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In my own small neighborhood in Brooklyn there is global representation ranging from East Asia, to South America, to Eastern Europe and Africa. It is apparent is everything; businesses displaying signage in not one language, but five; the aromas that waft out from the many small eateries, the languages I hear spoken daily, some of them a splicing of two languages.
New York without any doubt, the most diverse place I have ever lived.
In a city with such a cultural melange, it is essential to promote the traditions of each, so that they do not get lost in the sometimes chaotic collection of so many people.
That is exactly what Shimite Obialo, founder of Anoko (which means ‘wealth’ in the Nigerian language of Igala), has done. Founded in 2016, Obialo’s mission has been to create a community for creatives and entrepreneurs of the African diaspora, which promotes friendship, networking, and mentorship.
Through the platform of Anoko, Obialo has promoted a plethora of African women in New York City. We, at Litro, want to help these women flourish through their distinct narratives.
Sewit Sium, an artisan and educator, has developed a business in which she utilizes her creativity and culture to craft historically referenced jewelry, each piece of which holds a powerful message. Sium believes in using craft as an educational tool, in order to create a connection to hers and others ancestral roots in Africa. She wants the African community in the United States to reconnect with their own cultural imagery and iconography that might have been lost.
“As a jewelry designer I’m interested in the animacy of objects. When my pieces are worn, they’re activated – that is, their story and felt sense of meaning are brought to life.”
Sium is not alone in promoting African female entrepreneurship. Dadé Akindude, model and educator, believes in embracing her beauty as an African woman in New York. She has developed a line of skin care products, Awomi Naturals, that is a mission-driven social enterprise. All of Akindude’s products are sourced from raw materials produced by women owned businesses in West Africa, specifically, in places where women might not have a lot of economic autonomy.
Along with Sium and Akindude, Natu Camara is employing her unique artistry to empower women and children of the African diaspora. A Guinean singer and songwriter, Camara’s. Music incorporates social and political issues. While her lyrics touch on a wide range of issues, the focus of her work is education. She is actively involved in education initiatives in Conakry, as well as, other parts of Guinea.
Her music embraces her cultural roots from the Ivory Coast and Guinea. She describes her sound as a combination of ‘Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, soul, Afro Funk, folk and pop’.
Tickets for her upcoming show on April 26th, at SOB’s in New York are available here.
All four of these queens are utilizing their talents to achieve a greater good. They, individually and as a community, are advocates for black women and girls in New York City, Africa and across the globe. Through education, entrepreneurship, and craft, they are strengthening the traditions and identities of the global African diaspora.
The work of these is women is leading toward the launch of Anoko house. With the goal of opening in 2020, here in New York, the co-working space will be designed to ‘nurture, promote, and celebrate people of the global African diaspora’.
As a New Yorker, I want to do all that I can to keep diversity alive in this wonderfully idiosyncratic city.