Why The Bronx African American History Project is Starting a “Bronx” Column in African Trumpet
Dr Mark Naison
If you ask people about the Bronx, the first thing most people would mention would be the Yankees. Next would come the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens, after that Fordham University, then more negatively, a range of attributes associated with urban decay, such as gangs and drugs and arson, coupled with a some apologetic references to the Bronx’s significance in the development of Latin Music and Hip Hop.
What almost no one would mention would be African Immigration, yet that may be the most important single new feature of life in the Bronx today. The Bronx is home to the largest concentration of African immigrants in the Western Hemisphere, just under 62,000 according to Census estimates ( New York Times, October19, 2009) well over 100,000 if you speak to knowledgeable residents of this large and growing community. If you walk the streets of the Bronx, you cannot miss the African presence in the every corner of the borough’s life, ranging from the hundreds of new stores selling African products, to the scores of new churches and Islamic centers serving a mostly African population., to the colorfully dressed African women, many of them wearing hijabs, escorting their children to school, to the thousands of African men working as security guards at local hospitals and universities, fixing cars and driving trucks, and serving as street vendors or clerks in stores. You will also find thousands of African women working in area nursing homes, and tens of thousands of African children enrolled in the Bronx’s public schools, many of them graduating as honor students and attending the nation’s top colleges. Fueled by immigration from more than 20 Africa countries ranging from Togo to Sudan, from Algeria to Ghana and Congo, an African cultural, spiritual and economic renaissance is taking place in the Bronx which is transforming life in Bronx communities while creating excitement and hope in nations throughout the African Continent. “When I walk up Fordham Road.” says Kojo Ampah, head of Fordham University’s
African Cultural Exchange, “ it feels like I am in downtown Accra. I hear almost as much Twi ( a Ghanaian language) as I do English or Spanish.”
It was to document this extraordinary demographic revolution that the Bronx African American History Project decided, four years ago, to launch an African Immigration research initiative under the director of Dr Jane Edward, and it is for that reason that we have decided to start a special “Bronx Column” in the pages of African Trumpet. In the weeks and months that follow, we are going to bring you features on African life in the Bronx, ranging from a story about the remarkable music- a combination of hip hop and hip life- being produced in the studios of Ghanain music producer Felix Sarpong, to a report on the coming African Unity Day Parade in the Bronx, to an analysis of Christian Muslim relations in Bronx African communities, to a frank discussion of conflict in Bronx schools and neighborhoods between African and African American youth. We will also have portraits of interesting individuals of African immigrant backgrounds who live in the Bronx, such as the Ghanaian boxer Joshua Clottey, the French Algerian music promoters Karima Zerrou, and the remarkable Islamic leader Sheikh Moussa Drammeh whose approach to community organizing challenges every American stereotype about the Muslim religion.
We have great columnists lined up, some of them scholars like Dr Jane Edward and Dr Ben Hayford, some of them students and community leaders
We are deeply grateful to African Trumpet for allowing these voices to be heard.