Maryland’s largest African-American jurisdiction will officially pay homage to its residents’ ancestry for the first time in its history.
Amid the color flags, clothing and bagged lunches, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks proclaimed the month of September “African Heritage Month.”
“We have certainly been made richer and been made better off because of the many contributions of the African diaspora community,” she said Friday, Sept. 24 outside the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo.
“The African Immigrant: Representation, Identity and Diversity is a beautiful theme,” she said. “This is the first but next year we are truly going to blow the blacktop off this and other places.”
Alsobrooks established the county’s African Diaspora Advisory Board during her first year in office in 2019 to address the concerns, needs and interest of those who represent African immigrants.
The county now celebrates May 25 as “Africa Day” and Sept. 9 as “African Union Day” but Friday’s proclamation seeks to honor the country’s 45 ethnicities and more than 500 language dialects for an entire month.
C. Vincent Iweanoge of Bowie, who chairs the county’s diaspora advisory board, said logistics didn’t allow for a larger celebration to happen earlier this month. But the event Friday still attracted more than 100 people with dozens dressed in African garb.
“We have a lot of contributors . . . here in Prince George’s County,” said Iweanoge, principal director of Havit, Inc. in Northeast. “This is humongous. Once the census is done, it will show that people of African descent are here.”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 “American Community Survey” highlights county residents who are native Africans accounted for 55,376, or nearly 26%, of the 214,910 foreign-born residents.
Africans ranked second behind the 122,375 residents born in Latin America, according to the survey.
Several people who viewed the ceremony on Facebook Live! commented the month of September also commemorates National Hispanics Heritage Month. However, that monthly celebration began Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15.
According to the 2020 Census, the county’s African-American population accounted for nearly 579,000, or 67%, of the total 967,201 residents. Officials continue to calculate exactly how many residents are originally from Africa.
About 40% of small businesses in the county represent those owned by people of African descent including Swahili Village Bar and Grill in Beltsville, owned by Kevin Onyona for 15 years.
Thousands of residents like Remi Duyile of Upper Marlboro, who’s of Nigerian descent, serve on local and statewide groups. Duyile serves on the Governor’s Commission of African Affairs.
“It is the biggest deal in town right now to finally be able to recognize and dedicate a particular time to celebrate the history of who we are in the community,” said Duyile, who’s running for state delegate to represent District 23B.
Nicole Jessica Camara, 26, hopes a similar measure becomes declared in neighboring Anne Arundel County where she resides. Camara won the crown of Miss Guinea North America in 2019.
“Maryland is a state that brings people together from different communities,” she said. “It’s happening right now in Prince George’s County but it can definitely be extended to other counties.”