the United States. But she provided emotional support for her younger siblings, she said. And the focus groups will offer females a similar sense of family.

Asonganyi’s success will lie in her passion for developing strong networks for African immigrants, she said.

“I listen,” Asonganyi said. “I think that’s something that’s very rare because everyone is so busy and on the go. I’m not going to judge you. I will listen. And with youth, I think it gives them that sense of value that their opinions and thoughts are important.”

 

In the Twenty-First Century???… February 10, 2011

Filed under: Reflections — Sharon Asonganyi @ 11:09 pm
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For most people, gathering with friends and family to watch the Super Bowl is an age-old typical American football tradition. Oftentimes, viewers can be categorized into one of three fan camps: 1) Those who support one of the two teams playing, 2) those whose team was eliminated at some point during the play-offs, or 3) those who are avid fans of the exclusive over-priced commercial premiers. Of the 111Million viewers, I was one of several cheering on my Steelers (yes I said it!),  hoping and silently praying for a victorious conclusion to a shaky start.

Along with the atypical heightened excitement during the Super Bowl weekend, cities hosting the Big Game often experience an exponential boost in local economy from temporary visitors’ increased consumer spending.

There is another activity that often goes unheard off, yet contributes to the cities’ coffers. I had no knowledge till I happen to land on MSNBC’s “Trafficked: Slavery in America“. There is a new kind of resurgence of slavery in America – Sex Trafficking. The Super Bowl actually is a magnet for its propagation. Check out the I’m Not Buying It campaign that is raising awareness of the trafficking of America’s children. It is shocking to think that there are minors in the mix of Traffick 911’s estimated 15,000 sex-workers in Dallas.  

Want more information or wondering how you can help? Please visit Not For Sale: End Human Trafficking and Slavery.

Preserve innocence and help children be just that…children…

Children Laughing – Benin
 

The Girl Effect – Global Development Movement January 21, 2011

Filed under: Community,Inspiration — Sharon Asonganyi @ 10:57 pm
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The Girl Effect videos  truly capture the urgency of NOW when talking about the future of girls globally. Meeting basic needs such as food, health, and education CAN change a life. I am fortunate that life’s circumstances have favored me. Along my journey there have been countless adopted mothers and big sisters, who have invested their time, energies, talents, and resources because they believed in the Who I was becoming…Can you imagine what would happen if women made a personal commitment to support 1 or 2 young ladies outside of their family or friend circles? I dont think it takes  much to make a difference. Sure money is always nice and has great utility – but the most valuable investment one can ever make is that of relationship. Be a mentor and role-model. A postive word has a powerful life giving force, restoring hope and strength when all else fades.

Reflection: Dont underestimate the power of that which seems so simple…