I, Too, Sing America

How black immigrants can shape the country's future.

U.S.-born and foreign-born blacks are increasingly working together to address genocide in Sudan, marred elections in Kenya, and political upheaval in Haiti, among other issues. Together they have pushed for increased international aid to fight famine and disease in poor, developing black countries; and they have pressed for increased U.S. diplomacy in Africa. With the help of the Congressional Black Caucus, they got an increase in the annual allotment of African immigrants allowed into the United States, and the backing of the U.S. military to force the return to power of Haiti’s first democratically elected president after he was ousted in a coup.

Black immigrants are becoming citizens at higher rates than in past decades. What they must do next is get involved, really involved, and parlay their new activism into political results. They should form political action committees, embrace the American adage that “money talks,” and hold fund-raisers for the candidates they support. They should attend political forums and invite candidates, or their representatives, to speak to their community groups. They should also get a fellow immigrant elected to Congress. For now, Sen. Barack Obama remains the closest symbol of one, and many black immigrants mistakenly believe he is an actual immigrant.

Above all, black immigrants should work diligently to ensure that their issues are addressed by politicians seeking black voter support, and in turn, to support those “black issues” that could ultimately benefit all of us, immigrant and native-born alike.

Marjorie Valbrun is a Washington, D.C. based journalist.