In 2003, my mother and siblings moved to the United States to unite with my father. Prior to coming to the States, we learned that America was a “different place.” We were informed that employers in the US did not care about foreign degrees and that most educated foreigners worked in positions well below their educational level, and this was no different for my father. My Dad, a Boston University, trained Sociologist, worked in a group home as a Direct Support Staff. Many days when my Dad returned home from work, we could see the disappointment in his face, and whenever he could, he would speak about how much he disliked his job.
As of 2016, African immigrants made up roughly 6% of the state of Minnesota’s total labor force (MN Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage). Today, more than 134,000 African immigrants now live in the state – a 103% increase from 2003 to 2017 – with the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul region (MSP) being home to the largest population of Minnesotans of African heritage. Read More
“AIPDC- A Movement Indeed” … By: Catherine Kennedy, October 6, 2019
It took a moment to drink in and absorb the magnitude of the work that AIPDC- African Immigrant Professional Development Conference was offering to the community sitting amidst the numerous professionals that where present for the event held at the Hennepin Community College on September 21, 2019. AIPDC is more than an event for African immigrants to network. AIPDC is a movement! It is about giving validation to the fact that humans are all created with innate potentials and with opportunities provided despite of cultural or systemic barriers they may face; they are capable of achieving their best.
In her early thirties, the co-founder of AIPDC Dr. Miata Getaweh is breaking barriers within her own Liberian community of which she is a descendant to become a doctorate degree holder. It is uncommon in the Liberian society to have a doctorate degree being this young! While she shy’s away from self-recognition due to the humility she exhibits in her characteristics as an individual, her educational achievement and work in bringing the community of African immigrants together via AIPDC has granted her this right to be announced. She stood for what she believed in, her passion and quest to change “the narratives of the African Immigrant community in Minnesota by creating opportunities for networking and professional development”. This was a focus of her dissertation during her doctoral studies in Business at Saint Mary’s University in 2018. Her passion in giving African Immigrant professional a voice is a huge component of why AIPDC came into existence.
The goal of AIPDC is to “provides training and networking opportunities for African Immigrants”. The
event was the second of its kind that has been successfully organized by the event’s planners. The first was held in 2018 with 150 attendees per their website. This years’ 2019 may have surpassed that! The theme of this year’s event was “Be Bold: Move Up and Reach Your Full Potential” with keynote speaker being Teddy Bekele the Chief Technology officer at Land O’Lakes. In his deliberation, he shared his story, lessons he learned along the way, challenges he faced as an immigrant professional and key messages he wanted the audience to depart with from his presentation. In summary of his presentation he shared about being ridiculed as a child for being different in how he spoke and the clothing he wore. As an adult how he faced challenges of microaggressions within the work place and give examples of how he navigated these circumstances by working twice as hard to stand out above his peers as well as alleviating possible assumptions that would stir internal conflict in working with others. He kept an openmind about the changes and opportunities that came his way which forged his path to his current
position at Land O’Lakes. Amongst other things happening during the event were breakout sessions were groups gathered in assigned room with qualified speakers in their specialties teaching and talking about how to “build your personal brand, leverage your network, move out of the shadows” and “ask the experts” as African immigrants navigating the professional systems of Minnesota. At the end there was a panel discussion of professionals that shared their own stories of how they made it to the top of their profession. In addition to all of these, there were vendors that had tables promoting their own businesses and works within the community. Not forgetting, the item that brings people together socially, the food was provided free! Great Eastern African food that basked the occasion with the dominant smell of curry, onions and unique flavors left the participants standing in line for seconds.
To the sponsors and everyone that contributed to making the event possible, you are ensuring that the voices of African immigrants are heard. You are supporting a safe space for dialogues about the success stories and traumatic experiences African immigrant face in climbing the ladder to success within this western society. You recognize the contributions that educated African immigrants make to weaving the fabric of Minnesota. Without the African Immigrant professionals living and working in this State, the cultural diversity and seemingly path to accepting others despite of their race or ethnicity would not be bridged.
As a community, we are looking forward to what AIPDC will grow into and what it has for us in 2020.
AIPDC is definitely engaging and an informative educational networking movement that has immense potentials. This all came together because an African immigrant women Dr. Maita Getaweh saw a vision and pursued its realization!