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Africans in U.S. Politics: A Voice of America Townhall

Panelists (L to R): Dr. Menna Demessie, Dr. Sylvester Okere, and Nii Akuetteh with Moderator Ndimyake Mwakalyelye

Africans in the Diaspora are playing a bigger role in U.S. politics with a diverse electorate raising issues in this campaign about both Africa and their new lives in the United States.

At a Voice of America Townhall “African Voices and Votes: The Diaspora and the U.S. Elections” African-born immigrants stressed the importance of organizing and participating in the political process to get elected officials to pay attention to issues important to them.

“We need to get involved and participate,” said Nigerian-born Sylvester Okere, chairman of the United People for African Congress group. “We need to elect representatives that speak for us and better our lives. We are here to be relevant.”

VOA Director Amanda Bennett joined the discussion with African-born U.S. residents, who the Census Bureau says number nearly 2 million. “The African Diaspora is an integral piece of the American mosaic and serves as an example of the power of the democratic process here in the U.S.,” Bennet said. “It is very important we understand the issues concerning African citizens in the U.S. as the Voice of America is the bridge that connects the African diaspora with their ancestral countries.”

Menna Demessie was born in the United States to Ethiopian parents and is now the Vice President of Policy and Research for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “Members across party lines work together on issues of interest to Africans,” Demessie said of the six Congressional Caucuses focusing on Africa.

Ghananian-born activist Nii Akuetteh of the African Immigrant Caucus told the panel that voting alone is not enough. Drawn from many countries with varied political views, Akuetteh said Diaspora leaders “need to organize as Africans in order to bring all Africans together.” “In Africa big people scare little people,” Akuetteh said, “but in the U.S. big people are scared of little people.”