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NEWS | Feb. 22, 2024

D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs delivers keynote during ‘Diversity of the Black Experience’

By Master Sgt. Arthur M. Wright D.C. National Guard

There are over 16,000 African immigrants living in Washington, and the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs is committed to ensuring there’s greater awareness and access to government programs and services in health, education, employment, safety, and business for economic and social development.

“We are mandated by the mayor to ensure equal access,” said Aly Kaba, executive director, D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs. “African residents through their educational achievement and entrepreneurial drive contribute significantly to the economic and social vitality of our city.”

Kaba stressed that for generations the African diaspora has left an indelible mark on the cultural mosaic of Washington and is a testament to the diversity of the city.

“Let us not only honor the legacy of the past but also commit to fostering an environment of equity and understanding for all. Let’s make this month a call for action, a moment for dialogue and a celebration of the limitless potential in the Black community in all its diversity,” he said.

Kaba called recognizing Black History Month indispensable and borderless, with narratives forged by “resilience, strength and triumph.” On Feb. 21, he served as keynote speaker during a program entitled “The Diversity of the Black Experience,” hosted by the District of Columbia National Guard Military Equal Opportunity/Equal Employment Opportunity (MEO/EEO) office and D.C. Government Operations/D.C. National Guard (DCGO-DCNG).

Tenants within the D.C. Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (MOAA) include:

- Organize a variety of awareness campaigns to ensure the District’s African community has access to local services and resources.

- Award funding to African community-based organizations whose programs provide culturally and/or linguistically targeted services and resources to the District’s African residents and businesses.

- Support the Office of Human Rights (OHR) and other entities to implement The Language Access Act of 2004 (LAA) by supporting African residents language access needs through data collection, outreach, quality control, recruitment, and cross-cultural communications training.

- Promote awareness of and appreciation for the District’s diverse African community by organizing cultural symposiums, commemorations, and exhibits to explore African identity, celebrate heritage, and support community building.

“The Mayor's Office on African Affairs promotes community engagement and opens up opportunities for collaboration and partnership,” said 1st Lt. Sherika A. Jenkins, State Equal Employment Manager, D.C. National Guard. “Having different stakeholders together brings diverse perspectives, informed decision-making, collaboration, ownership, risk mitigation, legitimacy, and adaptability.”

The program also included African dance performances by the Cultural Heritage Group, a West Africa Kola Nut Ceremony, educational displays, and a sampling of various cultural dishes provided by the TIS Foundation and the University of the District of Columbia Culinary Arts Program.

“This effort underlines the importance of staying connected to your heritage and that giving back helps bridge the gap on perceived differences,” said Jewel Douglas, Youth and Family Programs specialist, D.C. Government Operations-D.C. National Guard (DCGO-DCNG). “All of these groups and organizations are instrumental in providing our National Guard members an opportunity to immerse themselves in the Black experience.”

The program attended by uniformed service members and civilians emphasized dismantling monolithic thinking and diversity of the Black experience. The D.C. National Guard joins the Defense Department in recognizing the bravery and exceptional service of Black military and civilian personnel and celebrates the richness and diversity of their achievements during February and all year.

“Black history is American history, and we need to teach this consistently,” said Brig. Gen. Aaron R. Dean II, Adjutant General, D.C. National Guard. “There is no United States without recognizing these (collective) contributions—and that’s why we’re here today.”

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