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There are approximately 1,500,000 settled African immigrants in the US. My wife and our first son are just but two.
Part of Austin Africa’s goal is to go deeply into Africa; the Africa I know from having worked there for more than 10 years over a 30 year period. Austin Africa (AA) in Deep Africa will address various aspects of Africa’s history and culture; matters that would normally not come across the many RSS feeds on African news. It is to balance out other more contemporaneous articles because to understand the world of Africans in Austin and other cities of Texas-such as Dallas and Houston, it is important to understand the deep and varied background of the Africans that have come to build a life in the US.
It is truly hard to speak or write about Africans in a general way. As an instance, in Nigeria from where my wife comes, has according to the Wikipedia, that of more than 521 languages spoken only nine are now extinct. Extended research on Africa only finds more complexity. When the British left Nigeria, there were an estimated 300 tribes with a concomitant number of languages. Ethnologue, the service or record on languages world wide,notes that of these languages 20 are institutional, 77 are developing, 353 are vigorous, 27 are in trouble and 43 are dying. Imagine that each of these languages has a culture and a history into immemorial past. And Nigeria is just one country in Africa.
As and interesting aside showing the depth of multi-culturalism in Texas in Texas, Ethnologue (www.ethnologue.com) a web-based publication located in Dallas, according to its 18th Edition released in 2015 maintains statistics for 7,469 languages and dialects.
Among the topics planned to be covered within Deep Africa are music, art, dance, its diasporas, religions, economic development (which is my field), regional and tribal characteristics, genetic dispersion, and has been said earlier its histories and cultures. Here also Austin Africa wants to identify many of Africa’s heroes and heroines.
African Immigration to the US
At the beginning, it is important to state that AustinAfrica cannot speak to that part of the diaspora coming from the slave trade; this is a complex and separate field of study of which AustinAfrica is less competent to speak to than others. Its great story of heroism and resilience is truly an epic that is best left to its own unique griots, leaders, and historians. There are so many fine sites for this subject throughout the web. AustinAfrica will focus primarily on those later sons and daughters that came to the US beginning in the 20th century.
To get a grasp on African immigration to the US in the last few decades, it is useful to consult the work put out on the subject by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) which is one of the preeminent analysts anywhere in the world . Much of the following data comes from an October 2014 article by the MPI.
African immigration has grown dramatically. From 129,000 in 1980, there are now 1,503,000 immigrants. The top three states where these immigrants live at the time of the article were New York (9%) Texas (8%) and Maryland (8%). California is also an important destination. The MPI statistics focus on immigrants from four Sub-Saharan regions: East Africa (35%), Middle Africa (7%), Southern Africa (7%), and West Africa (43%). North African immigrants (North of the Sahara from Egypt to Morocco) are counted in other population categories. In this study, East Africa included Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and other East African countries. Middle African countries are most probably based on the UN definition: Cameroons, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and newly the South Sudan. Southern Africa is composed of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. In some definitions, it also includes Malawi and Mozambique. West Africa includes inter alia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.
The ‘New Wave’ of African Immigration
There are many interesting facts of African immigration. Most of present African immigrants (44%) came in the period from 2000-2009, while only 40% came from the 1980 to 2000 period. Interestingly, sub-Saharan immigrants were more likely to be proficient in English and speak it at home than the overall U.S. foreign-born population.
Another study by Queens College and CUNY Institute of Demographic Research identified the following changes in what it termed as a “New Wave’ of African immigrants: 1. While West Africans (the largest group at more than 40%) stayed steady, North Africans decreased, 2. The male percentage of immigrants decreased from 64% in 1980 to 54% in 2007 indicating there have been more women African immigrants, 3. New immigrants are likely to be older (more than 44 years), and 4. The percentage of English speaking immigrants has increased to 62% versus other languages.
A very important factor is that immigrants from SSA tend to be better educated. Quoting from the 2014 MPI article: Sub-Saharan immigrants tend to have a higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2013, 38 percent of Sub-Saharan immigrants (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population and 30 percent of the native-born population.
This is a provocative question. too many it seems unlikely. Some possible reasons follow that have been asserted or suggested: 1. Africans like the Texas climate which is much more like their own than the Snow Belt, 2.The cost of living is less expensive, 3. They like the diversity of Texas which allows them to carry on with their own culture without criticism or censure, and 4. The environment of low taxes and business friendly regulations allow them to start businesses of their own as they are an entrepreneurial people. They also favor, whether they are Christian or Muslim, the religious tolerant environment.
Our Reasons to Come to Texas
As per myself and my family, we came to Texas because I have my relatives here and extended families are important to Africans even if it is that of the spouse. We have attended every family reunion(Denver City, Yoakum County Park) since we have been here and my wife is continually in communication with aunts and cousins. My boys are favorites despite their sometimes being hellions because they thought I would never have children. After all, I had been away for 30 years. Another important reason for us is that the couple of hundred families (probably more) from her tribe that live in the Austin metropolis have made a community through regular meetings of various ethnically based organizations as well as the ongoing miracle of digital communication, home to home. By belonging to various tribal based groups, we live the rhythms of the village; births, graduations, marriages, and deaths.
We are a community in what would otherwise be a ‘nuclear society’ with each family striving alone in a modern virtual world. Africans bring community wherever they go; hence there is an Austin Africa with several African villages living their traditions and cultures to a depth of fullness hard to imagine by many non-Africans.
These African communities which I call villages allow for the meanings and aspirations of Deep Africa to exist in Austin and other Texas ‘Metropoles.’ They allow an entrance into Deep Africa where the interested and attracted may go.