African immigrants have been vital in shaping New York City economically, socially, and civically. Yet their contributions as community leaders and change-makers often go unrecognized. Forward Ever, a new podcast hosted by African Communities Together (ACT), raises their visibility and celebrates, through personal stories and sometimes profound reflections, the experiences and contributions of New York’s diverse immigrant diaspora: women and men from different regions of the Continent creating positive change in every borough.
The first set of episodes introduces listeners to 12 leaders of our community. Interviewees tell of different circumstances that drew them to New York, obstacles they overcame, the warm sense of belonging they gain from supporting other immigrants, especially others from Africa, and their work to organize and move forward their community, holding the United States accountable to the rights of all immigrants, despite systemic barriers of inequality and racism.
The “Forward Ever Podcast” is named for the famous words by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, “Forward Ever, Backward Never!” This proclamation has not only inspired pan-African movements across the world but is also how we close every membership meeting at African Communities Together. They remind us that there is always work to be done and that we will always set our sights on the brilliant future before us.
Episode 1 features Audu Kadiri, a Nigerian immigrant and dedicated community organizer with African Communities Together. Kadiri describes his work helping at-risk and marginalized populations in Nigeria, (in particular, members of the LGBTQIA community), the circumstances surrounding his migration to the US, importance of family, and the crucial work he’s done with African Communities Together and other advocacy organizations since arriving in New York in 2014. “Every challenge is an opportunity to make a change,” he says. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Adara Rosenbaum, a Barnard senior originally from the United States.
Episode 2 features Dinsiri Fikru, an employee of the New York State Housing Department, ACT Community Guardian, and strong advocate for Ethiopian immigrants in New York. She walks us through her childhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, growing up in America from the age of 12 with friends from many different cultures, and contributing to New York City, ACT, and the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA). This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Connie Cai, a Barnard senior originally from St. Maarten and China.
Episode 3 features a member of our community who prefers to remain anonymous. They discuss their early life in Nigeria and identity as a member of the LGBTQ community who ultimately sought asylum in the US, as well as their journey to New York City and activism throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the well-being of all New Yorkers. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Crystal Foretia, a Barnard sophomore originally from Cameroon and the United States.
Episode 4 features Mr. and Mrs. Agyemang, husband and wife originally from Ghana who migrated to New York City in 1970. They reflect on the importance of family and church while growing up in Ghana, share stories of raising their family and founding the Ghanaian Presbyterian Reform Church in New York, and express their hopes for the future. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Ayomide Tikare, a Barnard College sophomore originally from Nigeria.
Episode 5 features Deacon Solomon Kibriye, an Ethiopian immigrant and religious leader. He shares his experience of having to flee Ethiopia as a child in 1985, creating a life of community in New York City, his growing involvement in the church, and how his love for history has influenced his current projects. This interview was conducted in Spring 2021 by Amrita Khan, a Barnard junior originally from Guyana and the United States.
Episode 6 features Fatoumata Waggeh, a young lawyer and first generation Gambian-American from the Bronx. She shares how her upbringing in the Bronx inspired her mission of bridging African and African-American communities together to fight systemic white supremacy in America, as well as the legal work she did during her time with ACT fighting anti-immigrant rhetoric in New York City during the Trump administration. This interview was conducted in Spring 2021 by Amrita Khan, a Barnard junior originally from Guyana and the United States.
Episode 7 features Imam Souleimane Konaté, a Muslim leader born in Côte D’Ivoire who has lived in New York City and served his community in many capacities since 1991. He talks about his experiences of moving to the US, giving back to his community through his religious practice, and his role as a community leader who also speaks six languages. He describes his determination that African immigrants and their children become significant leaders in America. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Tunshore Longe, a Barnard junior originally from Nigeria.
Episode 8 features Omar Koita, activist, Gambian immigrant, and Bronxite. He shares his life experiences from his upbringing in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, to his migration to the United States in 1995 seeking higher education. At first, meeting other Africans was not easy. He describes the different linkages over time for finding friendship, offering mutual assistance, and celebrating achievements. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Blossom Maduafokwa, a Barnard junior originally from Nigeria.
Episode 9 features Susuana Baidoo, a longtime member of ACT dedicated to helping other new arrivals from Africa. She shares her experience immigrating from Ghana to the US, what it was like looking for a job as an immigrant, and what she appreciates about ACT. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Mikako Murphy, a Barnard junior originally from Japan and the United States.
Episode 10 features former freedom fighter Bourema “Naby” Niambele as he shares the importance of African pride and speaks about his work as a Malian advocate for African rights and community service in the Bronx. “Africans can shape the history of New York,” he says. This interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Zara Simba, a Barnard freshman originally from Tanzania.
Episode 11 features Elhadji Djibril Diagne, known in the community as Djiby. Linguist, communications innovator, and Senegalese community leader from the Bronx, he is head of communications at the Murid Islamic Community in America (MICA) and co-hosts Radio Murid. In this interview he recounts growing up in Dakar, his migration from Senegal, and building visibility and engagement with organizations in West Africa and New York. The interview was conducted during Spring 2021 by Mame Seck, a Barnard junior originally from Senegal.
Music: "Fatima" by Yacouba Sissoko from his 2017 album Siya. Voiceover: Yatta Kiazolu, ACT Staff member.
Support for Forward Ever is generously provided by Barnard College History Professor Abosede George and the students of her Spring 2021 class “African Communities in New York, 1900 to Present,” with thanks as well to Barnard Engages New York: Collaborative Partnerships to Promote Sustainable Change (or beNY for short), a Barnard initiative that combines curriculum with public engagement, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. To learn more about beNY, visit their website. Dr. George’s course, “African Communities in New York, 1900 to Present,” explores the history of voluntary migrations from Africa to the United States over the 20th and early 21st centuries.