WASHINGTON, October 2, 2013 – Mayor Vincent Gray waited until the last day of the month to proclaim September African Heritage Month, but the celebration at historic Howard Theater was worth the wait.
A packed house witnessed the Mayor recognize seven leaders from the business, arts and humanities in a tribute to past and present leaders the African Diaspora.
“On the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity we take this opportunity to recognize that the Washington Metro area is now home to over 150,000 African immigrants and over 10% are right here in the Nation’s Capital,” said the Mayor.
The Office of African Affairs teamed with the DC Commission on Arts & Humanities and the Office of Human Rights to recognize the growing diversity of African culture which represents 28 different countries in DC Public Schools alone.
Mistress of Ceremonies Emira Woods from the Institute for Policy Studies kicked off the evening’s awards by declaring that the 50th Anniversary of the Africa Union was marked by the election of its first woman president Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi.
“Patrice Lamumba reminded us that the resources of Africa must feed the children of Africa and that comes by holding up women in leadership positions” said Ms. Woods as she presented the first award for Public Service to Cameroon native Angelle Kwemo who serves as the CEO of AStrategiK Group, LLC after a long career on Capitol Hill as Legislative Counsel for Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush.
The Community Organizer Award went next to Tereguebode Goungou who spearheads the DC Language Access Coalition as the coordinator of MLOV – Many Languages One Voice representing 35 linguistic groups citywide.
Ethiopia and Nigeria took the lion’s share of four of the seven awards with the President of Little Ethiopia Tamrat Medhin receiving the Bridge Builder Award and U Street Parking CEO Henok Tesfaye being recognized for his company’s spectacular growth to nearly 500 employees as the Business Leader Award winner.
Nigerians Anthony Chuukwu CEO of CitiWide Computer Training Center received the Institutional Builder award for rising from an immigrant who came to the U. S. in 1990 with only $50 in his pocket to a man whose organization trains over 15,000 people a year.
And fellow Nigerian Aniekan Udofia received the Arts Award for his leadership in producing 43 public masterpieces in the District’s Murals DC project that brighten the city from Adams’ Morgan to Ben’s Chili Bowl along the New “U” street corridor.
Ngozi Nmezi the energetic Director of the Office of African Affairs (OAA) announced that Ethiopian Airlines executive Kagnew Asfaw will sponsors an awards program of roundtrip tickets for winning participants in a WE COUNT survey to reverse the trend toward under-counting Africa immigrants who are not recognized by country of origin or linguistic group as other immigrant groups such as Hispanics are.
Locally, the Mayor announced his support of the WE COUNT initiative as part of the Office of Community Affairs which hosts the Office of African Affairs.
2013 marks the second year of the Mayor’s proclamation of September as African Heritage Month, and the 50th Anniversary of the African Union. The Mayor and OAA have joined governments, organizations and communities in neighboring jurisdictions and around the world in celebrating this historic moment for Africans by promoting the official theme of “Panafricanism and Global African Renaissance in the 21st Century”.
At the local level, this theme ties seamlessly into Mayor Vincent Gray’s vision of building “One City” in which all residents live, work and thrive together. It further echoes the goals of OAA’s Multicultural Awareness program which aims to promote cross-cultural awareness and solidarity among the District’s ethnically diverse communities of African descent.