W.E.B Du Bois Lecture: African Immigrant Communities in the U.S

The Department of Africana Studies hosted its 39th annual W. E. B. Du Bois Distinguished Lecture on Wednesday, Nov. 8. This year, the university welcomed Dr. Toyin Falola as the distinguished lecturer. President Freeman Hrabowski started off the event, speaking on international diversity at UMBC. He encouraged women in the audience to look to Shirley Graham, the wife of the iconic activist Du Bois, for inspiration and recalled his studies in Egypt where he once met her for tea.

The hopeful tone of the event was set by the UMBC Jubilee singers, who accompanied the talk and performed an enthralling rendition of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Soon following, Dr. Falola took the stage. A distinguished professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, Falola has authored, co-authored and edited over 160 books. In addition, he is the recipient of seven honorary doctoral degrees and has served in several dignified positions, including his roles as president of both the African Studies and Nigerian Studies Association.

Dr. Falola’s lecture, titled “African Immigrant Communities in the United States,” focused on the enculturation of African immigrants in America and the work being done to broaden the fields of Black and Africana Studies. Dr. Falola believes that a new field of academia will help to better understand issues of identity. He claims that there is a third wave of black culture that is often eliminated: the diaspora of colonization.

Dr. Falola conducted a study that examined the crossroads of African and American identities of around one-thousand African migrants over the past fifty years. The study was conducted mostly in the areas of Austin and Houston, which are two of the most popular cities for African immigrants, along with Baltimore and Washington, D.C. His data shows that an overwhelming majority of participants self-identify as both African and American and then identify their U.S born children as African. However, nearly all children self-identified as solely American.

The data also revealed that many African immigrants — about 43 percent — are unhappy with their current occupations. Dr. Falola hopes that exploring and widening the fields of Africana and Black studies will allow experts to solve some of these occupation related issues, which are often rooted in prejudice. “The trajectory of this country was to become a predominantly black population,” Falola emphasized during his lecture. Because of Africa’s doubling population, he asserted that America needs to adjust and adapt to the influx of African immigrants.

A new field of academics is only one of many steps in the process of accommodating immigrants who are direct products of over-colonization. A list of Dr. Falola’s publications is available on his website, http://www.toyinfalola.com.