African Immigrants: 2023 and the Issues that Matter
African Immigrants: 2023 & the Issues that Matter will feature a discussion among key stakeholders from local officials to grassroots organizations working to support Black and African migrants in NYC. This program will focus on highlighting the experiences and narratives of Black migrants, New York City’s response to Black asylum seekers and the continued education, policy and advocacy work of organizations on the ground. Panelists include Robert Agyemang of African Communities Together; Melissa Johnson, New York Organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Haddy Gassama, UndocuBlack and Salim Drammeh with The Gambian Youth Organization. This conversation will be moderated by journalist Fisayo Okare.
Fisayo Okare is a Nigerian, and journalist with over five years of journalism experience. She is currently a Newsletter Writer for Documented, a non-profit news site devoted solely to covering New York City’s immigrants and the policies that affect their lives. At Documented, Fisayo writes the Early Arrival email newsletter, which many immigration professionals, including lawyers, advocates, and news reporters, read three times a week. Fisayo is a master’s graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and began her career in Nigeria, West Africa, where she worked with publications and ogranizations including Stears as a Financial Journalist; Yiaga Africa as a writer; and the Native Magazine in Lagos, where she first grew from an intern to a journalist and sub-editor. Fisayo has won awards including a scholarship from the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents. She earned a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Pan-Atlantic University, where she graduated with first class honors.
Robert Agyemang is the New York Director for African Communities Together (ACT). Robert previously served as Director of External Affairs for NYSAFAH working to advance pro-affordable housing policies and also served as Director of Communications for State Assembly member Rodneyse Bichotte, where his work raised the Assembly member’s public profile and helped her strengthen ties with constituents and key stakeholders across her Brooklyn district. He has also served as National Director of Governance for the Actors’ Equity Association and as Campaign Manager and strategist for several successful New York-based electoral campaigns. As Legislative Director for the CUNY University Student Senate (USS), Robert helped to restore the New York City Council Merit Scholarship, which awarded $11.1 million in scholarships to students entering CUNY. Robert received a Master of Arts in Political Science, Urban Policy and Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and his Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies, all from Brooklyn College. Robert is Ghanaian-American and a native of Brooklyn.
Melissa Johnson is a British-born Jamaican immigrant and a proud Brooklyn resident. Since childhood the inspirational lives of the Jamaican women in her family and her Caribbean community have shown Melissa the extraordinary embodiment of what it means to be an agent of change. Her life experiences have inspired her to pursue a career that advances racial and migrant justice, gender equality and youth development initiatives. For almost 10 years she has worked as a Program Development Specialist implementing, managing and facilitating direct-service, educational and empowerment programs servicing immigrant, undocumented and Black communities in NYC. Serving in leadership roles from Campaign Organizer for NYC Mayoral Campaigns to Program Director at a NY-based College Access nonprofit to Consular Officer for the Jamaican Consulate-NY, her work is centered on building programmatic missions, campaigns and community organizing to achieve innovative and deliverable solutions that advance justice and expand opportunities for Black and Black immigrant communities. Melissa holds a B.A in Women’s Studies and Sociology from Wheaton College and a M.A. in International Affairs from The New School. She is a recipient of the New York City Council, “Outstanding Service to City & Community” Non-Profit Leadership Award; a UN Global Summit, “3rd Annual Power of Collaboration, Women’s Leadership & Entrepreneurship” NGO Representative; a two-time participant in The Atlantic Magazine, “30 NYC Change Agents Summit” and “Drafting Democracy: NYC Change Agents” as an Education & Social Justice Representative and has most recently served as a Fund Advisor for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Immigrant Rights Fund. Migrating to New York’s Little Caribbean as a child, Melissa calls Flatlands, Canarsie and Flatbush her home.
Haddy Gassama is the National Director of Policy & Advocacy for the UndocuBlack Network. Haddy is from The Gambia and immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 with her family. She holds a Bachelors degree in Political Science, a Masters in International Affairs, and a Juris Doctor degree. Haddy is licensed to practice law in Washington D.C. She has years of experience in the fields of international human rights and immigration law and policy. She has previously worked at the National Immigrant Justice Center, where she advocated for policies that enhanced Congressional oversight on the immigration detention system. She also represented survivors of torture from Sub-Saharan African countries, in their asylum proceedings before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. When she is not doing advocacy work, Haddy is also an accomplished writer who has published several essays and articles on a range of topics including gender equity, international politics, and pop culture.
Salim Drammeh is a Gambian American, born and raised in the West /South Bronx, NY. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology Management and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Education. Salim has seen his fair share of failed systems while growing up in one of the most underserved communities in the country. Salim is inspired by the works of his immigrant parents, who tried their best to provide for him and his siblings, while trying to navigate a system foreign to them. Salim is currently a middle school teacher in The Bronx , and the President of the Gambian Youth Organization (GYO). Salim hopes that through his work he is able to tackle systemic inequities by empowering underserved communities, and the youth. Salim believes that through equity, accountability, and empowerment any community can pave their path to success.