Contemporary African Immigrant Communities in the United States


About two months ago (yes, I know, I’m very behind), I went to a seminar about contemporary African immigrants in the United States. Though there were at least 150 chairs in the lecture room, so many people attended that several of them had to sit on the floor and lean against the wall, but it was well worth it. Our speaker was Nigerian historian and professor of African studies, Dr. Toyin Falola, and he spoke about the cultural, social, and emotional issues affecting native Africans who had immigrated to the United States.

One issue that Dr. Falola discussed bothered me more than any other: the way in which many of these African men and women admitted to feeling inferior to people who were native to the United States. Dr. Falola explained that he had studied African communities and populations in Houston, Texas, and that many of them perceived themselves as being unsuccessful, even though they had accomplished quite a lot, especially by “American” standards: For one, they had vehicles, houses, they were debt-free, and they were holding steady jobs. They had, as much as they could, adapted to life in the United States, further developed their English speaking and writing skills, and had learned to navigate a new country very gracefully. Still, they were unhappy, and he said that, after speaking with them and further studying their situations, he found that their unhappiness (and resultant feelings of inferiority) stemmed from the void that had resulted from their leaving of Africa. Even though many of them were leaving behind conflict and precarious situations, life in the United States had made them feel like outsiders.

Because I do not have any explicit religious or cultural customs and thus few ties to any particular group of people, I could not relate these problems to any of my own experiences, but I sympathized. I have been fortunate to live in a place where I am usually very safe, protected and where I feel at home, but I can imagine how isolating it would feel to have to start life in a foreign environment.

A few of the other issues that Dr. Falola described were similar to the African people’s feelings of inferiority and isolation. He said that they described a loss of social status in the United States, a status that had once been crucial to their livelihoods in Africa. Further, an environment of alienation, invisibility, and discrimination was very prevalent in their lives in the United States, despite their attainment of higher education, high incomes, and other general fulfillment (having a family and friends). Basically, the loss of culture was profoundly felt among most all of them, and they found this difficult to handle.

During the lecture, I found myself grieving for the African immigrants and what they had lost upon leaving Africa: their culture, their homes, and their identities. I wondered how they were doing and what they had tried or were trying to do to cope with these losses. Dr. Falola was optimistic, though, and told us that as more and more African peoples came to the United States and connected with others who had already come, they were rekindling parts of their old lives and creating a living environment in the United States that was more like home. Even more, he explained that awareness of African culture was growing, thanks to globalization, technology, and academia, and that our being there at the lecture was even more progress toward acceptance and understanding of African immigrant circumstances. I was pleased to hear this and even more grateful to have been able to meet Dr. Falola. I was sitting in the front row, and before he began his lecture, he walked over to me and shook my hand, welcoming me.

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Under the Tuscan Sun | Cortona + Florence

I think one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Italy is that I can take a spontaneous day trip to some of the most famous cities in the world for less than ten dollars.

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views for dayzzzzzzz

Yesterday, three of us decided to take a day trip to Cortona, a tiny hill town where the famous movie Under the Tuscan Sun  was filmed, and to Florence. Cortona is a sort of hidden gem, the kind of town that gets a few tourists who’ve decided to go off the beaten path but isn’t overrun with them–exactly my favorite kind of town.

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under the tuscan sun for real !!!

We spent the morning admiring the views, trying to get some ~artsy~ pictures, shopping in the local stores, eating gelato, and soaking in the sun.

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tiny fruit markets
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happy happy flowers
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gelato has become a very large part of my life

Lunch was pizza and salad on the patio of a tiny bar, then we took a (sort of accidental) nature walk that led us to the side of a highway where we were picked up by a bus that was full of friendly high school students. They kindly dropped us off at a cathedral about two minutes down the road where we witnessed a priest doing a mic check. We wound our way through the cemetery that was connected to the church that overlooked the hillside before walking back to the train station to catch the train to Florence.

they know what’s up

A little over an hour later, we made it to Florence just in time to browse quickly through the leather market, Zara, and H&M before grabbing dinner at a Korean restaurant, which was a much-welcome break from Italian food (I know it sounds crazy, but a girl can only eat so much pasta). We walked around Florence for a little while, just taking in the sights and sounds for what may have been the last time before we hopped on a train that took us back to Arezzo

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madonna + wine: a renaissance masterpiece

Living only an hour away from one of the art capitals of the world is such an amazing thing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to fully appreciate it until I can no longer hop on a train and go visit it. Yesterday was a simple day, but it was definitely one for the books.


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cheesin’ :)))

Writing prompt: traditional food

task: find traditional Japanese food that seems appetizing and food that just doesn’t.

First thing that comes to mind: natto. Its made from fermented soy beans and is famous for putting off foreigners. These beans stink, have a strong flavor, are slimy, and look like a spider made an extensive web all over them. All in all, a completely unappealing package.

Now for the other end: I’m not sure if this would count as traditional since it originated in 1935, but it has spread in popularity very quickly and is now one of the most iconic Japanese dishes: Takoyaki. Its balls of wheat flour with some vegetables and octopus inside, brushed with takoyaki sauce. Japan has amazing festival food, and I don’t have much experience with octopus, so this is a dish that I am eager to get to know better. The little balls look perfect size to eat while walking around, and I would probably end up devouring a dozen or more. I can’t exactly tell from the pictures but I hope the outside is crunchy and the inside soft. The sauce also looks like it will provide nice contrast. A little bit of coolness to balance out the heat inside.

So those are my top two hit and miss Japanese dishes just from reputation and appearance. That being said, I think I would try both if given the opportunity. You never know what crazy food might be your favorite.


Japanese club final meeting

Yesterday was the last meeting of the Japanese club this semester, and that meant that some regulars were leaving while others were being promoted. We had elections for the major positions (pres, VP, etc), but since the club is fairly small there was only one contestant for each position (at least it made voting easy). It was a bit sad though: I don’t share classes with the students in the club, so that was the last time I will see some of them. This was made worse by the fact that the Japanese exchange students who come to the meetings will be heading back soon, and the final event was supposed to be a BBQ today. It just so happened that there was a tornado, lightning, and flood warnings this evening as well, so I didn’t get to go to that.




A while back Global Engagement set up a viewing of the Saudi Arabian film Wadjda at the grey owl. The story follows Wadjda, a young girl going to school in Saudia Arabia, as she faces some of the dilemmas that women there have to deal with. The primary conflict comes from Wadjda’s desire to buy a bike but not having the funds to do so. She is a bit of a rebel so she tries selling crafts and keeping secrets to raise the money, but this makes her butt heads with the headmistress of the school (who serves as the primary antagonist). The major subplot is that Wadjda’s father is looking to get another wife despite the protests of Wadjda’s mother. The heart of the story is one of defiance and striving to achieve your goals no matter the opposition. The story concludes with Wadjda’s faith in the system being betrayed and the money she won for the bike being given away, as well as her father going through with the second marriage. However, the day is saved as Wadjda’s mother makes the first step towards independence (symbolized by trying a new hairstyle) and buying Wadjda the bike. The final scene is Wadjda using the bike to beat her friend (male) in a race and riding off. Overall its a nice story, but I did have my complaints. First, everything is very on the nose. There is not much room for interpreting the story or seeing multiple sides: this is just the story of Wadjda told just in the way the director wanted it. Now, this wouldn’t be bad if the conclusion drawn was something that was well though out. Now, looking at the reviews for the movie I could be in the minority here, but to me the end result was a bit simplistic. The bike represented freedom for Wadjda (and women) and the second she got it everything was alright: she could immediately race along side and beat her friend (the ruling men). The film seemed to be implying that with this one simple solution everything would be made right, which I thought ignored a lot of the intricacies and problems that are affecting the country. In any case, this was a big stepping stone for Saudi Arabian film and therefore for the country as a whole, so maybe I shouldn’t be so critical that it didn’t take any large leaps right off the bat.


Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair – ONAYLF

My main job as a volunteer in the Native American Languages collection at the Sam Noble museum is to digitize the collection so that it can be made available to the public. While I scan the documents, I listen to my co-workers discuss the other workings of the collection. For the last few months, I have been hearing them prepare for their biggest event of the year, the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, or ONAYLF for short. I was excited to attend as much as I could.

The fair, which is held annually at the Sam Noble museum, was the 4th and 5th of April. It is the largest native language fair west of the Mississippi. Students from preschool to high school come and demonstrate how they have been learning and using over forty Native languages. Due to classes, I was only able to attend and volunteer for part of the first day, when the younger children were performing. They sang songs and acted in skits. At the end, I got to watch the winning videos. I also had a brief stint as a judge’s assistant and stage hand.

Through out the two days, over a thousand students performed and over three thousand guests visited the museum. It was a vivid reminder of the diversity of languages spoken in Oklahoma. I look forward to learning more about these languages through out my time here.

Tribes in Oklahoma

By Crimsonedge34 – Own work This image was created with QGIS This vector graphics image was created with Adobe Illustrator., CC0,

Language Familes of North America

Language Families of North America

CC BY 2.0,

Japanese Major

So it turns out my minor in Japanese might turn into a major, depending on how the double major system works. Many of the major requirements fill gen. eds. (like non-west civ), and I will likely earn credits while studying in Japan next year. I think the Japanese major was only added last year or the year before, so i would be really lucky if this become a possibility. The key factors are just how gen. eds. have to be completed and how many credits I get while overseas (which is at least partly determined by a test that has to be taken before leaving to decide your proficiency level). It would be great to be able to double major while still talking classes I enjoy, and should make me a more appealing candidate for jobs after graduation. In any case, for those who are minoring in a language I would suggest looking into getting a major. There will probably be classes about the literature and culture of that country/region, which can be quite interesting for those passionate about the language.


New Japanese Teacher

A little while ago the Japanese department was taking applications for a new professor. One step of the process was giving a public presentation of their specialty. I was lucky enough to be able to make it to the Mr. Frydman’s speech, who as it turns out was the one the department would choose. There were actually two meetings: one open to public and one just for Japanese students to ask questions. The head of the department had previously revealed to us that Mr. Frydman was interested in manga and anime, so that naturally dominated the meeting with the students. It was quite nice to talk to a teacher who had an obvious passion in something that is usually seen as exclusive to young people. The actual presentation covered a somewhat more particular niche: ancient Japanese poetry. Recently some wooden tablets had been found uncovered at a dig site in Japan. The poems on the wooden block show some connection with how the modern writing system of Japan developed-specifically how Hiragana formed. They also have some relationship with early Buddhist rituals. What’s really cool is how rare studying this is: Mr. Frydman said only 3 people in the English speaking world are interacting with these objects. If you search for Asakayama mokkan, the first result is a webpage talking about his dissertation on the subject.