Reimagining Ourselves: The Power of Storytelling

This program happened live on our Facebook and Instagram pages on Monday, November 23rd, 2020 at 12:00 PM EST


Watch the full program here:




The Africa Center in partnership with Facebook’s Digital Diasporas Series presents a discussion about understanding why and in what ways Africans are reimagining what it means to be African in the Diaspora through storytelling.

The conversation will focus on how panelists have used their creative genius to create new narratives that center Africans in the Diaspora. It will highlight if and how digital platforms intersect with the creation of new narratives, Pan-Africanism, and transformative change for Africans around the world. The audience will gain insight into some of the tools and lessons learned from the professional journeys of the speakers and about the future they continue to imagine for Africans and people of African descent. The speakers for this program include author, Ishmael Beah and The Africa Center’s CEO and writer, Uzodinma Iweala. 

The discussion will be moderated by Facebook’s Head of Diaspora Public Policy, Semhar Araia.




ISHMAEL BEAH is the Sierra Leonean and American author of Radiance of Tomorrow, a novel and the memoir A Long Way Gone which was a #1 New York Times and international bestseller and has been published in over forty languages. The Washington post writes “Everyone should read this book…We should read it to learn about the world and about what it means to be human.”

His novel, written with the gentle lyricism of a dream and the moral clarity of a fable is a powerful book about preserving what means the most to us, even in uncertain times. Available in six foreign languages, the New York Times finds in his writing an “allegorical richness” and “remarkable humanity to his [Beah’s] characters”.

His third book, Little Family was published on April 28, 2020 by Riverhead Books. It is a profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt and marks the further blossoming of a unique global voice.

A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.


UZODINMA IWEALA is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor.

As the CEO of The Africa Center, he is dedicated to promoting a new narrative about Africa and is Diaspora. Uzodinma was the CEO, Editor-In-Chief, and co-Founder of Ventures Africa magazine, a publication that covers the evolving business, policy, culture, and innovation spaces in Africa.

His books include Beasts of No Nation, a novel released in 2005 to critical acclaim and adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria released in 2012; and Speak No Evil (2018), a novel about a queer first-generation Nigerian-American teen living in Washington, D.C. His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and The Paris Review among others.

Uzodinma was also the founding CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, an organization that promotes private sector investment in health services and health innovation in Nigeria. He sits on the boards of the Sundance Institute, The International Rescue Committee and the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group. 

A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Fellow of The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.




A trained lawyer, practitioner, and thought leader, Semhar serves as head of Diaspora Public Policy for the Facebook Africa, Middle East and Turkey (AMET) Public Policy team, where she provides guidance on the company’s policy priorities and opportunities for engagement with AMET diaspora stakeholders outside of the region. 

Semhar has provided technical expertise, capacity building and research support over 85 African, Asian, European and Arab diaspora communities, as well as to governments and organizations, focused on the role of diasporas in international development.  

Previously, she served as the lead for Diaspora Partnerships at UNICEF USA and as a diaspora technical advisor to USAID, the African Union, and the United Nations. She began as an attorney for the implementation of the 2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement and later served as a policy advisor at Oxfam International, The Elders, and the US House of Representatives.

Semhar is also the founder of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), a global network supporting African diaspora women focused on African affairs.  In 2012, she was recognized for her work by President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change and is also profiled as one of the five African-American individuals in the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s Next-Generation Voices exhibit.

Semhar received her juris doctor degree from Marquette University Law School and her bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Economics from the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in New York City.


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Event photo credit: Oladimeji Odunsi @Oladimeg

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