African immigrants seek better life in Nation’s Capital

Celebration of the safe arrival to the United States. PHOTO CREDIT:

By Marconja Zor

For Africans, the United States holds the promise of better education, more prosperity and a safer existence. It also has a growing community of African immigrants who are ready to help newcomers settle into American life.

The rise in Africans from various countries migrating to America since the year 2000

According to Pew Research, African-born individuals in the United States have quadrupled each decade since the 1970s. The metropolitan Washington region remains one of the most preferred places for them to live. From 80,000 in 1970 to 1.6 million now, African immigration to the United States has consistently increased.

Still, the pace has quickened, and the most significant rise has happened in the last decade, according to the agency. Even while their communities are distributed throughout the country, from major metropolises like Chicago and New York to rural areas like North Dakota and South Dakota, just four nations, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Egypt—constitute 41% of the population. Permanent residents and citizens and those on work and study visas make up the majority of the population. Some, particularly the enormous numbers of Ethiopian refugees, have escaped a series of crises and relocated here as asylum seekers.

Many Africans come to the United States think that Washington, D.C. and Maryland because they said the area is among best places to get a good education or a good job. As a result of the welcoming nature of schools like Howard University and American University, Africans gained trust and felt solace to migrate to the Washington, D.C. region.

“I had worked very hard in West Africa while at the Cuttington University. I was extended an offered an opportunity to complete my degree at American University,” said Julia Lake, a librarian in Maryland Montgomery County. “Although, I lived a great life in Liberia, I did not want to turn down the opportunity of studying and having adventures in American,” she said.

Lake was given a scholarship and decided to attend school. “That was the only reason why I left Africa,” she said.

According to the Pew Research, Africans migrating to the United States grew to 2.1 million in the year 2015,  which is a significant increase compared to the 881,000 in the year 2000. This shows that the immigrant population in Maryland has been steadily rising.

Angella Jullius, Senior IT Analyst in D.C., says that she and her family were given the numbers and residence of friends of friends in Washington, D.C. to contact as soon as they landed in the city.

“We initially only knew one family here when we landed, but once being introduced to multiple people in the community, they really rallied around us and provided us with an instant family support,” said Angella Jullius, a senior IT analyst working in Washington, D.C. Julius said that she and her family were given the phone numbers and residence of friends of friends in Washington, D.C. to contact as soon as they landed in the city.

Julius said that over time, her family got more involved in the community. “We took care of each other just off of the strength of being African, nothing more,” she said. “That’s just the type of culture that we are from. We immediately take care of our own.”

Because of civil and religious conflicts in their home countries, many residents of African nations have sought refuse in the United States. For example, following the genocide in Rwanda, many Rwandan citizens were granted citizenship in the United States. According to the Department of Justice, people from war-torn nations have migrated to other regions of the globe, but the United States is notably their first choice.

Neesaytee K. Browne, an obstetrician, said that she and her family fled the civil war in Liberia in the Late ‘80s and early ‘90s to reestablish their lives in a safer environment.

“My entire family was not able to get all of the documents in order to leave immediately. My mother took me and my brother and brought us to the United States,” Browne said. “We knew that we did not have a place once arriving to the States, but we had to flee a war where we didn’t know when it would end,” Browne said.

Not that long after arriving to America, was notified that both her father and my mother’s brother were killed.

“They were killed by the rebels,” she said, adding that her sisters died from illness during the war, so she only had two siblings left.

Some residents of African countries suffer from extreme poverty, despite the abundance of natural resources and riches. For some Africans, relocating to the United States provides a higher quality of life than their home countries.

James Campbell, a middle school teacher, grew up with other children in Ghana who lived a luxurious life. They had nice homes, attended private schools and had servants. But he was not as fortunate.

“We were very poor, and there were days that we didn’t eat well,” Campbell said. “My dad worked on a chicken farm, and my mother did seamstress work for us to get by. They saved every dime they had for us to afford our paperwork and plane tickets to Maryland,” he said “Coming to America was the only way which they saw fit to make a better life for me and my brother.”

Still other Africans want to migrate to the United States to further their education. African immigrants in the United States are among the most well-educated groups in the country “Education was a must for me and every other African friend I had,” Browne said. “Africans are very big on that. We feel that it is are only way out and to make a better life,” she said.

About Marconja Zor 4 Articles
My name is Marconja Zor and I am a journalist from Silver Spring, MD. My passions are long-form storytelling and interviewing on human interest subjects.