Grant will provide new forum for Africans in Michigan
African immigrants in Michigan often face cultural and language barriers that can make childrearing difficult, but a new Michigan State University program could help families better acclimate.
MSU’s African Studies Center will use a $15,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to launch Africa Together, which will promote cooperation, cohesion and solidarity among all Africans living in the state.
“Even highly professional African parents might not be fully attuned to the structure and functioning of the American school system, the expected manner of interacting with their children’s teachers, the calendar of required medical exams or the array of educational enrichment programs freely available,” said James Pritchett, director of MSU’s African Studies Center, which will facilitate the project.
“Our ultimate goal is to close the experiential gap between parents raised in Africa and their children growing up in America as part of our longstanding commitment to community outreach.”
The project’s team will determine specific needs by surveying African families in the Lansing area. But its initial assessment revealed cultural, health and educational challenges, such as low high school graduation rates and a lack of scholarships.
As a first step toward empowering the African community, Africa Together will host “Africa Day” from noon to 8 p.m. on Sept. 14 at Lake Lansing Park in Haslett. On Oct. 5, an “Africa Gala” will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hannah Center in East Lansing. Both activities will use grant funds.
The ultimate goal of Africa Together is the development of an African Community Center that will provide a range of services such as ESL classes for parents, tutorial services for students and seminars and training programs designed to encourage greater civic involvement in Africans’ newly adopted communities.
In the short-term, Africa Together has several objectives:
- Promote healthy lifestyles and good nutrition through garden projects and exercise
- Assist parents with communication skills through language and computer classes
- Increase high school graduation rates
- Develop businesses and foster entrepreneurship
- Ensure racial equality
- Encourage community and civic engagement
Community partners in the program include the Refugee Development Center; Women of Greater Lansing; Lansing Food Bank, which will provide garden materials; and Epicenter of Worship Church.