…When I told my mother about what I was doing, she told me something I will never forget: sometimes the simplest and best ideas are born out of frustration or desperation.
I wanted to write but I also needed and wanted to surround myself with like-minded people who would challenge me and feed my passion for writing about Africa and African communities.
This is my story. This is why the Association of African Journalists and Writers exists...
When I first arrived in New York City in 2007 fresh from a rigorous journalism graduate program, I came with big dreams and even bigger expectations.
I searched for veteran African journalists and writers who were passionately writing about African communities here and on the Continent. I found a few but soon after lose contact with them. Additionally, when I met a few journalists or writers, I assumed they knew each other since they all lived in the New York for years but I was always surprised (as someone coming from out of State) introducing journalists or writers who lived only 15 minutes away from each other.
Something else I noticed is that African writers and journalists (like any other profession or ethnic group) stayed in their own communities of ethnicity; language; or country origin. It wasn’t surprising to find a Ugandan or East African journalists and writers who only knew each other because they spoke English or were from a specific region. It also wasn’t surprising to find West African journalists or writers who were only familiar with others who only spoke their language or were fellow countrymen.
These were some of the obstacles I encountered as a journalist and writer coming to New York City trying to find other Africans in my field of work. There wasn’t one place or one organization that could connect me with this group of people. As a young woman coming out of journalism school, I felt like I needed that guidance but I wanted that guidance from culturally competent sources who understand why it is important to write about our narratives, in our own voices.
It was a bit disheartening as a freelance journalist and writer pitching stories to mainstream newspapers and having to explain to them why a particular story was important, especially when a specific policy was going to impact an African immigrant population in Harlem or the Bronx. The “who cares” factor was always there and I quickly became irritated.
These are the kinds of conversations I needed to talk with other African journalists and writers about and I knew others simply couldn’t grasp this because they weren’t from these African communities or rarely interacted with these communities enough to relate to my concerns.
So that’s my story. This is why AAJW exists…hopefully others who were searching for a community of like-minded people to build with, to find those partnerships, guidance and challenges that will inspire growth…and in turn translate into deeper understanding of our communities. That’s my story.
The Association of African Journalists and Writers (AAJW), a New York-based organization is a unified platform for African journalists to connect; network; collaborate; and promote better reporting and understanding of Africa and African communities living in North America.
AAJW is a platform for African journalists and writers: