“I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.” ― Kwame Nkrumah
Race and ethnicity play significant roles in social stratification, individual and group identities, patterns of social conflict, and life opportunities. In 1988, the respected scholar George Fredrickson described race as “consciousness of status and identity based on ancestry and color.” Racial and ethnic consciousness pertains to the recognition of membership in a racial or ethnic group, acknowledged by both group members and the broader society they inhabit.
Heli Amare, born in Washington D.C., underwent transcontinental relocations during her early years, moving to her ancestral homeland, Ethiopia, and returning to the U.S. at 12. This multicultural upbringing granted her a profound understanding of both American and Ethiopian cultures.
As a daughter of a former Ethiopian ambassador, Heli’s multicultural identity influences her viewpoints, aspirations, and efforts, notably through her organization, Evrything Africa.
Founded by Heli Amare (32), Evrything Africa spearheaded a three-day initiative. The inaugural day concentrated on a social impact activity, partnering with local entities to offer free grooming services and donating over 500 items to the homeless in Washington D.C. The subsequent day hosted a VIP mixer at the Selina DC Rooftop, succeeded by a conference and an after-party. The Evrything Africa conference congregated prominent diaspora and African American figures from the DMV area and nationwide, facilitating a weekend immersed in cultural interchange. The ambition was to reframe, challenge, and rectify misrepresentations about Africa using immersive cultural encounters.
The weekend-long event brought together experts like political scientists, Dr. Menna Demessie from Universal Music Group, Adedayo Fashanu of TANTV, and many others to discuss the state of the diaspora across various topics including in Health and wellness, Sports, Technology and innovation, and Creative Culture. Attendees were encouraged to invest in the local communities and in the continent, fostering avenues for business expansion and idea interchange through professional networking.
“Our primary aim is to harness the power of this community, to help shift perspectives and take control of narratives that have been misrepresented about our community. We want to dismantle the stereotypes that the media perpetuates, separating us from our true selves. We aim to connect the diaspora and continental communities, investing our time, ideas, and resources here and on our continent,” Amare expressed.
Dr. Demessie, during her fireside chat with Adedayo, elucidated the oft-overlooked distinction between African immigrants and descendants of African slaves in America. She stressed the need for unity, fueled by our intertwined histories and mutual support. Moreover, she advocated for enhanced data collection, emphasizing its impact on the equitable distribution of resources.
“It is why I think it’s such a great example of how our people are organizing,” – Demessie remarked
Intra-racial diversity among Black Americans provides unique opportunities to strengthen bonds among Black America. Due to the struggle and sacrifice of African Americans in this country, African immigrants can now thrive and flourish. Dispelling narratives that pit both African and African Americans against each other is crucial, as this is a systemic colonialist agenda aimed at ensuring Black America remains divided. Demessie emphasized the need for deeper unity between Africans and African Americans. Our shared histories, shaped by mutual support and collaborations, must guide us as we craft our shared future. As Dr. Demessie insightfully posited, unity is not just about overcoming misconceptions but fostering understanding through shared celebrations and histories.
Demessie also emphasized the importance of data and research in making the African diaspora community visible and ensuring their needs are met. Advocating for better data collection is crucial, as it impacts the distribution of federal dollars and resources across communities.
Navigating dual identities and the imperative of unity is a key element that separates the Evrything Africa conference. It brings together leading voices and thought leaders from both the African diaspora and African-American communities to share a common stage while addressing topics that impact the community and the continent.
A pivotal conversation during the conference revolved around Health & Wellness. Where panelists shed light on pervasive mental health challenges and their associated stigmas in both communities. The dialogue also touched on health disparities Black Americans face, paralleled with challenges in Africa, such as Nigeria’s low health insurance penetration, which stands below 10%.
In 2023, the “Evrything Africa” Inspiring Organization Impact Award honored DMV-based entities positively impacting the Black and African diaspora. Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA) emerged as winners for their unwavering dedication and innovation.
On the technological side, the emphasis was on adapting to the African context. MTN’s pay-as-you-go phones served as prime examples of how bespoke innovations drive adoption. Furthermore, the hurdles confronting African entrepreneurs seeking venture capital were addressed.
Alternative financial models, bespoke to Africa’s circumstances, can empower businesses to evolve without the constraints of Western venture capital frameworks.
There is a need for financial models tailored to the African situation, enabling businesses to expand without being bound to Western venture capital expectations. Jennie Nwokoye Founder & CEO, Clafiya
The sports panel delved into the role of sports in the Black community. The consistent narrative underscored grassroots endeavors in both the U.S. and Africa. Given Africa’s abundant raw talent, cultivating young athletes through community initiatives could propel them to global prominence. Furthermore, the transformative potential of AI in sports, from sophisticated analytics to immersive fan interactions, was brought to the fore.
Conversely, the creative culture panel underlined that creativity isn’t solely aesthetic. It involves forging genuine bonds, challenging conventions, and envisaging a sustainable future. They also discussed the intricacies of event organization within diaspora communities, focusing on the balance between fostering collaboration and ensuring financial sustainability.
Evrything Africa’s intentional effort to create experiences that bridge the gap between multiracial African and African American communities is an important step towards fostering mutual understanding and unity within black America; an experience that has left its over 150 young professional attendees with an unforgettable experience of shared learning, entertainment, and style.