Going for Gold…Diaspora in Higher Education.

 

 

Being a Diaspora presents a host of challenges but also gives a  sense of determination to make it in the land of dreams where all is possible. It is no surprise then that according to a resent survey released in August 2012 by the US Department of Education, 23% of all undergraduate enrollment in 2007-2008 consisted of immigrants or children of immigrants.

 

Going for Gold means going for the best there is. Members of the Diaspora knows that only hard work and determination can get you there. In the current economic times where joblessness and budget shortfalls reign supreme, it is ever more important to get the right skills that will net you the right job. In the same survey, it was clear that income level of parents did not seem to significantly influence rate of attendance. This means if you are determined to go to school, you can go and lack of income should not be a deterrent to attendance. Taking advantage of financial aid, grants and scholarships have helped get diaspora to achieve their goals.

Being a diaspora means you understand the challenges that led to your being here in the first place and being willing to put in the work to get to gold.

 

 

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Celebrate Your Otherness

African Americans Allowed to Vote

The word Diaspora comes from a Greek word that means to “sow or scatter seeds.” A group of Diaspora has the special characteristic of attempting to preserve their culture and religious beliefs.

It’s this “otherness” within us that constantly attempts to recreate experiences validating pieces of ourselves carried from the past.  When I traverse North Carolina experiencing different cultural events I can’t help but marvel at the rich tapestry of varying cultural experiences responsible for the unique qualities making up North Carolina.

The amazing experience of seeing the Black Mambazo group in Clayton,NC  was surreal at best. Here was lil O’l me,  far away from my birth country experiencing a performance that was a symbol of hope. The group started spreading  the message of love when apartheid was the order of the day in South Africa. Now 52 years later and a bunch of Grammy awards  under their belt, the group still continues delivering  beaming smiles, lively songs interspersed with gravity defying leaps left everyone awash with gratitude at this once in a lifetime experiences.

Black Mambazo In Clayton, NC

An Immigrant’s Allegory of Running

The morning chill threatens to frost my lungs as I cut a  steady path through the tree line. Defiantly, I ignore the plea from my feet as they will themselves to stop.  I am reminded of how many challenges I have had to overcome to be where I am today. Like when I left my birth country 12 years ago  to go to school and didn’t know what I would find on the other side of the world. How I had to remind myself all would be well even if I didn’t know when I would see my parents next.

kenyans. beating ass.

No that's not me.. Its what I wish I looked like when I run

Looking around when I run, I am reminded I am just a piece in the puzzle of the big picture of life.  Awed by the raw beauty of tall pines towering over me, I find myself marveling at just how small I am and how much I really don’t have control over things. I know as I run that there is a bigger hand at work.

The pitter patter of my rubber soles as they have a personal conversation with the paved trail drum a rhythm on the blacktop. The ebb and flow of the rhythm is a direct reflection of the highs and lows of my life. Times when I have been pleased with how things are going like when I finally went back to see my parents after 10 years and lows like when I lost my job or that late night..uhh…. ‘conversation’ I once had with the boys in blue.

Excruciating pain from complaining muscles cut through my senses and for a moment all I can do is be with the pain until it is gone. Just like I had to somehow exist within the uncertainty that is life as an immigrant. When I didn’t know how I would pay for my rent, or school fees. When the fast talking accents of the deep south seemed to spew out a garbled array of sound that passed for English. As I forced my tongue to lighten and my mouth to ‘enunciate’ so I could be heard.  Struggling at first, and accepting finally that the different me would ultimately have to do. In the pain of running, I am reminded every time- that everything passes. Instead of resisting, I embrace it. I know it’s here for a while and it too shall pass. So I push on and after a while it’s gone and I am back to the place when I began, where I was hopeful yet uncertain. I am back to the beginning when I was full of dreams and I am convinced that I will continue trying and pushing on.

When I run, I am reminded of how human I am. It’s my way of getting in touch with my weaknesses and my strengths. Through running, I am reminded that I am on a journey. I am only a small piece of a bigger picture. That as everything comes to pass, I too will be gone one day and I can only participate as much or as little as I can.

 

Diaspora Banter Part 1:Dog Talk

Trying to assimilate into a new culture can be tricky for a member of the Diaspora.  Subtle cultural nuances such as mastering the skill to conduct random banter can be more challenging than the more obvious cultural shifts one must make when trying to mingle with their new neighbors.  In America for example, conducting meaningless small talk is an integral part of getting to know each other and is a skill that must be cultivated and natured if a Diaspora has any hope of interacting ad becoming Americanized.

There is hope however, for those who find it difficult to engage in the activity of small talk in order to appear more open and accessible to others.  To conduct small talk, one must find a topic that is safe to for the participants to engage in. At this point it is important that I mention that any topic that might involve actually knowing the details of one’s life is off-limits. Steer away from any references towards physical appearances; these attract lawsuits because of the real emotions they evoke. All personal details must  be volunteered without any prompting.

My dog Poligraf Poligrafovich

Dog Talk for Diaspora

In the process of enculturation, a Diaspora must get comfortable with filling every silent space with information whether it’s relevant or not. This is called being outgoing. Years of engaging in small talk have yielded one topic that is a sure-fire way to create a connection and possible camaraderie. A Diaspora must squelch the need to create meaningful friendships as this is rare but can happen if you continue to engage in meaningless small talk. It’s in the form of Dog Talk.

Vast numbers of Americans own dogs. . Lovingly cared for, the lucky canines receive undivided attention, affection and are coddled sometimes even more than humans.  Some studies have even shown that companionship from dogs has the effect of reducing stress levels among Americans.

So it is no surprise then that striking up Dog Talk can be responsible for creating the kind of small talk that is necessary to get to know your neighbors. To perfect the skill, it is perhaps best to try it out on Random strangers walking dogs. This is important because you must communicate genuine interest in a topic that you might have absolutely no knowledge or interest in. Later, once you have learned to appear interested, you can try it out on your coworkers and neighbors.

Most Americans don’t mind carrying out conversations about their dogs to perfect strangers because they love their dogs so much and can’t wait to display this to any and everyone.  Asking specific questions about dogs is a great way to create lengthy conversation. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what a ‘shetland sheepdog’  is. Most dog owners don’t care whether you know the difference. They just feel the need to tell you so that you too can celebrate the existence of their most beloved companion.

It is important however, not to be intimated by the vast amounts of information you may receive about dogs when you are getting to know your new neighbors. Sprinkling affirmatives is imperative because otherwise you risk losing an enthusiastic participant. Other questions you might want to ask are: how old the dog is, whether it’s male or female, and even if it’s been neutered.

If you are a Diaspora and are a neighbor to someone owning a dog, you must ask to pet the dog. This was difficult for me in the beginning because of a latent fear I had developed from unsavory experiences with wild dogs in Africa. American dogs are trained to be nice.  Some may  nip at you, some may be  too boisterous with their play but owners will generally tell you if you can pet them. This way they can continue to display how knowledgeable they are about their pets.

If you are a Diaspora who works with someone who has pictures of their dog on their desk, they want you to comment on the picture. It will yield more conversation than if you attempt to just ask them to tell you about themselves. Because most dogs reside inside the house with their owners, and are therefore

taken out on walks every morning or evening. Taking a walk during these times, will make you accessible to your neighbors so that you can engage in more conversations that will endear you to them.

In a culture beleaguered with small talk, a Diaspora must learn to engage in it no matter how uncomfortable the experience may be for them. I must say that as resistant as I was in the beginning, I found myself engaging in meaningless banter almost on a daily basis and has made people refer to me with adjectives such as friendly, outgoing, and even open despite the absolute lack of really knowing who I am and where I am from.  Without learning this most important skill, a member of the Diaspora has absolutely no hope of successful integration into American society.

Diaspora Remittance-Why Its All Worth It in the End

Remittance services in London

remittances One Way to Make it all Worth it.

 

Any  

member of Diaspora has at one time or another wondered whether it is all worth it. The challenges of  immigrating to a foreign country and having to figure out the inner workings of a new society can break down even the most resilient of people. To compound an already Augean endeavor, members of Diaspora often have to support family members back home who depend on them for their livelihood.  And even when members of Diaspora send money home, most,  rarely see the long term sustainable results of their contributions.

Oft-times the urge to pack it in and go back to the familiarity of their homelands bubbles to the surface  tempting members of Diaspora to pack it in (and some do give in and go back to their countries of origin).  Most immigrants however, quell this urge, trudging on, working, assimilating into their new environs (some not so successfully)  all the while  supporting families back home while trying to mesh out a comfortable life in unfamiliar communities.

Members of Diaspora account for billions of dollars moving instantly across the globe, changing lives and sustaining entire societies. Without members of Diaspora, there are some communities that would not be in existence today.  Members of Diaspora overcome great obstacles to fit into whatever society they immigrate to. It is therefore some measure of comfort to know that even though a member of Diaspora might not witness tangible evidence of their contributions; it is quite obvious that without members of Diaspora, some communities would not be what they are today.

Empirical proof collected by the World Bank over a span of 10 years showed Diaspora contribution to economies around the world. For example, the United States Diaspora alone and which has the largest number of immigrants was responsible for sending out a staggering $48 billion in 2010 alone.

India, the world’s largest and fastest growing developing country was the receiver of the lion’s share of remittance monies receiving $55 billion last year alone.  The migration of Diaspora around the world, and the circumstances leading to the emigration often result in the kinds of contributions Diaspora can make in the world.

For example, the countries with the largest numbers of  Diaspora leaving their countries and possessing tertiary education often translates to the largest amount of remittances sent back to their countries of origin.  Looking at India again we see this is true. In 2000, India had 20.3 thousand Physicians migrate to countries around the world which therefore means that the high Physician incomes resulted in the larger number of remittances sent back to India.

 

On the contrary, Diaspora emigrating as refugees will send the least amounts of remittances back to their countries of origin. Not only do these Diaspora have to contend with bridging the education gap of having been in refugee camps, but often have to first work through the trauma of conditions leading them to seek refuge in other countries. These members of Diaspora have the most difficult experiences of transitioning into their new society and naturally have the least amount of remittances sent to their countries of origin.

Members of Diaspora therefore have much to offer the world. They are global citizens who give up everything they know to pursue a better life. And even though they face challenges transitioning into their environment, often will find ways to contribute to their countries of origin.

For a full viewing of the Remittances Fact Book go to www.worldbank.org

A Diaspora’s choice: Engage or Retreat

I belong to the Earth

A Diaspora's Choice: Engage or Retreat

Every time I move, my family and I go through an anxious period of anticipation where we try to imagine what the new place will be like. Dogged by questions that only experience of the place can answer such as:

What will the new place be like?

Who will be our friends when we get there?

Will we like them?

Will they like us?

Will we fit in?

What will be our activities?

Having relocated three times, with one of those moves being across continents, I have began to see a pattern in the approach I have implemented to integrate into any new environment. At first I didn’t see a pattern but later, and probably because it worked, I did.  It’s a pattern born out of the desire to fit into whatever society I find myself in. It is a pattern driven by the Diaspora in me who wants to have a connection, craves identification and the deep desire of wanting to be part of the whole. Not just a sole entity existing without any particular anchor.

The life of a Diaspora is one characterized by their past. Circumstances which play an integral role in shaping our world view. In some instances making us more sensitive to stimulus around us and in others making us determined to transcend the adverse conditions that for some have led to our being where we are.

One such pattern I identified was at first subconscious but in retrospect, I realized was strategic in implementing swift integration into the society I was trying to be a part off. I drove around getting to know the layout of the area.   I found myself paying special attention to areas having international stores or restaurants. I also looked out for farmer’s markets.  Fresh produce enabled me to have the foods that reminded me of whence I came for they filled the unique void that only the smells and foods from my past could satisfy.

And then there was the social scene.  Carefully, I researched where other members of Diaspora spent their leisure time; I found them and created a separate social scene from my usual work environment.

In time, I had two entities; one that lived in the American world. Characterized by my nine to five friends. With my nine to five friends we had lunch, talked about work, inquired about their dogs and children and occasionally had drinks after work. Then there was the other me. The one that danced to traditional music from back home. The other me that went to functions from other cultures. The other me that cooked the foods I didn’t take to work except on diversity day.  The two world’s rarely colliding and when they did it was carefully orchestrated with open-minded nine to five friends meeting open-minded Diaspora friends.

And somewhere in the middle was the real me that wanted both worlds to gel together.

To seamlessly exist where I didn’t have to explain one world to the other.

With each new relocation, I found myself caring less and less whether one world bled into the other. While in the beginning I didn’t welcome all the questions regarding my origins, I later found myself sharing more and more.  The more I shared,  the less I cared whether the two world’s met. So what if the two world’s met? So what if one world didn’t understand the other world? In time they either would or not tolerate each other, leaving only those who dared know something new about another world, person, and culture.

Members of the Diaspora are faced with two choices. Either to be ambassadors of their culture and origin or to give up, retreat  and shut away from the world which they find themselves. The choice for a member of the Diaspora is not easy; either engage or retreat.

So which one is it for you?