Mory Kouyate is the CEO of the African Immigrants’ Commission of NY & CT, Inc. He has initiated three years the African Heritage Month Parade and Festival. He answered our questions regarding the 3rd edition of the African Heritage Month Parade and Festival. Take a look to learn what he said.
This was the 3rd edition of the African Heritage Month Parade and Festival organized by African Immigrants’ Commission of New York, what was the singularity of the 3rd edition?
This year we zeroed in on the achievements and contributions of the African immigrant community to the American experiment. What do we bring to the table? What have we brought to the table as immigrants to this great country? The fact is we have contributed a lot to the economy. The African immigrant community among the most educated in the US. We are doctors, nurses, teachers, business leaders etc. We seize the opportunity that this country has to offer to make our lives better here and our families lives better back in our home countries.
Can you tell us in few words the meaning of African Heritage Month?
For many years we have taken the initiative to advocate for a month when we can celebrate our own heritage. Almost every other community has one. It is time that we have a month to celebrate our heritage, our arts and culture, our contributions and recognize our business leaders, young leaders anyone who has made community service their existence. African Heritage Month is a month of celebration. We also take advantage of it by educating everyone about our culture. We believe this is important because it show our elected officials that we are strong, organized and engaged.
What kind of activities have you organized this year regarding African Heritage Month Parade and Festival?
This year during our event, we had tradition artists, dancers’ drummers, hip-hop, great speakers and we had awards ceremony recognizing our business leaders, community leaders, young leaders, just people that have worked in the community and have made a difference.
How many people attended the event?
We had a good enough turn out to have a great event. We always work to have even a bigger turn out at our events.
Every year you reward some people by giving them citation. What are the criteria on which you focus on to select those people?
We usually observe people in our communities and outside all year and by the time of the event we ask the leaders to submit names of people they know deserve these honors. We usually focus on community service; how much work are you doing in the community at your capacity. For example, we honored a film maker named Roseline Gnapi from Ivory Coast. We have served her community and promoted the culture through her film making skills. We had to recognize that work.
There are many African Heritage Months in New York City. What is the difference between yours and the others?
We encourage other to mark African Heritage Month in their own way as they see fit. That is a great thing. We want as many events out there as possible to generate the interest of making it a national event eventually. The more event the better.
Why African communities cannot come together and organize one single and a big African Heritage Month Parade and Festival?
To me it is ok to have many events, as long as we all come together to support one and another. For example, it is great if the governor, the mayor and all the borough presidents did their own African Heritage Month events. We will come out to support all of them. We must support all the events. The aim is to make a lot of noise about this concept in order to have the effective result that we all seek, which is a national recognition of September as African Heritage Month.
The 3rd edition of the African Heritage Month Parade and Festival is gone. Do you already think about the 4th edition?
This event is not the only event that we do throughout the year, we also do many workshops such as immigration law, family law, financial literacy and social services. However, we have been already assessing how to make our next African Heritage Month event better and bigger next year. We will continue to do it as long as we have the time, the energy and funding to organize.
Do you have any message for the African community?
My only message is to always support one another and put aside our own personal interests and focus on the bigger interest of our community.