African Immigrant’s Children Beat All Odds To Excel In America, By C. Charles Anyiam

At the core of these exemplary feats recorded by African immigrant children is the fact that these young people come from households of parents with an average of a college first degree and the emphasis in these households is on achievement. Most of the times, African immigrants have to keep two or more jobs to re-enforce the mind-set that their offsprings have to be provided with the best opportunities to compete and excel. Other factors that play into the equation that is producing such prodigious results include the average immigrant survivalist mind-set that compels them to be doubly better than the competitor to survive. Some of the parents I also talked to were vicariously living out their dreams through their children.

Across the board, children and grandchildren of African immigrants who sought refuge in the United States during the turbulent 1970’s and 80’s era of military dictatorships in the continent are now clearly distinguishing themselves in various areas of human endeavour in mainstream America. These days, it is not uncommon to find high achieving students and professionals of all sorts with mellifluous African-sounding names whose accent and demeanour are as American as apple pie, who now occupy key positions in corporate America, public service or elite sports teams in the country. This is in fact the new generation of African Americans, someone recently opined.

In the fields of sports, media, law, medicine, engineering, IT, academia, etc., these second generation Africans have seamlessly combined their African upbringing and American pedigree with such panache that it is becoming increasingly hard not to single them out as was in the days of Caribbean migration to the US that gave birth to the Marcus Garveys, W. E. B. Du Bois’, Harry Belafontes, Malcolm Xs and even a former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell.

In high visibility careers such as professional and college sports, names such as the current All-American Duke College basketball phenomenon, Jahlil Okafor, Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic, soccer star Freddie Adu, the Amukamara clan of five sisters – Promise, Peace, Princess, Precious, Passionate and one brother, Prince Amukamara; a cornerback for the New York Giants, Ossy Umenyiora; another Giants’ great, Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors and one of NFL’s most celebrated, Nnamdi Asomugha, who all have one thing in common. They all have parents who were born in Africa. Then there are the Acho brothers – Samuel and Emmanuel who currently play in NFL. And atop the list of this new generation of Americans is no less a personality than the President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama.

As is the tradition, graduation season is up again upon us. And recently, my wife and I were privileged to attend a graduation party hosted by a Riverside, California family – Ihenacho and Magdalen Emeruwa, whose three children – Obinnaya, Ukachi and Ezinne just graduated as medical doctors from some of America’s most prestigious Ivy-league schools – Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. The trio is following in their dad’s footsteps. Dad, Ihenacho is an obstetrician/gynecologist while mom, Magdalen trained as an engineer but opted to serve as a full-time mom and housewife.

In my own household, I am proud to say that we are not without a record to brag about. One of the daughters, Ikechi is a freshman at UCLA with an exceptional GPA average carried over from High School while the other daughter, Chidera is headed to San Diego State University in Fall. Close to our family, is another success story in the African émigré community. Ife Kalejaiye of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles who has just earned a full scholarship to play college basketball at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. Described by the college coach, Carson Cunningham as a “stellar student and a fierce shooting guard”, Ife led his High School to two league championships. He is the son of Pastors Dipo and Nonye Kalejaiye of one of the fastest growing churches for African immigrants in America, the International Christian Center in Hawthorne, California.

At the core of these exemplary feats recorded by African immigrant children is the fact that these young people come from households of parents with an average of a college first degree and the emphasis in these households is on achievement. Most of the times, African immigrants have to keep two or more jobs to re-enforce the mind-set that their offsprings have to be provided with the best opportunities to compete and excel. Other factors that play into the equation that is producing such prodigious results include the average immigrant survivalist mind-set that compels them to be doubly better than the competitor to survive. Some of the parents I also talked to were vicariously living out their dreams through their children.

Some of the immigrant children said that they at first found their parents’ insistence on pushing them to the limits a little over-bearing. They reasoned that the America of their parents was totally different from their experiences as people born in America. Most of the parents would have none of that. The result was usually a culture clash, especially during the treacherous teenage years. At graduation however, a good number of the children attributed the discipline and tenacity that informed their years in college to their African immigrant parents and the guidance which they provided.

Though Dr. Emeruwa gave all the credit to his wife for the success of his three newly-minted doctors during his remarks at the graduation dinner, since as a medical practitioner he was gone a lot; he spoke of still finding time to inculcate into his children one of the many Igbo ethos of Isi Onwu which literally embodies the human traits of tenacity, perseverance, doggedness, resilience, bullishness and spartanism rolled into one.

Latest statistics show that over three million documented African immigrants have made the United States their home since the 1960s. The return rate has been abysmal due to re-current political crises, economic woes and the lure for adventure. Most of them start off in college communities across the US and later find more permanent and semi-permanent homes in most of the major metros – New York/New Jersey, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Baltimore, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Boston, Minneapolis and Chicago.

According to 2014 Rockefeller Foundation/Aspen Institute analysis, most African immigrant arrive predominantly from Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Senegal. A good percentage of them are professionals – teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and administrators. The rest are largely self-employed as haberdashers, realtors, transporters, government contractors, builders, developers, exporters and importers, security services, and consultants. The secondary category migrated to the States mainly for professional reasons, settled and raised a family and thereby becoming part of a contiguous African émigré community.

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