DOVER, NH – A community celebration called Umokuumani: Unity, Creativity and Faith. A celebration of the African and black immigrant communities of New Hampshire, scheduled for Saturday November 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Friends of Dover reunion. The event, which marks the closing of a national public art exhibition highlighting the stories of asylum seekers in New Hampshire, will include a dance performance, a fashion show and a showcase of community resources and d immigration information, as well as music, food and drink. The event is free and open to the public.
Event organizer Grace Kindeke, American Friends Service Committee and Manchester Community Action Coalition, explained the meaning of Umokuumani: “Using a combination of three Swahili words – Umoja meaning unity, Kuumba meaning creativity and Imani meaning faith – we have formed a new word – Umokuumani – to represent three principles that many black and African communities rely on to navigate a new country while staying in touch with families back home. Hampshire, ”explained Kindeke, who arrived in Manchester, NH from the Democratic Republic of Congo at the age of 2.
Dover Friends Meetinghouse, a place of worship for local Quakers and a sanctuary congregation for immigrants threatened with detention and deportation, installed the Separated families public art installation in June 2021. The two large banners of the exhibition present the stories of African immigrants, Mark and G, Coastal residents seeking asylum in the United States:
G – G is an African immigrant who was detained at the border between Mexico and the United States. He describes his journey, not knowing where he was or how to communicate. He talks about the challenges of learning Spanish and English and the connections forged despite language barriers.
Mark – Mark is an African immigrant who was detained for two years in the United States. He has been targeted in his home country for participating in peaceful protests demanding positive changes in his community. He talks about the challenges of his incarceration and the impact it has had on his family.
“In New Hampshire and across the United States, black immigrants are vital members of the community, contributing to the diverse fabric of an ever-diversifying state. These stories are often overlooked in narratives about immigration and immigrant advocacy, ”Kindeke explained. , noting that 3.8 million black immigrants live in the United States. “Many have fled difficult conditions in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere and seek asylum in the United States. Upon arrival, they are forced to go to US detention centers and are forced to defend their case without the benefit of legal representation or due process guarantees. “
Kindeke added that “This event comes at a critical time as Congress continues negotiations to include a path to citizenship as part of the Build Back Better program. We are the closest in 35 years to passing critical protections. to bring relief to millions of undocumented immigrants, including 619,000 black and African immigrants.
From Mark, whose story is featured in the exhibit: “The importance of this celebration is to advocate against violence against undocumented black immigrants and to develop a deeper understanding of the systemic barriers that prevent black people from realizing the equal opportunity in the United States. It is important to show how members of the black community work to contribute to the growth of the community as a whole and for the community as a whole to continually reflect on its own privileges and powers. This event is also an opportunity to focus on the unique challenges facing black immigrants who find themselves at the intersections of overlapping systems of discrimination. “
As a member of the celebration planning team, Mark explained the group’s purpose: “We are pushing for the voices of those most directly affected to be recognized, as they are frequently excluded from mainstream conversations. We seek to amplify, promote and support voices. and storytelling of those most affected by policies and practices that block real, lasting and equitable change. We hope to build community and encourage alliances and coalitions so that together we can achieve equal opportunities and social justice. “
From Christine Kindeke, Democratic Republic of Congo community member and planning team member: “African and Black Immigrants in New Hampshire, friends and supporters feel the urgent need to come together around this event to proudly share our stories of resilience, hope through thick and thin, unwavering faith, overcomers and survival. To sow fraternity rooted in African solidarity. To give a voice and a face to African and black immigrant communities too often invisible and unrepresented in New Hampshire. We hope to share the contributions, skills, integrity and wisdom of these hardworking communities to shine before men and give glory to our Creator. “
From Lidia Yen, Change for Concord lead organizer and planning committee member: “New Hampshire is still a majority white state, but there is a vibrant community of black immigrants and refugees here. We continue to push for a policy of human immigration, to recover from the pandemic and to meet the needs of our communities. It’s an important time to uplift black people and Africans and show that New Hampshire can be a diverse and welcoming place.
From Clifton West, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Seacoast and Member of the Planning Committee: “Black and African immigrants are valued members of the community, but unfortunately their voices, experiences and culture are not being brought into play. evidence. This event is meant to uplift and bring together people from different backgrounds in a beautiful way. We hope this event inspires a new sense of care and appreciation for the experiences of our fellow Black and African immigrants and also an understanding that we as a community are here to support them through their travels and help them in any way possible. “
From Asma Elhuni, member of the Libyan community and policy director of the movement for Rights & Democracy NH: “It is important that people include African voices and stories, because often our stories are overlooked even though our travels and our experiences matter. Africans not only live in New Hampshire, we enrich it and are a vital part of the fabric here. It is important that we honor the members of the African community in New Hampshire. I hope you will join us as we celebrate human diversity, honor and stand in solidarity with our African and Black communities in demanding that Congress paves the way for citizenship this year. “
This story was originally posted by NH in depth.