Contemporary African Immigrants in the United States


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC.>>Ted Widmer: Good
afternoon, everyone. My name is Ted Widmer. I’m the brand new director of
the Kluge Center and really happy to welcome all of you here. Some of you came a great distance. And it’s an honor to host this
important event today organized by Toyin Falola. I came from not all that far away. I came from the city of Providence,
Rhode Island where there is a small but thriving Liberian community
and a growing abundance of African restaurants, which
one of my sorrows at moving to Washington is I don’t know
the local restaurants as well as I did where I come from. But in our old northeastern city, this new immigrant population
constituted a really important source of vitality. So we’re all looking forward
to this conference today. And I want to thank Toyin
Falola for organizing it. I also want to pause briefly to
acknowledge my– I joked yesterday, my predecessor’s predecessor’s
predecessor’s predecessor, Carolyn Brown who is
here with us as well. The Kluge Center was created
with a gift in the year 2000 from John W. Kluge to
the Library of Congress. It’s still the largest gift that
ever has come to the Library of Congress and it is a center
for scholars doing research and for public events
such as this one. And we’re so grateful to have Toyin in our community which
he is deeply in. He serves the Kluge
Center in many ways. He’s on the Scholars Council which is a very distinguished
board appointed by the librarian of congress to give
advice on a range of scholarly issues
to the librarian. But he’s also very much
among us on a daily basis. He has an office down the hall. He comes to all of our events
and we’re really grateful to him personally, as
well as professionally for all that he brings to us. Toyin is a professor
at University of Texas and specifically he’s the Jacob
and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities and University
Distinguished Teaching Professor at UT Austin. He’s also a fellow of the
Nigerian Academy of Letters, a fellow of the Historical
Society of Nigeria, the author of numerous books
including “Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious
Politics and Secular Ideologies”, “the Power of African
Cultures”, and “Nationalism and African Intellectuals”. He’s also the series
editor of “Rochester Studies in African History and the
Diaspora” and the series editor of “Global Africa” by
Routledge, and also series editor of “African Histories and
Modernities” by Palgrave Macmillan. Actually as I continue to read, I see he’s series editors
of a few more. “Carolina Studies on
Africa and the Black World” and “African Identities” with
Cambridge University Press and he’s the co-editor
of the “Journal of African Economic History”
and the “Yoruba Studies Review”. And he is well known to
all of you here today and he has personally
invited you here. So he is the person you
really should listen to to get things underway. But I’m personally very happy to
introduce him and to thank him for all he does for
the Kluge Center. So please welcome Toyin Falola. [ Applause ]>>Toyin Falola: It’s a
pleasure for me to be here. We’ve agreed as to how we are
going to divide the short time that we have, five people, encouraging each one to
speak for 25 minutes. Although Ken Harrow said he
will speak for 30 minutes. So that we can manage our time
efficiently, we will take questions at the end because if we stop paper
by paper, we will run out of time. I have to follow the convention. As you can see, I am wearing
some of my tight shoes. And usually I’m supposed to bring
greetings to some of the kings that I represent and greetings
from three of them as I usually do so as not to violate the convention. The long introduction of
the speakers is in the piece that I took, so I’ll be very brief. Starting with Ken Harrow
who has done a lot of work on African cinema,
he has been teaching at Michigan State for
a long, long time. And he’s done so many major
books, including the latest one by Indiana University
Press on “Trash: The History of African
Cinemas Viewed From Below”. He’s very well known in the academy. And then we have Abdul Bangura
who speaks close to 20 languages and is currently– had in
Arabic, Hebrew, and hieroglyphics. He is extremely prolific
in languages and he serve as a special envoy of the African
Union Peace and Security Council. He is current successor
in this role. I’m involved in the South Sudan
Peace Mission myself at the moment. And he’s done so many
books, so many articles, and he’s at the moment
researcher-in-residence at the American University. Then we have Nemata Blyden who
is in the History Department, International Affairs and
Director of the Women’s Program at George Washington University. She’s done a lot of work
on women in Liberia, African and African diaspora. She’s lived in the Africa,
the Soviet Union and in the US as she brings all these locations
into bearing as she reflects on a wide range of topics. And then we have Moses Ochonu who
is a noted public intellectual. He writes op-ed pieces on a very
regular basis at The Chronicle of Higher Education,
the Time Magazine, Global Post and many others. And he’s done three major
books, all very well respected, including the finalist
for the Herskovits and is at the moment working on
what Nigerian Muslims think about Imperial Britain in the
first half of the 20th century. Please join me in welcoming
all of them. You want to take a seat? [ Applause ] Please come and take your seat. Let me start. And my PowerPoint is
there but my interest in this topic has expanded
very widely. And last year, when I gave
the usual presidential speech of the African Studies Association– By the way, those of you who are
involved with the association, one of the reasons why people
don’t want to serve is because of that speech, because it’s
so difficult to write. What I did was to map out how a
new discipline can emerge arising from this topic. I was taking a lot of risk because
for that discipline to be created, we have to fragment what
is called Black Studies or fragment African-American
Studies and either drew an insertion of the new field that I proposed
which was very well received. Turn it into a separate self-field
on its own in the academy. And I have been– like an onion, I’ve been peeling this
project in various dimensions. And I ran into one of the Kluge
staff in the train one day when I was going for an interview. And since September, I’ve been doing
a lot of interviews in three states, in Virginia, Baltimore and DC. I thought I’ll be able
to report on this but they’re crunching all
this data for me in Austin. But I’ve been able to
cover associations. I’m now on comfortable
ground talking about immigrant associations. Unlike the big state of Texas, it’s
so much easier to do research here because of the density and the
nearness of all of the spaces. And I’ll be reporting on
this data in due course. Is there a way I can
control it from here, sir?>>The thing right next to you.>>Toyin Falola: Where is it? Oh, this one?>>Right.>>Toyin Falola: OK. So, I’ve been preceded in
this by a variety of scholars. The trouble is that many of
them are based on conjectures, in which they do personal
reflections. And the reason is the
options for quantitative data, the options are very limited. We can rely on the
limited census data by the federal government
that exists. And then we can do sample data which
we can collect from specific places like in Western campuses
which I’ve done. We can– And for instance
we have figures to say how many Africans
scholars at yield? That is available. That’s not a problem. Or how many, you know,
students that are white? That one we can do. Or we can do specific research and
we can just take a narrow topic and then they answer
specific questions. That we can do. And then you have a variety
of official categorization that we can follow up on. So, I’ve gone beyond those to do
what is called snowballing samples. I’ve interviewed various
locations, Houston, Dallas, Chicago. I was to go to Minnesota this summer
but it didn’t work out because if– I do not know how many of you are
following this story which a number of people from Somalia, some young
people, there are four of them, who are arrested for joining ISIS. And the community became very angry that some members reveal
the identity of these kids, and there’s a lot of tension
on that to cancel that project. So in doing snowballing
samples, there’s no time for me to explain these limitations but it
has been very effective in trying to see how a new set of data
can compliment existing ones. Here are the problems. We have double counting, double
counting in which children born in the US and children born in
Africa, parent’s identification of children’s nationality
are very complicated. And double counting in so
many snowballing samples, the percentage is very high,
and also self-identification. By self-identification I mean that somebody can say she’s
American but she’s also Nigerian. And accounting for that
self-identification is very difficult. Even universities, it
has been very difficult. Part of the complication is
issues around dual citizenship, in which a person like
me, I carry two passports. When I’m leaving the US
I use Nigerian passport, when I’m coming back
I use the US passport. And sometimes I have a third one
which is a diplomatic passport. So, that notion of dual citizenship,
whether it’s a federal census or the ACLS, has created
its own complications. Then you have the tendency
for naturalized Americans to also call themselves
Africans so that this– it disconnect both in
the official figures. I know that figures between
citizenship by birth, citizenship by naturalization,
and what people see. Then you have how ethnicities
define itself. In many African ethnicities, you
claim the birth place of your dad. So if you are to go to an American
campus and you run to a negro person who has never left the US,
the student may tell you he or she is evil but he has never– he or she may not have
left the country. That’s not uncommon. And those complications
make it extremely difficult to use many of these samples. In Dallas this summer, I was looking
at kids who got into drug problems, and parents who are trying to adjust
the citizenship definition based on another variable of shame. So, then you have– which you have for all immigrant populations
undocumented labor. So if we go by official figures,
this is the US figures now. And they tend to be lower than
what alternative sources tell us. In 1960, 33,000 Africans, in 1970,
80,000, we need to put that 1% of the total population,
and in 2007, 1.4 million. The figure expanded in
the ’70s for two reasons. First, preference expanded as
people began to come to the US. People who used to come to the US do
so because they can speak English. And they tend to go to
former colonial masters. People in Angola will
go to Portugal. People in Senegal will go to France. That’s very common because if
language is a problem in migration, if you can’t speak the
language, it’s difficult– adjustments become difficult
and insertion becomes difficult. But as European economy
enters into this problem, they began to come
here in large number. So today, for instance, at Harlem, there were a large
number of Senegalese. They’ve created a Senegalese colony. And then you have the crisis in the
’80s in Liberia, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, special
category of asylum. And in this special category
of asylum, more Africans came, and in this asylum, they
changed the dynamics of location. We know those who come voluntarily,
where they stay in the US. But with respect to asylum, the federal government
dictates where they go. So that’s why you now
find Africans in Dakota. On their own they won’t
go to Dakota. It’s just not going
to work for them. So by 2022, according to
the US federal figures, there’ll be 3 million
Africans living in the country. Is that a big number? Well, some people would say
it’s a small number relative to the rest of them, foreign bond. We’ve been able also
to break distance down into where people come from. With West Africa, having
almost 29%, Northern Africa 17, Eastern Africa following
and then North Africa. And the largest populations are from
Nigeria and Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and East Africa and Egypt. We’re able to know where people
come from and the various numbers in terms of– And we’re also able
to know where they go to, New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Los
Angeles, Minneapolis-Saint Paul. These have the highest
numbers of people. And then you have them
Columbus, Ohio, Baltimore, Providence, Rhode Island. And we can discuss what this
means in terms of what they do. There are variations in
some of these numbers, as you find the higher number
of Ethiopians in Dallas. And you have a large
number of Ghanaians in Chicago, Columbus and New York. Then we have the Cape
Verdeans in Providence. And you have a lot of, in DC, a
lot of Ethiopians and Nigerians. And in Minneapolis you
have Somalian, Egyptian. LA and San Francisco, they were
from Egypt, Nigeria and Ethiopia and then when– This
population is highly educated, extremely highly educated. When we draw in the asylum seekers,
we– you find them in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Maryland,
and the District of Columbia. And the advantage of this is that
it makes research much easier and it makes snowballing easier. As we do some of this
research, we begin to find how– My eyes is not very good. I can’t see the PowerPoint. We begin to find how there’s a lot
of disconnect in the literature. The reason why people migrate is
similar to why Italians migrates to what are the– why the
people migrate, but we have a 3% that does not conform
to any of this data. In other words, they are not
migrating for political reasons, they are not political exiles
and they’re not spending money that they make in the US. Rather, they are spending the
money that they made abroad. So that represent doesn’t
plug into the narratives. As of today we have tremendous data
to support to our broad topics. We now have solid data or
movements of a time between Africa and the West, including Europe,
and most recently Eritrea. Not the tie is pretty
well established. And the European Union is also very
good in giving us a new set of data. And then we have data about
adjustment on political exiles, ethnic and religious associations. We now have close ties
on Pentecostalism. As a rising force, we now have solid
data on Pentecostalism, on Islam, which Abdul will be talking about. Occupations and entrepreneurship and
how immigrants call us are trying to frame a variety of topics. Then we have data that do
not conform to what we find in established literature. One of the data that
doesn’t conform is I believe in immigration literature that
it’s poor people who migrate. The data from Western and Central
Africa is telling us the opposite, that it’s people with
resources who migrate. That’s not what we teach in schools. It is the children of parents
with money, or people with money who actually tend to migrate. And we also are beginning
to have data on education and it’s frightening in terms
of how US figure and sample data in Baltimore by federal
government officials conclude that African immigrants
are the highest educated. That’s what the data is saying. Well there’s a disconnect between
job satisfaction and education. And almost 40% say that
they are not very happy. And the reason has
to do with the fact that many cannot relate their
diplomas to the jobs they do. So there’s a disconnect,
and a very large percentage. When as you take Uber or you take a
taxi, you will notice that for many of those African immigrants,
they already have degrees, PhD statistics, MA chemistry,
and that disconnect is well in a wide range of our
society and complain that although they are
educated they are not happy. Then you have what we did not expect
to find in snowballing samples, which is that migration is framed as
an alternative to home conditions. But a large percentage says
that they made a mistake. We’re not expecting to find that. We’re expecting to say that they’re
happy that they’ve left Ghana or Sierra Leone, but that’s not
what we’ve been able to find. And we’ve been asking the
questions, why are they sad, why are they not very
happy with this issue? And there are so many answers, but two of which are
very important issues around what I call cultural capital. What is it that you have
before you come here? And issues are on social prestige. Values of social prestige
are not universal. For instance, it was when I got
to the US that I washed a car for the first time in my life. A professor doesn’t wash
cars where I come from. Nobody does that, because of
the higher social prestige of the professor. What you call a business card, I
can write a note at the back of it and it will give you a job. Not here. That’s why I
don’t carry one anymore because I quickly realize
that it’s just an address. It’s just to say I’m in Austin. It’s not tied to issues
around prestige. And you find and later in Dallas
and Houston how they’ve been trying to recreate those notions
of social prestige. I once attended a party
as part of this research and with the celebrant came into
the hall with a white horse. So, we find that that is problematic
in terms of what the host think about them and what they
think about themselves. And then you find the bigger
issue, do you want to go back and– I’m skipping because
I’m running out of time. And we have the percentage
of those who go back. Very quickly, here’s
what is going on. We’ve been able to track those
who go back and been able to track them to where they go to. But the percentages who comes
back, and there’s a distinction which is very clearly
reflected between men and women. More men want to go back to Africa. Most women don’t want to go back. And the decisive answer
is tied to patriarchy. Because in many times laws
and divorce regulations, they are very different, although
some countries in South Africa and Kenya are beginning to
revise many of these regulations. But for most of Africa,
the women don’t want to go back, which is very clear. When we collect all these
data, there are a number of theoretical paradigms that we
have to reflect upon and shift some of the existing arguments. For many of you who have read
for instance “Things Fall Apart”, “Ambiguous Adventure”,
and many of the classics in the African writing series,
the trope is that of alienation. And it’s very well established,
but that has to be modified, because this trope of
alienation is no longer useful. There is a– we have to
look for another explanation because that longstanding
literature– and I’m sure maybe Ken Harrow
is going to disagree with this– is no longer working with this
set of African immigrants. Today, you can live in DC and
not watch American television for the rest of your life. You can watch Nigerian
television station. You don’t have to watch Hollywood. You can watch Nollywood. So you don’t have to put
hamburger in your mouth for the rest of your life. You can just eat your
food as a Ghanaian. They sell them here. Just as the director
said about restaurants, there’s so many restaurants,
African restaurants here, Cameroonian restaurant, Ghanaian
restaurants, Nigerian restaurants. So you can get your cassava and yam
and you can communicate rapidly. So, we have to change our concept. What do we call them? I think they are more
like transnationalists because of the heavy traffic. You still can go to Ghana
tonight if you have the money. And because they are
transnationalists, we have to find a way to reframe
some of the arguments on the table. Then you have two contentions,
one back to the [inaudible] on cosmopolitanism and it’s
been advancing this project. And [inaudible] has connected
more with people in this part of the world and his argument is
don’t walk with people in Africa. His cosmopolitan argument
has been very problematic on the African side. And then you have issues
around Afropolitanism in which a new generation is
now working within the paradigm of nationalism of Du
Bois [inaudible]. They’re working with another set of
nationalism, [inaudible] and others, [inaudible] the musician, redefining
the notion of Africa based on the space that they occupy here. So we are at the frontier
of a new topic and I’m sure my colleagues was– I’ve just done some
small introduction to it and there was plus some of
these in greater detail. Let me call on our second speaker. Nemata, yeah, you’re next, right? Yes. Is it?>>Moses Ochonu: Moses.>>Toyin Falola: It’s Moses. OK, Moses.>>Moses Ochonu: Thank you.>>Toyin Falola: Thank you. [ Applause ] Yes. And do you have a PowerPoint?>>Moses Ochonu: Yes, I have.>>Toyin Falola: OK. I couldn’t see. My eyes are bad. I can’t see.>>Moses Ochonu: I want
to thank Professor Falola for inviting me to this event. And I want to also thank the Library
of Congress, the Board of Scholars for extending this invitation. And I want to thank you
guys for taking time out of your busy schedules
to be part of this event. I am deeply implicated in what we
are here to discuss, obviously. I’m an immigrant myself. And as Professor Falola was
going through his slides, I could see myself in
some of those slides. I could see myself in
some of those slides, so it’ll be really interesting to
sit up here and try to reflect. It’s almost like what they used to call self-study,
right, in those days. And, you know, when I was
in grad school they said, my professors warned
me, don’t do self-study. Don’t study yourself. So, but I’m here this– to talk
about why Africans come to America. It’s a pretty self-explanatory
title for the talk. I don’t have all the answers but
my aim is to raise some questions, some of which actually I
think piggyback on the points that Professor Falola
raised earlier. So I’m going to raise those
questions with regards to motivations, what
motivates Africans to come to migrate to the United States. And I’ll raise those
questions and I’ll put on the table some tentative answers
that we can talk about in the Q&A. All right. So, the classic African migration
story has been told in the idiom of economic [inaudible] and of
destitution and displacement. Many scholars and observers
advance economic pressure and other involuntary
factors as the primary drivers of African migratory itineraries,
especially when the migration is from Africa to Euro-America. In this spring, African migrants
in America are economic refugees. Voluntary strategic migration
to America is often buried under this paradigm of
forced exile and escape from imminent death or destitution. This overarching motive of economic
and personal danger is extended to African professionals who
relocates to America as part of what’s called as– have lamentably called
the African brain drain. It is also applied to an
increasingly strategic and voluntary group of
African migrants to America, Africans whose migration
stories hardly conform or fitting to the familiar paradigm of
escape and economic desperation. On the line that notion that
Africans are migrating away from their continent
for economic refuge in America is an understanding
of Africa– African migration as a novel
phenomenon, or as a new phenomenon, a modern event threatening the
demographic and economic fates of both the origin and
destination of such migration. It is sustained– This idea is– This belief or this argument is
sustained by illusion of Africans as traditionally on adventures, and
people who can only be separated from their homelands by
existential pressures. The truth, however, is that much
as African migration to America and other countries of the global
note has accelerated in recent times and has indeed been affected or
induced by economic collapse, dysfunction and crisis,
voluntary migration to far-flung lands has always been
a defining social characteristic of African societies. And I’m a historian. I should know this, and we can
talk about this more in the Q&A. This voluntary strategic migration
has often occurred alongside involuntary ones. But it has often been
overshadowed by stories of dramatic and violent removal
or escape from Africa. Given this backdrop, I would
like to introduce and argue and alternative thesis of
African migration to American. One that will I argue become even
more relevant in the coming decades as the mobility of skilled and talented workers increasingly
defy international borders. This thesis may not explain
the majority of cases of African migration to America but
it is increasingly proven useful as a way to understand newer
generations of migrants. My thesis here is quite simple. There is a motivational shift
occurring in the familiar story of African migration to America. It shift away from the
economic refugee paradigm. African migrations to America
are not always attributable to economic reasons. An increasing number of African
immigrants resist this category of economic refugee. They resist the category
of economic refugee. More and more Africans self– more
and more Africans, self-selected and well-educated are relocating
to America from their homelands in Africa not to escape poverty
or danger, but for adventure and the pursuit of intangible
psychosocial conveniences. This migratory process outside the
refugee paradigm has been going on for a long time and has
been growing in proportion to the overall growth
in African migration to America in recent decades. Yet, it has gone unrecognized
because of the long terms on the part of Americans
and Africans alike to highlight migratory motivations
outside of the refugee frame work. These were long terms to see
the African migrant outside of the refugee narrative stems from
multiple factors, I would argue. The trope of refuge and
induced exile sustains for many Americans the avuncular
humanitarian gaze on Africans. It enables them to assume
that self-defining position of helper, nurturer and savior. Americans’ sense of their
paternal mission works only by imagining the African
migrant as someone in need of American paternal attention. Paternalistic American attitudes
towards African immigrants walk better when the migrant
is theorized as a refugee and as a displaced hopeless and helpless basket case needing
the help of good natured Americans. For Africans, including migrants,
sustaining the refugee narrative and suppressing migratory stories
outside of it is a strategic effort to leverage the humanitarian
“White savior complex” of Americans to obtain empathy, legalization
and access to resources in America. The logical endpoint of my argument
about recognizing the importance of psychosocial motivations
is simple. Africans are not very different
from other peoples of the world, and this is a point that
Professor Falola made earlier. Like Europeans, Americans,
Asians, and others, Africans do not migrate
only because of poverty, hardship destitution
and helplessness. They also migrate because migrations
sometimes make you feel better about yourself. Sometimes migration is,
to put it quite simply, its own justification,
its own reward. It satisfies an innate
human psychosocial desire to explore the unfamiliar,
the other, the distant, and the different. For those who could
afford to migrate or those who can afford migration, spend
in a lifetime in one corner of the world is unappealing. Many Africans are in this category
and their story is quite important. Well, this story goes untold
because there’s little appetite for it in the West, in America. To advance an alternative thesis
of African migration to America, especially one that embraces a
more universal generic motivation for migration is to make a larger
argument about racial essentialism. It is to argue against
the notion that biological and genetic signatures
confer innate, inescapable socio-behavioral
propensities that differentiate Africans from
Euro-Americans in a fundamental way and make their migration
stories different. To be sure, my thesis is not a
disavowal of the obvious economic and existential stimuli
driving African migration to the United States. Rather, I’m trying here to
synthesize the economic push factors on the idea that migration is also
a quest for psychosocial relief. If we must account for the range of
motivations for African migration to America in the 21st century, we
have to embrace an explanatory model that recognizes the obvious
economic motivations, as well as the increasingly
significant factor of convenient relocation. One does not have to discount one
factor in order to stress the other. The psychosocial factors that influence some African
migratory decisions are not removed from issues of poverty and
economic alienation either. In fact, I would argue that
there is a symbiotic relationship between the economy of suffering
and the psychosocial quest that I am trying to
enunciate in this paper. Psychosocial longings are sometimes
coextensive, I would argue, with poverty, although, albeit
a different kind of poverty. And I’ll talk about this
different kind of poverty shortly. It is obvious that poverty and economic destitution make
people want to move to places of perceived economic opportunity. This is quite obvious. It doesn’t have to be explained. But if we define poverty
and hardship, not only in starkly economic
terms but also in terms of what one may call the quality of
life poverty, then it is possible to see how an economically
successful African professional in Africa could be poor in terms
of the quality of his or her life. For analytical convenience,
let me call this kind of poverty psychosocial poverty. OK? This kind of poverty is also an
impetus for migration out of Africa, for migration to America. What I am positing here is what
one may call vicarious poverty, a situation in which
there will be migrant, migrant African does not experience
poverty directly but indirectly through the trauma of living in
the midst of grinding poverty and of being assaulted daily by the
reminders and images of poverty, economic collapse, infrastructural
deficits, and so forth. The psychological torture and
burden of such an environment of poverty can be as depressing
as actual personal poverty itself. There are two aspects
to this phenomenon. The first one revolves
around the fact that no matter how successful one is
in Africa, one still has to depend to various degrees on state-provided
social services, among them; electricity, water,
sewage, roads and security. As we know or as we should
know, these services are poor in many African countries. So, one is forced to participate
in the broader experience of poverty and underdevelopment. One’s economic success cannot
insulate one from this. Your quality of life will therefore
be poor and may motivate you to migrate to America or another
country in the Global North where social services are
delivered more efficiently. In other words, there is a limit to
the amount of comfort and material– that material success can
confer on you in Africa. The second aspect has to do with
the ironic psychosocial trauma of being successful in Africa. In Africa, more so than in the West, the successful professional is
confronted daily by sights, sounds, and smells of acute poverty. He is surrounded and
tortured by this poverty. He sees it in his employees or
colleagues, junior colleagues, neighbors, relatives, friends, and
coreligionists, as well as kinsmen. On his daily commute to work, his
sense of accomplishments is diluted and deflated by disturbing and
haunting images of destitution and economic hopelessness. These images nibble at his edifice
of– at this edifice of success, filling him at once with
guilt and anxieties, and about what might have
been and what might still be. The images erode the
joys of economic success and make lofty economic and professional perches seem less
secure than they actually are. Insecurities, anxieties, guilt,
alienation, dissatisfaction, and depression take a toll
on the quality of one’s life. I would argue that not a
few successful Africans, economically successful
Africans, have migrated to America to escape this quality
of life conundrum, this unspoken existential turmoil that hunts successful
professionals in Africa. The paradox of being psychologically
miserable even while being materially successful allows the
African professional to migrate to America, not to escape
poverty, I would argue, or to survive economically
but to escape mentally and improve his quality of life in
the psychosocial sense of the word. What the migrant is escaping
is a kind of poverty, a different kind of poverty. Not the poverty portrayed by
CNN or National Geographic or in Hollywood movies, right? So, increasingly, we are talking about strategic migrants
and strategic migration. Many of today’s African migrants to
America are most strategic migrants than they are economic
refugees, I would argue. This is a not radical
statement to make actually since African migrants are
generally well-educated, even though the findings from
Professor Falola’s work is– complicates that argument
a little bit. But generally, they
are very well-educated. There are arguments that they
are also self-selected, right? And strategically mobile,
people who are chosen to be strategically mobile. Whether they are beneficiaries
of the US Visa Lottery program or students who came here to study,
like myself, or professionals who came here to take up positions
in US firms and institutions, many African migrants to the United
States increasingly do not fit into the refugee– the
refuge and exile paradigm. Instead, they are a
pre-selected, relatively privileged and prepared collection of
people who, for the most part, were already set apart
to varying degrees in their home countries prior
to their migration to America. There are people who
are not representative of the general populations
of their countries. Their migrant itineraries and
biographies undermine the concept which so many of you have heard, the
concept of model minority, right? This prior preparation and privilege
rarely makes it into the scholarly and popular discussions of
African migration to America. Studies on African migration to the
United States rarely acknowledge, let alone illuminate
this growing phenomenon of psychosocial strategic migrants. This phenomenon has grown
and will continue to account for more African migration
to America in the coming years given
the continued growth of the African middle class in
the midst of expanding populations of poor people on crumbling
infrastructure. This dynamic of middle class
expansion, deepening poverty and deteriorating infrastructure,
I would argue, is key to understanding the rise of strategic African
migration to America. This migratory flow caused
by psychosocial alienation and yearning for– yearning, as
well as a systemic– systematic– systemic poverty and infrastructural
collapse, is likely to continue as corporations and institutions in
the United States aggressively seek out talent without regard to the
north-south dichotomies of old. We already see that African
professionals in multiple fields, some of them with experience
in multinational corporations on the African side are take– increasingly taking
positions in the global note and relocating with their families. I have– actually I have friends
who used to work in these– some of these multinational
companies back home who have– who are doing very well, much
better than I am doing in America but who nonetheless chose to migrate
with their families to America. This is happening increasingly. So, my argument is then that
we need a new vocabulary, a new conceptual idiom to
explain the migratory choices of these new African
migrants and to tell– to be able to tell their stories
alongside the other stories as well. In the African immigrant’s
journey to– If the African immigrant’s journey
to America is a manifestation of his efforts to make–
to take control of his life and destiny while escaping the
conditions that diminish the quality of his life in Africa, the processes that make the journey
possible are shaped by forces and narratives beyond his
or her control in America. The African– beyond his
or her control in America. But these forces are also
available to him to manipulate. Furthermore, once he
is situated in America, the African immigrant’s life and
choices are no longer his own. Rather, they are shaped
by the circumstances and ideological positions
produced by the political dynamics and the politics of
self-fashioning in American society. Both the migratory process and the way the migrant narrates
his experience are then constrained and reshaped by preexisting
discursive regimes in America, which perhaps explains why
in spite of the increase in professional migrations,
strategic migrations from Africa, the migration as economic
escape paradigm continues to dominate perspective
and discussions on African migration
to the United States. This dissonance between the
complexity of the African story of migration to America and its
simplistic reduction to story of suffering and rescue
should be explained. So, I return now to
my earlier question. Why is the economic refugee
exile paradigm so persistent? Why does it seem to overshadow
the increasing phenomenon of African strategic
migration to the United States? I want to conclude by offering
a few tentative answers to these questions. The paternalistic racial attitude
of Western Liberals construct and legitimize certain migratory
stereotypes, I would argue. It also privileges and silences
certain migratory narratives and cause African migrants to become
active participants in this process of silencing in a myth-making. Liberal America’s appetite for
dramatic African immigration stories of escape, heroic, self-redemption
and exile confers validity on immigrant narratives that
confirm these same stereotypes. These stories reaffirm America’s
fate in the foundational reputation of their country as a land of
refuge and compassionate to rescue, and of Africa as a land
of poverty and misery. Other narratives of migration
and other migratory experiences and trajectories are marginalized
when stories of poverty and suffering-induced
migration are privileged. The refugee is also a trope of
the conservative American view of African migration to America. And migrant stories and realities
that depart from the figure of the refugee are unintelligible to
American conservative sensibilities. Americans of the conservative
bend buy into the narrative of African economic dysfunction and
therefore imagine Africans largely as objects of American
humanitarian intervention. This means that they
cannot imagine Africans that are economically
successful in their homelands. This in turn makes it easy for them
to discount stories of successful, talented African migrants
to America. It also makes it easy for them to
believe that Africans are desperate to escape the horrors of their
homelands to come to America. Here too, the gaze is
self-assuring because it works to reaffirm the belief that
America is a generous, compassionate and humanitarian country. One that is receptive
to African refugees. The template seems clear and
it’s summed by its simplicity. Africa is a land that
perennially produces refugees and America is a country
that motivated by Christian compassion takes
them in and nurtures them back to socioeconomic stability. The power of this idiom
of exile and escape has in turn shaped how African
immigrants themselves narrate their own experiences for the consumption
of American interlocutors. Examples of this genre
includes Ishmael Beah’s– this book right here,
some of you know about it, Ishmael Beah’s “A Long Way Gone”
and Chris Abani’s autobiographical and semi-biographical works,
in which, you know, I kind of– it goes into all this lurid quite
frankly untenable, you know, quite frankly fantastical tales
about what he went through, what– how he escaped and
how he was detained. And we’re talking about
penises being nailed to tables. These are stories that
just simply never happened, nobody can remember any
of these things happening, but there’s an appetite
for these kinds of stories. These are the kinds of
stories that play well with this paradigm of
the refugee, right? The more dramatic, the more dramatic
you are in telling the stories, the greater the market for it. So we have this genre,
this genre that is growing. So– And we can talk
more about this later. This entails– So you have
sometimes the narrative basically, the narrative pressures
placed on African immigrant, immigrant autobiographers
like Chris Abani. This is just a sampling of– There
are so many works in this genre. These narratives ponder to
Western audiences’ hunger for dramatic migrations
stories of African suffering and American humanitarian heroism. They cause these migrant
storytellers to make up events and scenarios to fit
certain prepackaged Western aesthetic expectations. This entails suppressing
stories of migration to America that lack this elements
of desperation and rescue. The resulting stories of
exile penned by Africans– African migrants in America
perpetuates the stereotypes of helpless, displaced migrants
seeking refuge in America and displaced alternative
stories of African migration where the motives are less
familiar and less sensational. African immigrants themselves become
unwittingly active participants in a particular Western
trope of validating and rewarding personal narratives
of African migration that conforms to a certain valued template. And I’ll close by just–
This is just a screen grab. If you go– If you just– and
just Google the name Chris Abani, this is one of the first
few pages you will see. And in this short piece– I
don’t know if you can read it– it tells about his suffering, how [inaudible] was
detained and tortured. And a lot of Nigerian sleuths have
done research, people who lived in those places, people who
lived through those times who were involved in the
pro-democracy struggle in the time that he claimed. Nobody remembered him. Nobody even remembered him on
the campus where he claimed to have been an activist, where
he claimed to have been arrested. But this– If you go to his website, to his personal website,
these stories persist. He has this website,
widely displayed. Wherever he’s invited to talk
about his– He’s a great novelist, don’t get me wrong, fantastic
novelist, fantastic writer. But, you know, he gets in the door
in most cases with these kinds of biographical narrative
of how he suffered and how ultimately he
escaped to America, right? So that becomes the catch. That becomes a way to get people
interested in his stories, even in his literature,
brilliant, he writes as is. You know, he cannot stand on
the merit of his literary works. He has to kind of come
up with a story. Everywhere you go, when
it’s been introduced, when his biographies are
being written, you know, they’d always talk about how he
was detained for so many days, how his penis was nailed to some– the floor, and how he was
hung up on a ceiling and left. You know, all kinds of
fantastical stories. So, that’s what I’m trying to get
at, this appetite on this pressure on the part of Africans to tell the
stories to validate the stereotypes. And I’ll leave it at that. Thank you so much. [ Applause ]>>Toyin Falola: And let
me– had to weigh in. For those folks who call
upon by immigration services, immigration attorneys, you find
many of these fantastic stories. And Western feminists have
also contributed to it. There was a [inaudible] for
instance, a [inaudible] of 10 years when you can see– because they
want to avoid female circumcision, they should– left [inaudible]. Even in regions where those
practices have stopped since the 1940s. I come from a part of Nigeria where the Christian community have
abolished female circumcision before I was born. Or stories of witchcrafts
which are made up. Look, I don’t want to leave
Uganda because of witchcraft. Stories of senior wives. My father is married to four wives,
the first wife is about to kill me. So as Moses is saying, these
stories connect to some kind of ideological template
in this part of the world that validates some–
a number of issues. Then there are how
scholars also frame Africa, a project that I’m doing. And there is a way I’m
putting up this project, that we have a generation of
scholars who have been writing about Africa when they’re in Africa. And then, when they’re
relocated here, they begin to write
Africa differently from how they are doing before. In other words, the audience changes and the presentation
of Africa changes. I used to think that it’s theories
that drew this because any time, you think out a theory, the
narrative automatically will shift. But locations also begin to shift
the conception of Africa depending on the signals they are given. And part of what we
want to do is also to see how migrations do
change the presentation, not just by great scholars
like Chimamanda. The Nigerian Civil War is
50 years old next year. But to find a generation of
writers who are not even born, they are born after the war
but they talk about the war as if they really,
really experienced it. And how many of the things
that Moses has said plug in to a bigger narrative
outside the frame of Africa. Let me now call on Nemata Blyden. And I want to use her
last name, Blyden. Any of you must have
heard about Wilmot Blyden. She– Wilmot was Africa’s– arguably
the most distinguished intellectual of the 19th century, who left the
West to go back to West Africa. And he began to frame a different
set of arguments around Islam, around the recovery of Africa. And she comes from the
lineage of the Blyden family, three greats or two greats?>>Nemata Blyden: Two.>>Toyin Falola: Two greats.>>Nemata Blyden: Actually one.>>Toyin Falola: One. And her dad was a professor
of political science at Nsukka in Nigeria and work
in very many places. We are grateful for this long
line of African intellectuals. Thank you.>>Nemata Blyden: Thank you.>>Toyin Falola: Yeah. [ Applause ]>>Nemata Blyden: Thank
you for that. He always embarrasses me like that.>>Toyin Falola: Sorry, excuse me.>>Nemata Blyden: And I’d like to
thank Dr. Falola for including me in this event as well as
the Library of Congress. I’m going to take license in
defining contemporary by going back to the 19th, late 19th
and early 20th century to take a historical approach
to the subject matter by looking at a few individuals
that I characterize as immigrants from that period. And what I’m trying to do
with this in a larger study is to problematize how immigrants
and immigration are constructed in American history, typically
privileging European immigrants. So Africans are not black people
in general but for our purposes, Africans are not considered
immigrants in some ways in this country before the 1960s. And I’m going to try and play
with that a little bit in my talk. And I have these wonderful slides which I’m not going
to use all of them. And I forgot to include one of
them so I’m going to skip to– Let me skip to this
for now, I’ll come back to the others if I have time. In a January 1915 letter
to the Washington Post, the African-American
Booker T. Washington, head of Tuskegee Institute made
an appeal to the American Congress and to the people of the United
States in favor of fair play and justice in connection with the
immigration bill now pending before the United States Senate, which
by amendment excludes from coming into this country any
person of African descent. He went on to empathically
state that the bill was “unjust, unreasonable and unnecessary.” It is unnecessary, he proclaimed,
because only a few thousand people of African descent enter
this country annually. Practically, all of these that do
come are mainly from the West Indies and almost none from
the continent of Africa. Washington went on to cite
the 1910 census pointing out that only 40,319 blacks in the
United States were foreign born, and only 473 of those
were from Africa. He further noted that the
immigration bill puts an unnecessary slight upon colored people by
classing them with alien criminals. Booker T. Washington argued that
the bill put unnecessary hardship on countries like Liberia, Cuba
and Haiti by restricting the entry of citizens from those countries. Blacks from the Caribbean
and Africa, he said, had proved as a whole
to be a law-abiding, intelligent, industrious class. Recent narratives exploring
the relationship between blacks from Africa and native-born black
Americans have constructed it as fraught with friction, tension,
rivalries and sometimes hostility. Characterized as a
recent phenomenon, this new African diaspora
has been highlighted in sometimes sensational ways. “More Africans Enter US
Than in Days of Slavery”, a 2005 New York Times’
headline read. While another article
from the same paper opined that the one million
Africans that had immigrated in the last 30 years
provided a “New Interpretation of African American History”. Yet Africans had been
arriving as immigrants to the United States long
before Washington commented on their presence in 1950. And though not in the drill
suggested by the times, they made a mark on
American society. Although the large African presence
in the United States resulted from the involuntary migration
of men and women and slave on the continent since
the 17th century, beginning in the 19th century,
Africans from the continent came to the United States
in small numbers. And the most studied group
of African immigrants in that period are
probably the Cape Verdeans. Most people know about that group. Throughout the late 19th
century, Africans trickled into the United States largely
interacting with African-Americans. In the late 19th and
early 20th century, many came as students
attending black institutions of higher learning and frequently
interacted with black Americans, allowing for exchanges
on various levels. Africans often came to study
in the United States with hopes of returning to their homeland
upon completion of their studies. At institutions like Fisk, Howard,
Lincoln and Livingston College, African students interacted with
their native-born American– black American counterparts. These interactions were often
guided by prevailing stereotypes of Africa held by Americans
in general. The predominant view held by
most Americans was, of course, of Africa as the Dark Continent. Largely negative portraying the
continent as savage, barbaric, needing uplift from
those more civilized. Because of the difficulties
adjusting to the African climate, like their white counterparts,
black churches and black missionaries start to
train Native Africans to serve as missionaries in
their own native land, so black missionaries
would encourage Africans to come to the United States. And these students came to the
United States a lot of times under the auspices of these
African-American missions. They offered African-Americans
the first opportunities to see that the prevailing stereotypes about Africa and Africans
were wrong. Most Africans coming
to the United States in that era would have been
educated within colonial systems, missionary schools particularly
those who came and they mainly came from the British colonies
in the earlier years. They were westernized, largely
Christian, with some knowledge of the society they were entering. In fact, in 1899, Bishop
Henry McNeal Turner of the African Methodist
Episcopal Zion Church noted, “Everybody appears to be amazed
at their learning refinement and general intelligence. So many of our people in this country believe all
Africans are mere heathens, that they are paralyzed with
surprise to find such boys coming.” And I’m sorry the slide I left
out is on the next section. James Aggrey was perhaps the
most famous African to arrive in the United States in that
era, and might well be deemed one of the first African
immigrants in the United States, although he isn’t often
thought of as such. Now, I grew up listening to stories about James Aggrey
at the dinner table. My father hero worships
James Aggrey. But in anything that he said
or in anything that I ever read about James Aggrey, he’s never
mentioned as an African immigrant in the United States and
I construct him as such. Born in the Gold Coast, later
Ghana, Aggrey attended mission and colonial schools in the British
colony excelling in his studies. He soon came to the notice of
missionaries and colonial officials. And in 1898, he was sponsored by Bishop Bryan Small
of the AME Zion Church. And he came to– was brought by
Bishop Small to the United States in 1898 to study at Livingston
College in North Carolina. Aggrey completed his studies at
Livingston, later becoming a member of faculty and an administrator. He remained in the United
States until his death in 1927 marrying Rose Douglas, an
African-American woman from Virginia and raising his family
in North Carolina. Although he continued to highlight
his African heritage expressing his love and devotion to his
homeland, he dedicated himself to the improvement and
uplift of African-Americans. He was popular with students
and had a great reputation, a classmate of his noted. WJ Trent, this classmate also
observed that Aggrey’s influence was “very precious and had a great
deal to do with the improvement of the moral and spiritual
conditions of the whole college life.” Having been ordained in the AME
Zion Church, Aggrey preached in black churches all
over North Carolina. He pastored two African
American churches in rural communities
in that state as well. His parishioners were mostly
poor, illiterate, rural people, mainly farmers and laborers. Working with these communities was
one of the most fulfilling aspects of Aggrey’s work in
the United States. His biographer tells us, “it took
him out of an academic atmosphere and introduced him
to the actualities of life led by the American Negro.” Clearly, his relationship with
African-Americans was characterized by mutual respect as is evident
from the many outpourings of grief from African-Americans
after his death. The bibliophile Arthur
Schomburg, in remembering Aggrey, pointed out his influence and
legacy in the United States, describing his contributions
to black Americans. “At a Native American
school, Livingston College, set in the panoramic mountains
of Salisbury, North Carolina,” Schomburg said, “he
received the milk of kindness and remained with his own people. Later his loved joined
that of an American Rose and made his stay permanent
among us.” Yet Aggrey also felt his difference. And there are signs that
he was not fully accepted as an American despite
his citizenship and Aggrey actually was naturalized. He felt the strain of being excluded
from the larger white society, but he also felt slighted
by African-Americans. His biographer writes that Aggrey
was accepted by whites more easily than native-born blacks, making
it harder for him to get along with some African-Americans. He gained the respect and ardent
affection of a number of these but in the minds of not a few,
the old prejudice persisted. In 1917, Aggrey was
up for the position of president of Livingston College. He was not offered the
position and believed it was because he was not a
native-born black American. Though he later was
offered the position, he declined it at that time. He appears to have been
passed up for other positions which he attributed to his foreign
status rather than his race. In a letter to his wife
he wrote, “I am convinced that being a foreigner,” and
he puts foreigner in quotes, “I could never command in any sort
of place the decent kind of a job in this country that would
keep me to take care of you and give the children the
education they deserve. That is the way I see it. You may not see it that way. I am resigned to my fate.” He went on to tell Rose of
another African, one Norman Wilson from Sierra Leone, living in
New York who faced the same sort of discrimination, “Thwarted
at every turn in his desire for advancement,” Aggrey noted, “that Wilson was considering
a return to Africa because he tells me his brother
priest have been fighting him because he’s a foreigner. He has had to go to the bishop. He says he’s getting tired of it. They acknowledged his work and
his influence but they fight him in an underhand way
because he is a foreigner. Too bad for our race, too bad. He has finished his
work for his BA degree. He tells me he hopes this will
be his last year at this working under such stress, the
everlasting foreigner nag.” No doubt their foreign
status was significant. But in the 1920s when Aggrey
wrote their race was surely just as important to their
inability to advance. Like Aggrey– And I
do have the slide for this, if I can get back to it. Like Aggrey, Orishatukeh Faduma came
to the United States as a student and stayed becoming an immigrant. Born William Davis in Sierra Leone,
Faduma came to the United States in 1890– sorry, a slide one back. Here we go, sorry. OK, I should stop touching it. Faduma came to the United States
in 1890 to study at Yale– It’s doing it on its own. Am I pressing it too hard? It’s not that important. OK.>>Toyin Falola: Very sensitive.>>Nemata Blyden: Is it looping? He came to study at the
Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. After completing his degree in 1894, he took a position in
the American South. Like Aggrey, he married an
African-American woman Henrietta Adams from Georgia, and
taught at the Peabody Academy, a black institution in Troy,
North Carolina for 17 years. Served as a missionary and
educator to African-Americans in North Carolina for 50
years until he died in 1946. In 1913, Faduma worked closely with the African-American
Chief Alfred Sam and his Back to Africa movement, encouraging
black Americans to return to Africa. Though he himself never returned
becoming naturalized in 1902, he spent the rest of his life in the United States living
among African-Americans. Both Faduma and Aggrey, like
many Africans in that era, lived in a segregated south and
operated within a world in which by virtue of the color
of their skin, they were thought to be inferior. Both men adapted to
their lives as black men in a racially segregated nation,
at a time when discrimination and racism were leveled at men
and women of African descent. Both lived and worked among the
less privileged African-Americans and saw it as their responsibility
and duty to enhance their lives and improve their condition, which
was kind of a reverse, right, with Faduma referring to African-Americans
as his kith and kin. His contributions were
recognized in the 1904 publication. In an article profiling him, he
was lauded for his contributions to African-Americans and for
his missionary work among them. The article noted, “We question if this Native African could
have made a better investment of his powers had he
remained in Africa. Africa is here.” Although Aggrey and Faduma settled
in the south, a few Africans lived in northern cities like New York. And over the years, blacks from
Africa continued to migrate to the United States
for various reasons. While relations with African-Americans
were not always positive, Africans found more
commonalities with African-Americans than with the larger white society. For the most part in
these early years, Africans faced the same
discrimination from white Americans as their native-born counterparts. Although some highlighted their
difference and distinctiveness from black Americans, what white
Americans often saw was their black skin. On the other hand, African-Americans
frequently welcome them as brethren. In a 1971 interview, Bishop William
Jacob Walls, an African alumnus of Livingston College where
Aggrey had attended remembered that Africans were not looked down
upon us inferior by this campus. For many Africans, the issues facing
African-Americans came to be theirs. In the period before the 1960s, perhaps because their
numbers were small and because of the hostile environment in
which they often found themselves, Africans living in the
United States lived alongside and among black Americans. Although they may have held
particular views and stereotypes of African-Americans– of Africans
before arriving as they lived in the United States
for extended periods, they relied on African-Americans
for an understanding of the society into which they had come. The 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration
Bill would change the size, composition and demographic profile of the African population
in the United States. This act, liberalizing
American immigration laws, would change to some extent too
the nature of the relationship between African-Americans
and Africans. Coming at the height of the Civil
Rights Movement, Africans studying in American colleges often
found themselves in the midst of agitation, civil rights
protests and marches, sit-ins and other attempts
by African-Americans to desegregate public
spaces and institutions. Africans sometimes were
mistaken for black Americans and face the same racial profiling. As the United States increasingly
became a desegregated society and one that was more open to
foreigners, Africans continue to arrive on its shores in larger
numbers now finding themselves with more options and opportunities. Coming from newly African– newly
independent African nations, many saw a little need to
settle among black Americans. As the number and composition
of African immigrants has grown, so have the perceptions that
they, like other immigrants, are different from
African-Americans. While during the era of segregation,
black immigrants were often forced to live alongside black
Americans, the new liberal and relatively tolerable post-civil
rights America has given more recent immigrants the opportunity to live
apart from and distance themselves from African-American populations. These black immigrants
are no longer settling in traditional gateway cities
like New York or Miami but more and more attracted to suburban
areas or as in the case of Somalis in Maine to rural areas. Despite the racial stereotypes, some black immigrants
prefer settling among mixed or largely white populations
believing that assimilating with African-Americans would hinder
their socioeconomic advancement. African immigrants also fear
the loss of ethnic identity and they highlight their
distinctive heritage. As immigrants, they have sometimes
lacked an understanding of and do not identify with post-slavery issues affecting
native-born American blacks. As one young African
immigrant interviewed for an Arizona news article stated, “I don’t associate
myself with slavery.” The article notes that these
new African-Americans lack ties to American slavery and the inner
city culture frequently associated with black America. Many grew up in middle-class,
two-parent families and have access to social networks that include
doctors, nurses, engineers, professors and business executive. Nonetheless, urban areas
remain important destinations for some African immigrants
who choose or are forced by economic circumstances
to settle in areas with significant black
American populations. These immigrants recognize
their status as a minority and understand the
consequences of ethnicity and race in the United States. African immigrants increasingly
recognize the struggles of African-Americans in providing
the world into which they came. One immigrant remarked, “We feel
that those African-Americans who were here before
were the pioneers. If it wasn’t for Martin Luther King
Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, we wouldn’t be here
in the first place.” And as one scholar has
noted, black migrants, unlike light-skinned migrants,
also face an entirely different set of issues directly related to
fitting in with American society. They must reconstruct and
redefine their identity in terms of the American society’s system
of race relations and hierarchy. This, they sometimes
find difficult to do. As one immigrant noted, African
immigrants sometimes struggle to fit into black American
culture that has been shaped by civil disobedience
and peaceful protest. Many hesitate to speak out on race
issues because they fear deportation or showing disrespect to
their adopted homeland. They have, largely, not
integrated themselves into African-American institutions and organizations often
creating separate ethnic, hometown or country associations. This reluctance to identify fully with the African-Americans
has sometimes led to tensions between the two groups. For example, at the turn
of the 21st century, several incidents highlighted the
differences between the two groups. In 2005, an Ivorian street vendor
in Harlem frequently harassed by black Americans lashed out in
return, resulting in a street brawl. While these incidents are
infrequent, they nevertheless point at continued misunderstandings between African-Americans
and black immigrants. Stereotypical views and
representations of Africa continue to be shown in mainstream media. Negative images and ideas about Africa still persist
among African-Americans, largely because African Americans
students still are not taught much about Africa, and when
exposed to Africans fall back on old stereotypes of Africa
as the “Dark Continent”. Also at the heart of
African-American suspicion of black immigrants is the belief
that they are competing for jobs and other opportunities
and resources with them. As the scholar John Bracey
observed of the Harlem incident, Africans are seen as
another immigrant group that is pushing past
African-Americans. This is particular issue
of black immigrants who some African Americans believe
are given preference for employment by white employees– employers. Louis Chude-Sokei points out that
“whites have historically tended to regard black immigrants
as a model minority within a troublesome
native-born black population. A good proportion of immigrants,
tend to be better educated than African-Americans, don’t
have the chip or racial resentment on their shoulder and exhibit
the classic immigrant optimism about assimilation into the
mainstream culture,” he argues. On the other hand, misconceptions about African-Americans
persist among Africans as well. The belief perpetuated by
the media and other sources that African-Americans are not hard
working and frequently fall back on the history of racism to make excuses still
persists among some Africans. As Bill Fletcher, president of
TransAfrica Forum commented, “Many African-Americans
are embarrassed or ambivalent about Africa. And many Africans have
misconceptions about the opportunities
available to African-Americans. They often fail to appreciate
what the African-Americans have gone through.” African immigrant attempts to
maintain a distinct identity from African-Americans,
allows them the hope of protecting their children from
racialization in American society. Nonetheless, while African
immigrants in their attempt to cope with the racial hierarchy in the United States have
frequently claimed a foreign status, they find it hard to insulate
themselves from white– racial stereotypes
and discrimination. Africans settling in urban
areas are more likely to closer to the African-Americans
resulting in some tensions but also providing the
opportunity for the group to learn about each other and in some
instances to work together in both social and political
causes and on an individual level. Though misunderstanding persists,
in recent years, as in past years, these groups have cooperated
with each other rather than highlighting their differences. And in most major metropolitan
areas and even in smaller suburbs, African businesses and
organizations can now be found as established institutions. Whether they’re hair braiding salons
or Senegalese restaurants in Harlem, or the many African grocery
stores in Woodbridge, Virginia, these businesses have become a
familiar part of the landscape. They are patronized not
only by other Africans but also African-Americans. Likewise, the many African
churches springing up in cities and suburbs all over the
country are drawing African American congregants. In other words, the relationship
between black immigrants and American-born blacks is not
always characterized by tension. Like Aggrey and Faduma, black
immigrants are also intermarrying in greater numbers with
the African-Americans. The children of these
unions frequently identify with both parts of their heritage. Furthermore, children of black
immigrants born in the United States or brought here as young
children, more often than not, think of themselves as African-Americans
in different context. Identifying with that– Sometimes
identifying with that culture often with some resistance
from their parents. However, the American-born children of African immigrants have
often been most successful at understanding American society
than their parents have as evident in their increased participation
in civic and political issues. Recent events have highlighted
these commonalities and of course, the most high profile
one was the 1999 shooting of the Guinean immigrant Amadou
Diallo where African-Americans– activists rallied around
African immigrants. And more recently, many
African immigrants, particularly of the younger
generation have been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. More formal ties and
connections are also being created between African-Americans
and black immigrants. Just as Booker T. Washington spoke out against the 1915
immigration bill, in 2006, a group of black American and black
African immigrants came together in Oakland, California to form the
Black Alliance for Just Immigration to “support the demands of
the immigrant rights movement and to engage African-Americans in
a dialog about the underlying issues of race and economic status that
frame US immigration policy.” The relationship between
blacks and– from Africa and African-Americans
has been long and continuous. Since the late 19th
and early 20th century, black immigrants have been
arriving in the United States. Although at times they may have seem
invisible to the largest society, black immigrants were
never invisible to African-Americans among whom
they settled, worked, married, and who were often their
entry point into the society. Although in adjusting to American
society they have experienced difficulty in assimilating, the presence of an established
native-born black population has been beneficial to black immigrants. As more black immigrants arrive in
the United States, the definition of African American will
expand as black immigrants and native-born blacks
find common cause. Thank you. [ Applause ] Did I run overtime? Oh no, I have 11 seconds left.>>Toyin Falola: Thank you very
much for locating this subject, in terms of historical evolution
and contemporary tension. For those of you who
follow the recent politics, the recent election, and even
through Africa [inaudible], many of you will be
shocked there is a lot of support for Trump in Africa. I would try to Moses,
for instance, was– wrote a piece on why
that massive support. And issues that you– for those
of you who has come in to America, a theme that was done
over 20 years ago, some of what Nemata is
saying is captured in that. But there are issues
that we have to– First of all, we need a
long book on this subject because it’s used to
be from last kinship. And then they’re reframing. And if you look at how we define
Africa today, how we teach Africa, the person we hold the most is
Du Bois because he’s the one who actually framed it in
a way that we now accept. If you look at the– We’ve
rejected the Arab framing of it as the land of the black. We rejected the European
framing of it. And Washington, DC takes
the earlier European framing in which they lumped part of
North Africa with the Middle East and it is Du Bois in that
generation who said, “No, we are going to frame– We are
now going to disconnect Africa from Egypt from North Africa.” And that is what that
state in Africa itself and the way in which we teach. And you’ll find when we go into the
academic understanding of Africa–>>The restroom is this way, yes.>>Toyin Falola: — part of
what you’d find in literature is that it was created
in London in the ’40s, whereas African-Americans
have actually created many of this discipline long,
long time before this. It is true that contemporary
immigrants are not connected with the civil rights movement. Many of them are beneficiaries
of the struggles but they did not contribute to
the struggle and it shapes some of what they see and
some of what they do. But fundamentally, since the fall
of apartheid, we’ve been struggling to create one common– one
reason, one common cause that will unite blacks on
both sides of the Atlantic. So, anti-colonial struggles,
domestic US politics and civil rights united them, anti-apartheid struggles
united them. But today, there has been
not a single one cause. And until we get that one cause,
it’s a little bit of challenge to bring people together. And we’re searching for
that one common cause. Maybe struggles against
poverty may be adapted. But what the African Union has done
is to join Africa into six regions. The older definition, it’s
a continent of five regions. But now, officially,
Africa has six regions in which they now include
the African diaspora as an official sixth region. And how this will be connected to
textbook writings, on politics, on policies are things we
have to pay attention to. Let me now call on Ken,
right, you’re next. Is it Ken? Where is Abdul? OK. But Ken is next, right? Yeah.>>Kenneth Harrow: Yeah. [ Applause ] OK. I’d like to start
my presentation again by thanking– Yeah. [Inaudible] so wait another minute? OK. Thanking Professor
Falola for the invitation and thanking Edward Widmer, the
director of the Kluge Center and for bringing me
to this gorgeous, gorgeous building in
this cold, cold day. So, hello everyone. I gave my presentation– I
had lost, is this thing here. Here we go, with the title “What is
African Literature or Cinema Today?” Where do we look for
African literature? Is there a– Does that
look funny on the screen? No? OK. I made Ama Ata Aidoo
with brown a couple of years ago. It is quite emotional. She was warm and greeting me and
I expatiated on how much I love to work and had written about it. When I told her I was interested
in the question of the production of African culture by Africans
living outside the continent, she got so upset, she
got up to leave. And I had to beg her to stay. She thought I was going to
accuse those living outside of the continent of not being
authentic in their work. And so the only way to
answer the question, what is an African author would
have to be someone who grew up in Africa and who lives there. Such an answer today would
disqualify a very large number of those considered major
African authors or filmmakers. True, we are all made into
something different when we travel, and especially live abroad. True, the notion of authenticity or
autochthony is an anthropological and political term grounded
in outsider points of view. That is those on the outside
trying to define who is an insider and where the inside and
outside begins where it ends. This is, as Johannes Fabian puts it, a colonial anthropological
understanding. I detest authenticity, the word
and concept, the police who tried to define it and especially
those in Africa for whom it is the test
of genuineness or not. So I was embarrassed that
she took my question so hard and I made every effort to reassure
her I meant something different. Well, what did I mean? These days, I see large swathes of
African culture as being created by those living abroad, from
Elach Nusani [assumed spelling] to Chris Abani to Pius Adesanmi,
Aminatta Forna, Chimamanda Adichie, just as I may– might have listed– might have listed Achebe in past
years, not to mention, Teju Cole or Binyavanga Wainaina
and our own Toyin Falola. This is not to say that an
even greater contribution to African cultural production is
not being created on the continent. But those whose works are
likely to enter onto the stage of world literature or cinema
are largely living abroad. And this is not new. But it’s testimony to
a changing context. And I would argue now that the
literature of Taiye Selasi, of Helen Oyeyemi, or NoViolet
Bulawayo, to mention three of the most prominent women authors
is radically different from that of women publishing on the continent
and especially women authors of the past, like Flora
Nwapa, Mariama Ba, or even Buchi Emecheta whose
own life had been marked by beginning her career as an expat in London before returning
to Nigeria. From the outset, the great
Cameroonian author Ferdinand Oyono was living in France and
writing Une vie de boy, when Camara Laye was writing
L’Enfant noir in Paris and when Senghor and Sedar were
composing their poems in Paris, it was common for African authors
to have traveled and lived abroad where they pen much
of their early works. But that was a different time. Their crafts were marked
by an upbringing in a world radically
different from today’s. Marked by colonial or
neocolonial culture and milieu, today’s African authors
and [inaudible] often live in Paris and London and New York. Life and culture abroad
remains radically different from what is accessible to
Africans living at home. It isn’t that African culture
isn’t being diffused abroad but the flows are highly uneven. Some like Abani turned to totally
new directions of expression. Abani now calls himself a
writer, not an African writer. And his writing shares little with
those writing on the continent. Others can live in New York’s little
Senegal or London’s Peckham Rye, eat their thieboudienne or
poulet yassa every night. Youssou N’Dour’s concert in Bercy
is completely unlike the one in his home club in
Thiossane, Dakar. The food abroad for all of us doesn’t taste the
same as it does at home. The music depends on its
audience for the performance to acquire its full flavor. What is ordinary at home
becomes exotic abroad. And even when the name is the same, the ingredients can
never be identical. All of these presupposes a static
culture which is never the case. The cook in New York might wind
up getting all the right flavors of pepper soup, only
to learn that the chefs in Lagos have found a better way
to make the fish taste spicy. Something new is happening. There are new conditions
of production, new times, new people on the scene. We are three generations away from
the early writers of the ’50s. Try to imagine what the
Biafran war meant for Achebe. In his memoir, there was a country,
a personal history of Biafra. He takes, which he wrote
in 2012, he takes us back to a late British colonial
period before independence. In a radical revision
of his early fiction, he tells us the British
rule is a lot better than we imagined it to have been. Readers raised on “Things
Fall Apart” and its truths must have
been astonished to read this, Achebe with age turning more
indulgent had done so much to shape our thinking about
those early missionaries and administrators as
arrogant and small minded and had given generations
a clear understanding of Eurocentric colonial thought. The adjustment is difficult. Many of today’s African
writers are in fact mixed race. When Achebe and Emecheta and
[inaudible] wrote about Biafra, none of them could have imagined a
heroine like Kainene in Adichie’s “Half Yellow Sun” whose elegance and
standoffishness redefined the image of the African urban sophisticate. It’s Kainene I’m talking about. You could say that about
Adichie too if you want. She didn’t care a whit. That is Kainene now. Did not care a whit for something
called evil cultural politics and the character in the novel. Instead she gave herself to a
struggle despite her wealthy and privileged upbringing. She married a white man,
a character the likes of whom it would be
impossible to find in the first two generations
of African literature. If there is a single
story of the African which Europeans have been
constructing for centuries, simultaneously there is a
single story of the European which Africans have
also constructed. That construction dissolves
as Adichie creates characters like the Englishman
Richard whose engagement with Nigerian Kainene
somehow led him to embrace a new form of commitment. One not at all like what have
been required for those engaged in the original struggle
for national liberation as it had been during the
period of imperialism. Now, the struggle entailed a new
configuration of national economy like that of Eritrea,
South Sudan or Biafra, for whom seeking independent freedom from the autocratic
sometimes brutal state whose by politics have reshaped
what’s used to be called [foreign
language] commitment. Biafra was in fact the harbinger. The language of the new freedom
fighter, not only the new African but the new Afro-European comes
with Richard whose encounter with other white foreigners
discombobulates their binary notions of “us” and “them”
as he plays his role as official spokesperson for Biafra. Here’s a fragment of the novelist’s
depiction of Richard’s encounter with two white American
journalists who come to Port Harcourt for their story. “Richard was not sure how long they
had waited before boarding their flight at Lisbon, but the wait
at Sao Tome for a relief flight to Biafra had stretched 17 hours. They needed a bath. When the plump one,
sitting next to Richard, began to talk about his first
visit to Biafra at the beginning of the war, Richard thought
he needed a mouthwash too.” As we get the back story of
Richard’s role in escorting them, we’re provided more
and more material that signifies their difference where Richard has become
one of us and less of them. “Richard disliked him. He disliked his washed-out green
eyes and his red-freckled face. When he had met them at the
airport and handed them their passes and told them he would
be their guide and that the Biafran
government welcomed them, he had disliked the redhead’s
expression of scornful amusement. It was as if he was saying, ‘You are
speaking for the Biafrans?'” We need to remember how Cesaire
problematized his own youthful arrogance in thinking he could speak
for his people in Fort-de-France and set that against this
reinvented global figure of a spokesperson in
a post-colonial age. Richard’s whiteness changes
with his [foreign language] but [foreign language] too has
changed radically into something that we now express in terms
of the globally complex. It’s to be found not in the white
American journalist scornful retort “you” speaking for the Biafrans
but rather than narrative itself that prepares us to accept
Richard’s reflective self-awareness as he judges the failures of the
two American’s paltry understandings of his situation. This self-awareness translates
into his ability to put himself in their position so as
to judge its inadequacies. This is mirrored in Adichie’s
ability to put herself into her white roommate’s shoes in her famous TED Talk
on the single story. Or, in the shoes of her white
character, Richard, who can also see and judge the perspective of his
fellow white racist journalists. Does the skin color still
function to create compatriots? Not so much in Adichie’s
constructions. Other wonderfully constructed
white characters appear in recent fiction like, Aminatta
Forna’s “Memories of Love”. Where the British Dr. Adrian
has become an inverted Bintou, one who Sierra Leone has generated
and prolonged the longer he stays in Africa, in love with Mamakay. His and Richard’s discourses
are new. Their complexity more compelling than the more one-sided
representation of white expat experts seen
in Soyinka’s early novel, “The Interpreters”, or Achebe’s
white characters in “Anthills of the Savannah”, Dick with Mad
Medico, who still quotes Lord Acton in establishing his difference
from colonials of the past. For me, he’s part of
another single story like the white stereotype
figures of Mr. Brown and Reverend Smith in
“Things Fall Apart”. In the Adichie and Forna novels,
the native guy now takes the form of enamored white men like
Richard who are positioned as “us” and “them” as figures who are
more than hybrid but now double. They simultaneously are us and them
or at least partly so for as we all, in fact, inhabit multiple
subjectivities. In “The Thing around My
Neck”, Adichie writes a story about a Nigerian wife who joins
her husband in New Jersey. Nkem raises the kids in the states
while Obiora commutes back and forth to home in Africa and has a second
bureau as they call it in Lagos. Nkem meanwhile has
become Americanized. This is how Adichie puts it. “She really belonged to this county
now, this country of curiosities and crudities, this country
where you could drive at night and not fear armed robbers, where restaurants serve one
person enough food for three.” Still, she missed home. Home is conveyed through the
familiar ties of family and friends of language and the music of speech. But it’s the immediacy of
the physical environment that brings her home
to her this difference. “And when the snow covers the
yellow fire hydrant on the street, she misses the Lagos sun that
glares down even when it rains. She has sometimes thought
about moving back home but never seriously,
never concretely. She goes to a Pilates class twice
a week in Philly with her neighbor. She bakes cookies for
her children’s classes and hers are always the favorites. She expects banks to have drive-ins. America has grown on her, snaked
its roots under her skin.” I like that last sentence a lot. Adichie is sensitive to the
registers of accent, culture, food, gender relations, taste,
and contemporary styles that constitute the
American presence. And her language records them in
her double consciousness at times with ironic tones, but more
often in sheep pastures and idiomatic turnings of the
phrase that render the perfect– the portrait so perfectly as to suture the native-born
American reader into the African narrator’s
perspective occluding the non-narrative position, excuse me,
occluding the nonnative position of the narrative subjectivity. I’m using the cinematic term suture
to signify the identification of the spectator with the character
on the screen as specifically with the character’s point of view. This is accomplished in film by
positioning the camera in the place of the actor so that we can
experience what the character feels, fears, loves and especially
sees or doesn’t see. The techniques for moving
that suture from one character to another involve camera placement
and movement as in the shot, counter shot where two characters
speaking to each other are viewed from the position of
their interlocutors with whose perspective
we come to identify. Who are we at that moment
of suture when we let go of our own real position
in the theaters? We pass in the moment of suture into what Lacan calls
meconnaissance or misrecognition. Because it constitutes us as gathering together the fragmented
pieces of knowledge that we hold of ourselves, especially those
pieces reflected back to us in the eyes of others, whose name
for us we might wish to accept as our own and thus
to identify with. These moments of fragile and fraud
with the perils of being disrupted by a name calling, we might
not wish to acknowledge. It’s most telling for the immigrant
who goes so far as to change, not only her homeland but
also her home, her home boys, her girlfriends, family, language,
status and ultimately name itself. Call me John, not John
Pierre, Jack, not jackamo, Joe not Juso, or Feller not fella. What is retained here
is the new identity which then obscures what’s
responsible for making that identity in giving it reality. This is the ultimate
goal of the suture. Its act of violence in accomplishing
the act of identification for those who take themselves to be American,
Nigerian, Senegalese or French, to be the holder of the green
card while occluding the presence of the camera that captures the
eye of the spectator or that of the narrative that
enchants the ear of the rear. The violence that springs from
this assumption of oneness in the suture consists in forgetting
the violence involved in the act of constituting oneself
as one, as authentic. The suturing of the subject in the
Caine awardee Binyavanga Wainaina’s “One Day I Will Write About
This Place” is complicated by the radical violence that marks
the narrator’s conflictual diaspora sites of enunciation. At one moment in the text, he describes taking
the Hudson Line train into the city while Togo is
playing in the World Cup. Eyadema’s corrupt family
has been put in the limelight while
stealing from the cookie jar. Wainaina’s writing speaks of the
new Africa in a new global style that captures the still
existent old world of politics with the old autocracies
emerging in the icy waters of new journalistic instant texting. He’s created a new story
not because of the scandal of the west preoccupation with Afro
pessimistic plucking but because of how we now desuture
ourselves from what we thought to be African literature and resuture the identification
with the reportage. “International correspondents
with their long Dictaphones, and dirty jeans, and 500
words before whiskey, are slouched over the red velvet
chairs, in the VIP section of the front, looking for the
story, the Most Macheteing Deathest, Most Treasury Corruptest, Most
Entrail-Eating Civil Warest, Most Crocodile-Grinning
Dictatorest, Most Heart-Wrenching and Genociding Pulitzerest, Most Black Big-Eyed
Oxfam Child Starvingest, Most Wild African Savages
Having AIDS-Ridden Sexest with Genetically Mutilatedest Girls. The most authentic real black
Africanest story they can find for Reuters or AP or Agence France.” Wainana invites us to
occupy cosmopolitan spaces of language and geography. In this third generation of
African literature prose, clearly a new language
that is complete– that was completely
inaccessible to Ngugi when he imagined an authentic
cultural vehicle only in African languages. The new generation of
African women writers, particularly those living abroad
have redrawn the landscape of contemporary African
literature living and writing globally their
works offering the remarks by the occupation of multiple
spaces and militant gender politics. But these perspectives have been
translated into their writing styles with global settings in
Afropolitan postures. Fatou Diome and Chimamanda
Adichie addressed gender issues in ways very similar to those
employed by Aminatta Forna, Doris Baingana, Helen
Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta; they articulate subject positions
that speak directly to doubleness. Fiction like Forna’s “Memories
of Love” and Adichie’s “The Thing around My Neck”, create
epistemologies with dual standpoints both in
terms of the past and the present, in terms of the global
north and south. They have abolished
old-school hybridity. Often it’s through the
evocation of family memories that the subjective locations of immigrants today are
defined but at home and abroad. This can be seen in
Forna’s “Ancestor Stones”, Oyeyemi’s “Icarus Girl”, and
Diome’s “Belly of the Atlantic”. In the latter, Diome
creates a telling portrait of the dual locations
and double subjectivities of the immigrant/emigrant. She writes of her homeland in
Senegal, seen from the dark of the night in Strasbourg where
she’s watching a football match which she will have to recount
in detail later to her brother who has no TV in Casamance. She too feels the pull
of here and there, the tension of the writer’s
pen that seeks to put it all into place while there
are two different places, inside here and outside there. Here is how she puts it. “It’s late at night. Strasbourg has lowered its
eyes to sleep or demurely to avoid watching the
intimacy of lovers and the nocturnal sorrow of others. It’s always at this time
that my memory chooses to project films shown
elsewhere, under different skies, stories buried deep down
inside me like ancient mosaics in a city’s subterranean tunnels. Then she speaks of her
homesickness, guilt, absence, and sadness whose lacunae she
attempts to bridge with words, her words, especially where it’s
connoting travel and distance which she calls suitcase
words, words too limited to convey the miseries of
exile, words too fragile to break open the sarcophagus
that absence has cast around me, words too narrow to serve as a
bridge between here and there. Words, then, always used in place of
absent words, definitively drowned at the font of the tears to
which they lend their taste. And finally, suitcase words
whose contents are contraband, whose meaning, despite the
detours, leads to a double life, the me from here and
the me from over there.” We can read this passage as
that of a shot, reverse shot, where two figures are in
dialogue and confront each other. Here, Fatou abroad,
there Fatou home, the two sides of Fatou Diome
simultaneously occupying the different locations of
the traveler’s suitcase, the suitcase words, the suitcase
images, the suitcase lives. In 1994, Homi Bhabha
wanted to play subjectivity in the interstitial
space of hybridity. In the present world of globalized
traveling, the time for hybridity, for mixing, for mixing in,
is no longer available. And doubling has replaced the
interplay of otherness himself. As in a fugue, where traveling
is a flight from oneself, there’s a crossing, the
occupancy of a space that separates two
worlds while belonging, paradoxically, in both
and in neither. An immigrant/emigrant always
occupies two subject locations but the sense of belonging
in one comes to be supplanted by the physical location
of the other. Traveling shots in cinema carry
us from one location to another in order that the vision of a traveling subjectivity
could be normalized. It smooths over the
bumps in the road. Fatou says she feels free. “I want to write into
everything that– everything that my mother
didn’t dare say and do. Identity papers, all
the folds of the earth, they didn’t place a
birth here and now. Identity papers, my
memory is my identity.” Together with her sense of
being a foreigner and stranger, her subject position returns and
splits her into a double identity of the newly constructed
subjectivity for the global frame. “An outsider everywhere, I carry an
invisible theater inside me teaming with ghosts.” Her subject location like
that which Gilroy defines in “Black Atlantic” is marked
by the spaces she traverses where immigration and
emigration cross with each voyage. “To leave is to die of absence. You return, of course, but
you return a different person. On going back, you seek but
never find those you left behind. Tears in your eyes, you
resign yourself to noticing that the masks you’d made
for them no longer fit. Who are these people I call
my brother and my sister? Who am I to them? The intruder who carries insider
her the woman they’re waiting for, whom they despair of
ever finding again? The stranger who turns up? The sister who leaves? My dance between the two continents
is fraught with these questions.” In the story “Imitation”, Adichie similarly constructs a
dance between two continents. As Obiora leaves Nkem in the US,
making frequent trips home to Lagos, her world becomes divided
and split into two homes that she cannot not occupy. Nkem describes how her neighbors
try to understand their situation as a divided couple but their
points of reference aren’t adequate. They would ask, “‘Where
was her husband? Was something wrong?’ Nkem said everything is fine. He lived in Nigeria and
America; they had two homes. She saw the doubt in their
eyes, knew they were thinking of other couples with second homes
in places like Florida and Montreal, couples who inhabited each home
at the same time, together. When Nkem speaks to the
wife of another big man about how she managed with a similar
arrangement, and whether she planned on returning home to Nigeria, she
has asked, as the woman turned, her eyes round, as though
Nkem had just betrayed here. ‘But how can I live
in Nigeria again?’ The woman then explains that this
change was beyond her control. ‘When you’ve been here so
long, you’re not the same, you’re not like the people there.’ ‘How can my children blend in?’ And Nkem, although she disliked the
woman’s severely shaved eyebrows, had understood.” In the works of these
African women writers, there’s a strong undercurrent
of loss that draws attention to their double subjectivity. The pain of this loss creates
accounts for the world of this– for the work of the suture and
the melodramatic effect to stitch over loss through the doubling
of the subject’s position. In this new age, doubling
is the condition for traveling subjectivities. The African labor force travels
often dangerously between Africa and the west, as the
same time as the wealthy, highly educated Afropolitans
jet set between and in their adopted
and original homes. For the immigrant, the original
homeland becomes a ghostly presence while the adopted one remains
a continually moving target. The homeland is changed, it
shifts, they wear strange hats, red on one side, black on the other. That deluded think they could
recognize the owner of the house. Where on earth is this
new-old homeland? For Teju Cole, it is
a moving target. According to the 2011 “Open City”,
which is Cole’s famous novel, “Open City”, the random house
blurb, he was raised in Nigeria and came to the US in 1992. Notice the hat. And he lives in New York City. His public persona now embellished
with his New York Times column on photography is close to what
we imagined the protagonist of the novel, Julius, to be. Cole publishes for the New Yorker,
he is hipness, come to the center. On the jacket of an earlier
novel, his earlier novel, “Every Day Is for the Thief”, we
learned something astonishing. Namely, that the Cole
who came to the US in ’92 had already been
born there in 1975. So that when the Cole of “Open
City” is presented to the reader as essentially a Nigerian who
immigrated to New York City like his hero Julius, we are being
instructed to read the novel as that of an outsider who has refashioned
himself as a New York sophisticate, whereas in truth, Cole was always
already that insider-outsider born in Kalamazoo, Michigan,
of all places. I see that as a spark. Moreover, his website
stipulates he was born to Nigerian parents
and raised in Nigeria. So the question might really be, depending on where one
stands, is he an Oyinbo or not. In “Open City”, Julius’ people
on the father side are Yoruba. And we know that in the best of ways
since his father is buried in Lagos. On his mother side, it’s German, the side where the loss
appears most to mark him. In New York, Belgium, or Lagos, he
remains distant, never [inaudible]. At one point in “Every
Day Is for the Thief”, he goes to the city market. The essence of the city where
he is in search of himself, or as he states, “If he’ll
refuse to go to market, how would you know the
existence of others? How would you know of
your own existence?” But the answer in the
market comes quickly, depending on whether you were there
to buy tomatoes or garri or masks. In this case, it was the latter. And the distance this implied
came back to him immediately, “When I started speaking Yoruba,
the man I’ve been haggling with over some carved
masks laughs nervously. Ah oga, he says, ‘I didn’t
know you knew the language, I took you for an oyinbo,
or an Ibo man.” Teju, narrated, is irritated. Not at the man’s mistaken
attribution, who would want to be taken for an
outsider in one’s own home, but rather at his relatively
correct automatic perception, “‘What subtle tells of dress or body language have again
given me a way,’ he asks. This kind of thing didn’t
happen when I lived here, when I used to pass through
this very market on the way to my exam preparation lessons.” Some subtle shift in the direction of the west has now tainted his skin
color as the words for outsider, white man, other, rich
man coalesce around him in the very heart of home. He is subject to the
same treatment according to Saidiya Hartman whose
return home is to Ghana, where her ancestors come from. Life of Teju, Julius narrated, Saidiya also an academic
is somehow betrayed by her absence of local color. And when approaching
Cape Coast Castle for the ultimate homecoming
tourist experience, she is treated with Oburoni, which she
glosses as outsider. Of course, she’s mistranslating. Not willing to confess to
herself much less to us that she’s being called
the same thing as Oyinbo. The urban dictionary
on Oburoni is astute. Oburoni is the tree word for a white
person but sometimes used to refer to foreigners in general. The words often used by
Ghanaians in the diaspora, when speaking amongst themselves
as a code word for white man. Despite the relatively widespread
and casual use of the word, its origins are not entirely
benign, the word Oburoni derives from the word aburofo
which means trickster. In “Every Day Is for the
Thief”, the text self-translates, giving us the authenticating
terms like oga while at the same time not only glossing
but interpreting the usage. “The masks are beautiful, but the
price he’s asking is exorbitant. I leave his shop and move on. Other vendors call me. Oga, boss, look my side now,
I go give una good price. Others simply call out,
oyinbo, white man.” At this point, the
narrator turns tour guide. “Young men sit in the interior
of the small stalls on rafia mats or on low stools, their
limbs unfurled. I move through the warren
shops, which like a souk is cool and overstuffed, delighting
in its own tacky variety, spilling seamlessly into
the cavernous indoor shop.” The writing here is become novel
souk, describing itself much as we had expect from the
creative writing student. And we remembered this is Cole’s
first foray into long fiction, written after his return
home to western Michigan, and then Kalamazoo College
for his undergrad years. Cole throbs on the notion
of home self-consciously. His sense of being away then
back, though still mentally away, emerges when he mentions
a friend named Ben, to his Aunt Folake and Uncle Bello. His uncle tells him, he’s
a good man, this Ben, pretty hard working, conscientious. He’s Ogoni, you know. A young Teju narrator then
expostulates to his uncle about the hard times the Ogoni
and Saro-Wiwa have experienced. The response he receives is given
in Yoruba and translated for us. “Aren’t they the ones
who eat people? Now, eating people might
be taken several ways but what’s most commonly
understood is that it’s witches who eat people especially at night
when their windows are left open. Those most likely to engage in this
devouring are those nearest to home, close relatives because that’s
the Native Cameroon say, there was jambe, the strongest
witchcraft is jambe [inaudible], the witchcraft of home. Teju, narrator, plays
the Oyinbo role perfectly in his response to his own relative. “Oh come on, Uncle, come on, I say, why are you Nigerians
so fond of rumors. We, what I mean is you, are
so tribalistic sometimes. And anyway, don’t our Yoruba people
also have some kingship-related and grimly nonvegetarian ritual?” Uncle Bello then left and
treats Teju, narrator, to story about an albino
being eaten in Ondo State in some fairly remote
region near the tribals. Our youthful narrator’s
eyes widened and we read, “The particular Yoruba choice of
words made the story even funnier.” The global reader can
appreciate that. The refusal to translate directly
the words [foreign language] leaves us outside and inside
doubles in the sense that we can’t entirely represent
the local reader wanting to share in the pleasure of the words
nuances, yet sure enough as the outsider being
presented with his most delicate of insider African
secret tale-telling that we should not really believe
but maybe believe all the worst of the tribals, whatever that means. With the shift from you Nigerians
to we, what I mean is you, we are asked to share
the joke and laughter as though the author were
one of us or we one of them. The outsider really brought
into the fold, the insider knows that he cannot write this book
without a glance over his shoulder to some remote tribal community. To end with the words of [foreign
language], “I think it’s important to be on the right side of history
and that means coming to terms with the fact that our faith isn’t
written in a foreign language but in our own languages.” But what is that language
for Adichie, for Cole, for any of us who might
be each in his or her own way not a
speaker of just one language. Not someone who can lay
claim to just one home. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Toyin Falola: Thank
you very much. I wanted to raise the
issues of audience. Who is the new generation,
what they’re writing for? And issues on our own
African languages. But time is not on us our side. We still have one more speaker. And we want to invite the
audience to also participate. I want to invite him, Professor
Bangura to talk about Islam in terms of how it plays out with these
new contemporary immigrants. Professor Bangura. [ Applause ]>>Abdul Karim Bangura: OK. Because of time, we’ll make it
shorter than I had anticipated. And hopefully, there’ll be other
opportunities some other time. But first, I want to just
to make quick corrections on the brief bios you have. I am no longer a professor at
American University for a long time. I’m still with the
Center for Global Peace. I don’t want some young
person registering for a cause and looking for me all over campus. And I’m no longer also
the ambassador of the ATWS to the United Nations. This is what happens when we gain
information from the internet. Some of this information
can be quite dated. Just so that, I don’t get
into trouble with anybody. Let’s contextualize. The first thing we learn
about African Muslims in the United States usually
begin with the slave trade. How they came in tight ships and how
Soliman Job, this is the ancestor of my mother from Futa Jallon. So it’s not just the Banguras
are the kings in potluck but my mother also come
from very high royalty. I see Peter is laughing back there. And we already saw the
PBS series on Abdurakman, which went on for two weeks. And we all know the famous
story about the Amistad in a greatly extensive learn and
give the Amistad lecture on that. You can get out on the internet. And we also know about the
Islamic connections to the Amistad. We are asked– even the pastors
that went to examine the busqu, we are being taught
about Christianity, about Muslims they
encountered in the place. And we also know that the
Yoruba Muslims and [inaudible] in particular were very instrumental
in the reeducation of the Amistad when they returned to Sierra Leone. And when we talk about the African
presence is very well-established, is well-noted and many times,
many of these facts were denied by Eurocentric scholars,
that we have myths that Africans scholars were making. We know about the great
documents of the Piri Reis. We know about the Qatar Emir
[assumed spelling] even its own document of China, and a lot of other historical
evidence that has been birth. But until the PBS and the BBC
corroborated what many African scholars were saying, these things
were rejected as just myths, that Africans wanted to feel good and that’s why we’re
talking about these things. And the reconstruction by
the PBS on the possibility of how King Abu Bakri
could have sailed from Mali to here is well-documented. And yes, the PBS series on that. And the great calling power as
you see the quote felt at home, said I’m an American, though when
he stepped foot on Bunce Island, he felt that spiritual connection. And this is what many of us who
are pan-African is always striving to get our people connected
on both sides of the islands of the Atlantic. So, quickly to understand the
African Muslim in the United States, to contextualize the African
Muslim in the United States, we go back to Hajar
or Hagar in English. And being a Muslim, I’m
attending a Roman Catholic school and served mass as an altar boy,
I was fortunate to study my Bible from beginning to end, end
to beginning and won the love of Bible scholarships and awards. I love the Bible so much while
I still studied my Koran. And I was fortunate when I study
in Italy to be supported by rabbis and had no choice but in respect
for the people who give me food and shelter to study Judaism. And I then began to learn more
about this great African woman and how she connected
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. And if you– those of you who are
familiar with the Hebrew Pentateuch, you can see the story from
Genesis, 13 through 17. For those of you who are familiar
with the Holy Bible particularly in Galatians, don’t just limit
yourself to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you begin to see
where the connection is made that Abraham went on and built the
Kaaba, which we Muslims do the honor as a very sacred place for our
[inaudible], our way of living and how he constructed it. Many, us, Christians don’t
read far past those four books, so we are not exposed
to that knowledge. And when we read our Holy Koran, we
see the reconstruction of what is in the Pentateuch all the way
to the Galatians to the Bible and how Ishmael became the
father of the Ishmaelite from which Prophet Muhammad emerged. So, when we talk about
the African roots to Islam and the transcendentalization
of Islam, we Africans, we black folks are in the
center of this great experience. And there’s a great book Pentateuch
called “Libre de la Biblia”, which explains some
of these connections and there’s another great Italian
book “Il Vangelo e la Torah”, that is the gospel and the Torah. That makes these connections. And of course there is the
great “In Ascorto del la tora”, which is the listening to the Torah, which also make these wonderful
connections, for those people who are more interested in
learning about these things. I say that to say, to give a
background of why we African Muslims or black Muslims are very
fortunate, very fortunate, because we find ourselves in a
land that has a lot of tolerance for religion even though there
are certain schisms every now and then that emerge. And we can then say,
how has Africans or African Muslims
made these connections? We can begin by looking at the
transnationalism of African Muslims, that is an African Muslim
that is African-centered. And as the great scholar
Molefi Kete Asante of Temple University tells us,
African centrism involves placing at the center of every
discourse of the African, whether on the continent or
in the diaspora at the center of that particular discourse. And we also know that African-centered encounters
go back to the Tariq ibn Ziyad. We all know that Ziyad
not only funded some of the great Islamic schools,
the Moorish Science Temple for example in Newark, New Jersey. On that, the great Noble Drew was
funded by this Moorish gentleman. We also know and Professor
Omoyeni Falola just mentioned in briefly passing
that the great Wilmot, Edward Wilmot Blyden
was very instrumental in creating a connection between the
African and the Islamic religion. Even going to the fact that he
preferred, even though he was– is a Christian, even
going to the fact arguing that he preferred blacks or Africans
to embrace Islam over Christianity. And we also know that there
are certain challenges, modes of challenges that
African Muslims encounter in this part of the world. They encounter continuous especially
in the areas of environmental and attitudinal concerns. We see how since the very vicious
terrorist act of September 11, how Muslims, not just Muslims
from the Middle East and East Asia but African Muslims also have
encountered the same sort of harassment, the same sort of
deportation in very large numbers than compared to all
the non-Muslim Africans. We also see factors that impact
the success of African Muslims. These include cultural, economic,
political and sociological factors. We see that even our government
have gone to the extent of imposing discriminatory
security checks for all Muslims who would be entering the country
at 115 airports, 14 seaports and these are usually entry
points for many African Muslims that come to the society. The challenges for
the role of the State, we see that the State has
some challenges dealing with African Muslims. This seemed to be most predominantly
targeted at African Muslims than other Africans, both in terms of the politics and
in the legal arena. And these were documented by even
the United State government itself in targeting of certain groups that
send phones to communities in Africa where they support
Muslim organizations. And we had the hijab
as even legally stated as a trigger for security checks. But with all these challenges,
there are also opportunities that have come with them. Unfortunately, the time is not on
our side so this may be a rush job. I apologize. I was able to delineate
nine particular aspects where new challenges have emerged and where opportunities
have also come to the floor. And Muslim and non-Muslim
relations but for us to understand these aspects, we
have to not only rely on one theory but in multiplicity of theories and methodologies for
us to examine this. When Omoyeni Falola asked me to be
part of this, I started writing. Believe it or not, I end up
writing 85 pages of a paper and I just started
scratching the surface because there was a whole lot
more that I have to leave out. And here, you can just
quickly see our definition of the American family,
Christian white middle class. The ideal family has evolved
though with the father who works as a manager in [inaudible]. They want you to slap you. They kiss mother if you kick
them on the sheen and 2.5 kids. And as a recent methodologist, I
am still looking for that half kid. It’s possible statistically but
in reality, it is impossible. I keep looking for the
kid without a head. And that goes spell well for the Muslim definition
of what a family is. And so, they are sometimes
starting conflicts. And even the hijab becomes a
problem, this social identity. So what’s our real work? Of course– Omoyeni Falola is now
checking for his time. Cultural relativism, yeah we
have the hijab, the great Maryam, the number one revered
woman in Islam. As a mater of fact,
the Surah Maryam is one of the most beautiful
surahs in the Koran. And what we, Christian did
was we cut it into half. Hail Mary, Mother of
Grace, you know. It is good. But I got to read beyond that
to appreciate the great Maryam. Mother Teresa, we all love her. She wears a hijab. And you see all these great
African– these Muslim women. They wear hijab and some
choose not to wear hijab. All of a sudden, hijab is
now something suspicious. We also see challenges in
integrating Muslims in America. And then you see, I
gave you a theory, a methodology that I have meant to
do that and I have all the results. So, whoever is interested,
send me an email. I’ll be happy to send you the paper. So I will conclude by saying
that a people who emerged from the great Hagar or Hajar, a
people who today have the leader or the Chief Imam, the sheikh of
the grand mosque in Saudi Arabia, have a whole lot of things to
hope for despite the trials and the tribulations
and the challenges. And I conclude with
a very short story, as soon as Donald Trump won the
election, I have two web pages, my own person web page on Facebook and the African Books Heritage
web page, one of the folks on my web page wrote,
“For you Muslims who have been badmouthing
Donald Trump, now that he has won the
election, is people are going to be searching your Facebook pages and you might find
yourself deported. The next day, I went and checked at
those websites of all those folks who were writing so many
bad things about the Donald. And I am not lying to you,
all of them had deleted all of the comments pertaining
to the Donald. And two, three days later, I checked
all the folks who were not even on my list that we just
communicate, those folks who were so vehemently opposed to Trump
had already deleted everything on their web pages on Donald. But more particularly, the African
Muslims that I communicated with, some of them are not
even communicating with me anymore about the Donald. Why? Because I think I was the
only African, if I can remember, or the Muslim that predicted that the Donald was going
to win this election. I went in to write 11 factors
of why Sister Hillary will lose. And I am, by the way,
a card carrying member of the National Democratic Council. So, for me, it was very difficult
to accept Sister Hillary’s loss because I’m the one that
coined the name Sister Hillary that became popular when she ran against Barack Obama
two elections ago. But we African Muslims, as
I’ve been talking to them, have to engage the Donald
just like we did George Bush. George Bush came and said Africa
was not in his radar screen. When the terrorist attack happened,
he has a war against Islam. But we are able to communicate
and educate and exchange ideas. It changes views. And what happened? George Bush turned out to be the
best president towards Africa than any other president
before him, and definitely more so than the one after him. I thank you and I’ll shut up. [ Applause ]>>Toyin Falola: Thank
you very much. We now have to manage in
20 minutes for all the–>>Abdul Karim Bangura: I
gave you a little bit of time.>>Toyin Falola: Where is John? You want to do this
or you should what– [ Inaudible Remark ] Yeah. There have been so
many issues on the table and the last one on
specific identity. And by the time, we’re throwing
the nation of Islam into it, you find more– Mary, please,
you want to– Please go ahead.>>Mary: Happen to have lunch with
a group from Fulbright organization and one of the women
who had come here from Latin America originally came
on a Fulbright and over a period of time, she became a resident,
US resident and citizen. And she mentioned that when
Fulbright brought people from another country, they
took great care to orient them to a new culture, and then they took
great care to orient the community that they were going into to the
immigrant, to the person coming in. And I am wanting to ask you,
folks, whether you’ve experienced that happening for
African immigrants and would it be a good
idea if it isn’t happening and where could it
possibly begin to happen?>>Toyin Falola: What– Let
me start to answer that. My introduction to the
US was made possible by what we call Crossroads
Africa Operation. It was a New York agency. It was a sort of NGO, it was an NGO. And in 19– I was finishing
my PhD back then, 1980, and they invited me to–
like 12 of us to come and they took us to so many states. So, I had that kind of
formal introduction. Well, for most people,
I don’t– I’m not sure. Bear in mind that the majority
of people come in terms of– they don’t come as professionals
like those first folks for me. For those who come as professionals,
they have done their PhDs here, the school system has
already done that. I don’t know what.>>Nemata Blyden: I could– I just–
I’m not answering her question but I just want to say in light of I think my talk was Crossroads
is an African-American organization, is it not?>>Toyin Falola: I think so.>>Kenneth Harrow: Yeah.>>Toyin Falola: OK.>>Kenneth Harrow: In
response to that and thinking of Moses’ presentation,
it’s kind of ironic. We have a– I’ll speak only
from Lansing but I bet– Lansing, Michigan, but I think
it’s typical around the country. We have a refugee center and
when refugees are brought in, there’s a good deal of attempt
to assist in the integration into the culture and whatever,
life, jobs and so forth. But when students come to the
university, we have very little of that, unless they don’t
speak English, then they have to pass an exam in English before
they can go on and take courses. In other words, those who were the
best educated get the least amount of what you’re describing
and- whereas those who come in the most conditions
of duress get the most. It’s kind of ironic. There’s kind of inversion.>>Abdul Karim Bangura:
In this area, the best is the Ethiopian community. Not only do they have a TV
station now, a radio station, but they do even organize
an annual conference. And they have a center in
Arlington whenever Ethiopians come and they meet them at the
airport and then immerse them into the society on what happens. And they give them also the
support network, the transition from being immigrants
into the society. So I have to give the Ethiopians
kudos for that great initiative.>>Toyin Falola: Questions
or comments? Yes, please.>>So, thank you very much
for the presentations. And I have a question that
occurred to me, Moses, during your presentation, but
I think it could be a question for the panel particularly
Nemata and Kenneth as well, which was thinking
about your discussions of US populations of
African immigrants. And the particularities
of the sort of US history in which these immigrant communities
find themselves implicated for a variety of reasons and
how that may or may not differ if anybody can speak to this
from immigrant populations that are moving to places of
former direct colonization. And I was thinking particularly,
Moses, of your discussion of the sort of US idealism
and humanitarian sort of white savior complex
and the, perhaps, historically inaccurate
sense in the US of the US is not a
direct colonial power. And so, Kenneth, I was thinking
of this in your juxtaposition of a number of these authors who
are writing from different kinds of spaces of immigration from
the US or from places in Europe of former direct colonization.>>Toyin Falola: Moses.>>Moses Ochonu: Yeah, I’m going
to– I think there is a certain– there’s a certain ideal that
operates within the US sense of itself, the way that
Americans perceive themselves, and it goes back to the
history of how Americans– when it’s obviously it’s
debatable because at some point, the US did have colonies, whether
you want to call them colonies or not, that’s a different question. But it goes to the sense of the–
that Americans have of themselves as people who have natural
solidarity for sovereign people, for marginalized people, for
displaced people, and for people who have been colonized and
brutalized and so on and so forth because we too went through those
things and we came out of it ahead. And so, therefore, it
is our responsibility, almost a moral responsibility
to help others. So, it’s a moral discourse, right? It’s a moral discourse. Of course that then
becomes almost like a– It’s almost like a blind spot
that develops out of that. Becomes a blind spot that prevents
Americans, as I argued in my paper, from seeing the ways
in which, you know, they’ve basically constructed
an image of Africa as a place that produces refugees, right? And as America, as a
counterpart image of America, as a place that receives
and nurtures and rehabilitates these
refugees, right? So, I think that sense of self, it’s
a very– it’s a moral discourse. And most societies have that. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, that’s the
root of nationalism and patriotism and all of that. Well, that then becomes this
discourse that, you know, is then projected even on
through the immigrants themselves and constrains the way that immigrants themselves
tell their stories, right, because they assume that, you
know, stories, these stories have to fit a certain image of the
African immigrant, being a refugee, looking for a economical
opportunities and it leads to what examples that I give of
outright fabrication, embellishment, of making up stories, of you know,
talking about impossible events that are simply not true. Because the more melodramatic,
the better, the more positive the
reception, right? So it works both ways. It works under their hand
to reinforce this image of America’s humanitarian side,
side of humanitarian intervention. But it also then becomes at least
for the purpose of this panel, becomes a way to close
off an examination of alternative migrant itineraries that do not fit into
that template, so.>>Toyin Falola: And there
are two complications. The first is the unreliable
nature of the data of immigrants fed into Africa. It’s– I have read many of
them and they’re so unreliable because they deal with
exaggerations. It is very difficult for individuals
to say that they are not successful. It’s easier for them
to do the opposite. Even photography, you find someone
taking a photograph in front of a car that doesn’t belong to him and sending the photograph
back to Africa. So the slogan is, you either
make it or you fake it. As for me, doing this
project, intensely data-driven, the complications are so many. The other myth which we have to
explore is that it is not true as you’ll find in literature that
movement to the west is far more– Actually, internal movements
within Africa is far more intense. So, when Boutros-Ghali left the
United Nations for the first time and was looking for a new thing to
do, he was able to persuade Mubarak to set up the Arab Summit. And Mrs. Mubarak adopted it. And that became, in one
word, drafted into it. And that zone, Egypt,
Palestinian, Libya, that zone, 2 million people migrate
every year, 2 million. So, not only do we have to
understand this damnation of Africa in the west, I think we may
also have to begin to lock it within Africa itself, especially
the extensive nature of the movement between Nigeria and Gambia. It’s so extensive. But what we tend to focus is
the Nigerians going to New York, the Kenyans going to London. Now, we begin– We have to
begin to rethink some of this. You what, I saw you yesterday,
at Georgetown University, right? Yeah.>>Can you– Is this on? Oh, yeah. My question is– Africans coming to America and
the refugee status, the poverty, that’s right, the poverty status. My question is the Africans who– the professionals who
have found their homes in America left their countries
but they left their ties with the people back home. In that, in America, the sense
is that you’re an individual and that you may–
you’re a self-made person and that you’ve pulled yourself
up from your own bootstraps. Wherein Africa, you’re a member of a
family and that family is extensive. You have cousins and uncles
and grandparents but now, you– from the presentation that I’ve
heard, now, you’ve set this notion that you don’t have
to have a family. You don’t have to have
extensive village or tribe, even. You can come to America
and separate yourself from what you had back home. Is that a good thing?>>Toyin Falola: OK. Well, that is not what
our data is telling us. The data is telling us the
opposite of what you said. Yeah, because I– when I was
introducing this subject, I told you about the data
I’m collected in three states around here, Pentecostalism
associations. They’re very strong. So, take the Redeemer’s
Church of Christ by Adeboye. There is no American city where
that church doesn’t exist. Moses attends the one in Nashville. I’ve been to his church. So that– So, he, if somebody–
let me give you one example. If somebody calls me
Toyin, that’s my name.>>Bad example.>>Toyin Falola: I definitely
know this is a stranger because nobody calls me Toyin. Nobody calls me that name. So in Austin, they call me Baba. That’s what they call me. Well that Baba, which is a father
and they’re not my children and I’m the patron of say
the Yoruba Association. I’m a patron of so
many of this event. They’ve recreated them,
the sociological time of affection and kinship. Many of these things
have been recreated. So, what people have done is to rework this community
back, only redefining them. Since I came, we have
attended meetings in Baltimore, firewood places. So these things have been recreated. Yes.>>Nemata Blyden: I was going to add that I think it’s an
individual choice. My students just finished their
final project where they had to interview an African immigrant. And I heard a whole host of ways
in which the various immigrants that they interviewed are
adapting to and choosing to live in the United States. From the young man who’s decided
he’s done with his country in Africa and doesn’t have any
extended family to a woman who has a significant network and
has essentially recreated her life in the United States as it would
have been in her home country. So I don’t think we can
generalize in that way.>>Moses Ochonu: Also– OK. I wanted to add briefly that we
also have to understand that, even their decision to migrate, whether their decision is
voluntary or involuntary.>>Nemata Blyden: Makes
a difference.>>Moses Ochonu: There’s a lot of
people invested in their decision, beyond the individual
back in Africa, right? So that the choices that the
immigrant makes when he or she gets to America, those choices themselves
are constrained and shaped to a large extent by the
expectational economy back in Africa in terms of what they
choose to study in school, what kind of professional
they’re going to, these things are connected. So there’s no separation,
I would say.>>Toyin Falola: Yes, please. Ah, but later ask a question. Last two people here. Please, let’s take
them– who wants to. Let’s take– who wants to–>>I am very intrigued
about the forced migration of Muslim Africans here
in the United States. And when you started your lecture
about the Muslims, I’ve read a book by Sylviane Diouf who talks about
the Muslims that were very important to the slavery work
that had to be done to– for the Africans here, let’s say. And I wondered– And also,
you talked about Amistad, I’ve never you– No, I’m
hearing more and more about that particular Muslim
collection– information about that. And I just wondered how that affects
all the Muslims who are coming from the continent here, from west,
south whatever, because this– the Muslims were a great force
to destroy as the type of slavery that was held, hear and
in sight for long time. And no one– well, some people do
know that, but I just want to– how does it follow through with
current immigration in terms of the Muslim collection.>>Abdul Karim Bangura:
Unfortunately–>>Toyin Falola: Abdul,
please hold them. They’ll begin to asks.>>Abdul Karim Bangura: OK–>>Toyin Falola: So that
we’re not disrespectful.>>Thank you. Actually, what I want to touch
on is and I’ll be very brief. I actually wanted to dwell a
little on more on what Professor– Dr. Ochonu remarked but it
probably wouldn’t be the time to dwell on that at this time. So, in the interest of time, I
will touch on what he said there and then maybe a subsequent venue,
we could get into what he deals with because I really
wonder if we have the– I’ll just abbreviate it by
saying that Africans who are here in America, they’ve
done stellar things. You look at the instance
of Lupita Nyong’o. I think she’s probably the last
Black Academy Award winner to date. There is also, you
look at Victor Oladipo. He just won an $84 million contract. He is one of the– these are
all Africans who are here, they are born of African parents
so if they wanted to be identified as Americans but at least
they’re all born of Africans. And they’re continental Africans. And he is a rookie. He’s getting approximately
$21 million a year. The person who just designed this
new museum of African-American–>>Toyin Falola: Adjaye.>>– history and culture–>>Nemata Blyden: Adjaye.>>– David Adjaye, you know, I
think British-African architect. Obama, you know, I can go on. So, the stellar things
have been done. So, my point, I just want to
raise is that Dr. Ochonu does talk about the fact that we’re
coming here and for this– his thesis of psychosocial
strategic migrants. I would like to get him
to that at some point but the point is we are coming here
in droves and we’re doing well. So let’s try to admit that. There are still lots to deal
with back in– on the continent. So probably maybe it’s time for
us to look at probably trying to see the best of both worlds. You know, like for
instance, Americans, those– the [inaudible] for instance like
to live in New York when it’s warm and they like to live in
Florida when it’s hot. So probably, we Africans too
probably could consider, you know, coming here for technology and
so on and then when it’s all cold like now, we’re back in Africa. That’s just this.>>Moses Ochonu: That was good.>>Toyin Falola: I’m sorry. We won’t be able to
answer the questions. I should have timed the Kluge
Center when I started but I was in total panic about time. So, I now want to close–>>Moses Ochonu: Prof.
just one sentence.>>Toyin Falola: Please, go ahead.>>Moses Ochonu: OK. My wonderful sister
raised a very question, unfortunately, time did not permit. Prof. Omoyeni Falola’s colleague,
Denise Spellberg, wrote a great book “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an”, how the Koran shaped the United
States Constitution and the debates that went around the Constitution. What she was able to document
was Jefferson was learning from the enslaved Africans under him
saw them worshipping facing the east and asked them, why
you facing the east? They said, that’s because that’s our
mecca, the Kaaba and Africa unite. So there are so many things
Jefferson was able to learn from the enslaved people under
him that shaped his own thinking. It’s not just the Koran that we
have here in the Library of Congress that is displayed,
that we know about. But she has done a great job. Anybody who wants to know
more, please, get that book. I’m not promoting it, but you
know, I think it’s a good source.>>Toyin Falola: That’s
my colleague. So let me thank Jason
Dan [assumed spelling], the Director of the Kluge Center. Dan was worried about the audience
and when I got here, I was so happy because the audience is similar to what’s they’ve had
with other programs. And hopefully, this
conversation will continue, great books be written, a new
sub-field will be created. And we are very grateful
that you are part of the history in the making. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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