Prove Their Votes, Lives Matter
By Thomas L Blair 20 November 2020©
Voting US Nigerians and West Indians have a progressive vision to Rehab America. Their organising efforts drove up the voter turnout that helped lift the presidential duo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House.
Moreover, they dashed President Donald Trump’s hopes of revival, stuck firmly with the Democratic Party and now form the backbone of its support in key states.
But they warn of trouble ahead. The incoming government must commit to millions of Black people of immigrant heritage and roll-back the xenophobic policies that have put their lives at risk in America and homelands abroad.
Nigerian Americans and the 2020 US election
“Naija Amaka. Nigeria, Go guys” trumpeted their homeland media press. Nigerian Americans made history in the US 2020 elections. Of multiple candidates aligned with the Democratic Party platform, three wins at the federal and state level stand out. Quite a feat for their estimated 400,000 compatriots, most living in the tri-state Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC area.
Kwara-born pharmacist Oye Owolewa, 31, is DC’s newly elected ‘shadow’ (non-voting) Congressman.
Esther Agbaje, 35, born in St Paul to parents from Aramoko Ekiti, has a Harvard law degree and won a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, a native of Obowo in Imo, won uncontested re-election to the Delaware House of Representatives.
Notably, Owolewa said we must fight against racial discrepancies and insist on a better future. Agbaje said “As a Black woman, I will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to government. Together, we can build the inclusive and just society we deserve.”
US West Indians and the 2020 elections
Across America, West Indian immigrant communities helped take back the “blue wall” states of Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as flipping formerly deep-red states, such as Georgia. Importantly, the 13 million Caribbeans are America’s earliest and largest Black immigrant group.
In an epic re-election battle, Brooklyn Democrat Congresswoman Yvette Diane Clarke took her passion for her Jamaican heritage to Congress. She co-chairs the Congressional Caribbean Caucus and works to “foster relationships between Black people of immigrant heritage in the United States and the Caribbean.”
At the city level, Phelecia Nembhard, originally from Whitfield Town, Kingston, became mayor of New Carrolton, Maryland. The University of the West Indies graduate was the first female and first person of colour to win that position.
Southern Florida, long a Republican stronghold, become a battleground for it’s more than 300,000 growing West Indian and Haitian electorate. They fielded a record number of 49 candidates in the primary and general elections. Chief among them were British Virgin Islands’ American Morey Wright, a Democrat. Jamaican American, Dr. Norman Whyte vied for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive.
American Nigerian and Jamaican Voters Helped Deliver a Biden and Harris Victory. Now what?
Joe Biden ran on a promise to Black Americans: “you’ve always had my back, and I’ll always have yours”. What’s unique, however, is that US Nigerians and West Indians recognise different problems and come up with different solutions.
One is to release federal relief funds for innovative hazard pay programs for millions. This will benefit millions of Black and Latino essential workers in undervalued caregiving and health care jobs – many of whom are Nigerians and West Indians.
A second is to support leading equality organisations against the “wrongful deaths by police” of Africans and West Indians. as well as African Americans, notably George Floyd. These include the recorded police killings of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo 1999, Bukinabé Ousmane Zongo 2003, and Jamaican American teen Ramarley Graham in 2012.
A third is to ditch oppressive immigration policies and anti-Muslim bans which also disproportionately affect Nigerians of that religion. “In the first 100 days of his presidency, President-elect Biden must roll-back the xenophobic policies that have put the lives of our beloved immigrant community at risk” as Congress member Jamaican Yvette Clark demands.
A fourth is to decisively combat the inter-connected pandemic, economic and climate threats to Africa and the Caribbean. And to repudiate President Trump’s insult to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “shithole countries”.
And five, to create a “clear path to citizenship and celebrate the cultural value and economic contributions immigrants make to American society” as Nigerian Oye Owolewa has declared.
With this challenging agenda, America’s Nigerians and West Indians – with their electorates, equality organisations, environmental and labour allies — can galvanise a forward-looking Democratic base. The goal? To Strengthen Black Communities and Rehab the Nation.
As Black communities in the World’s African Diaspora enters a new fluid state of strategic politics, the Chronicleworld.co.uk is a journal of significant thought and opinion on their achievements, problems and prospects. Founded in 1997, it provides a public service by Prof Thomas L Blair, a sociologist of public affairs.