New Documentary Explores Black Immigrant Identities And Changing Social Dynamics
Are black immigrants "African-Americans?"
WASHINGTON, DC--- With millions migrating from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to the United States over the last few decades, THE NEO-AFRICAN-AMERICANS explores how voluntary black immigration is transforming the "African-American" narrative.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports three million foreign-born blacks in America. With growing black immigrant populations; from Somalis in Minnesota, to Dominicans in New York, to Haitians in Miami, to Nigerians in Texas; the very term "African-American" has become contentious. Employers, schools and government agencies are debating how to classify black immigrants.
For the filmmaker, Kobina Aidoo, it is a much-needed debate: "We need to recognize and embrace the reality that though there are many ties that bind us, there is no universal black experience or expression. With those different experiences, come different perspectives on America."
Through interviews with social scientists, activists, and members of immigrant groups, THE NEO-AFRICAN-AMERICANS captures the major issues emerging from black immigration: ethnic labeling, education,culture, black-on-black tensions, and affirmative action, among others. Aidoo sees these issues play out in a variety of ways. He cites one example, saying "Take education: We hear a lot about the racial achievement gap, but when you isolate African immigrants, for instance, you see some surprising numbers. So how do we make effective policies to close the gap?"
Aidoo, a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, considers himself a public policy analyst with a camera. Also being a black immigrant himself, making the film was his way of exploring the broader effects of black immigration. Reflecting on what he's learned, Aidoo says, "the benefit of exploring this issue through a camera lens is that it captures emotions, reactions and conversations that academic research may not. So after many screenings, I have gained some key insights and I hope the film will inform research, policy debates and conversations."
Aidoo has been struck by the depth of emotions, rawness of passions and complexity of answershe has uncovered:One interviewee responded, "I'm more Haitian-American than African-American but more American than Haitian."
This hour-long documentary has been presented at more than 50 institutions nationwide in the last year, including the Library of Congress. Aidoo has incorporated the audience feedback, from Maine to Miami to Chicago to Los Angeles, in the current version, which will be available on DVD home video through Amazon.com beginning April 1, 2010. Institutions wishing to acquire the DVD can purchase it by going to:www.neoafricanamericans.com. For more information and to view the documentary's trailer, go to: www.neoafricanamericans.com. To receive a full preview copy, send your request to:firstname.lastname@example.org.