African Immigration
The Waves of Migration
The Numbers
The Brain Drain
A Class of Entrepreneurs
Family Life: Continuity and Change
Religious Communities
Between Here and Abroad
The Question of Identity
The Future

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Africans have several layers of identity - national origin, ethnicity, gender, class, and religion. At home, their color or "race" had no relevance. But in the United States, they find themselves defined by that specific criterion, and have to live as a racial minority in a country with a long history of exclusion and discrimination against black people. Encounters with racism are often baffling and evoke feelings of shock, indignation, and humiliation in people who have grown up in societies where their intellectual, physical, social, and even human qualities were never questioned on the basis of color.

When asked how they identify themselves, Africans, in general, say they are Africans first and members of a national group second. To be "African" means to have a continent, to belong to a specific country, to speak one or several foreign languages, to be heir to a deep-rooted history, and to share with other Africans a number of values, experiences, and cultural and social traits. Identity as "black" is often perceived as a negation of culture and origin, which Africans regard as the most important elements of identity. They are keenly aware that they encounter racism and discrimination as black people; but they generally reject the imposition of an identity they feel does not completely reflect who they are.

Invisible Sojourners: African Immigrant Diaspora in the United StatesInvisible Sojourners: African Immigrant Diaspora in the United States by John Arthur
Now is the Time to Put Our Money Where Our Mouths AreNew African, 400 (October 2001)Now is the Time to Put Our Money Where Our Mouths Are from New African, 400 (October 2001) by Leslie Goffe

African expatriates are deeply conscious of the negative image of Africa projected in the American media. Although they readily acknowledge the continent's political and economic issues, they generally do not recognize their people and their countries in the stereotypical and pessimistic images that Americans are presented with. The derogatory clichés perpetuated by a wide spectrum of American society are a common subject of conversation and irritation. "Even in academia and the media Americans continue to use derogatory terms such as tribe for ethnic group and dialect instead of language," complains a Nigerian physician, "and even though in many countries more than half the population is urban, the only images you see on TV are national parks, which makes it look as if Africans lived in the forest!"

Africa-The World's Comfort ZoneNew African, 398 (July/August 2001)Africa-The World's Comfort Zone from New African, 398 (July/August 2001) by Stella Orakwue
Reporting Africa: Nothing Has ChangedWest Africa, 4325 (13-19 May 2002)Reporting Africa: Nothing Has Changed from West Africa, 4325 (13-19 May 2002) by G.V. Kromah
 What Is Africa to Me?     , Chapter 3Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America What Is Africa to Me? , Chapter 3 from Kinship: A Family's Journey in Africa and America by Philippe Wamba

As children are born or grow up in this country, issues of identity, continuity, and change are becoming more pressing. Potential "Americanization" is a constant source of concern. Parents who can afford it send their children home for the summer to help them maintain cultural and linguistic links with their countries of origin. Some have their children reared by their grandparents and bring them back only for vacations or when they are older.

Reflecting the parents' strong belief in maintaining national identity, a new phenomenon has emerged in recent years: the spread of weekend and summer schools where adults teach native-born youngsters the languages, history, geography, manners, and culture of their communities.

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The Future  >