The “Black and Born Outside” Program: A Deeper Analysis- Addy Levine


 I attended the program  “Black and Born Outside”, this event was organized by the Black at USD club. The speakers were USD students from different parts of Africa who shared their unique narratives. Although their experiences varied, they all shared similarities in encountering some form of racism within the African American community. This highlights how the view of Africa has been historically distorted, resulting in conflict even within the black community. By sharing their stories, they helped to break down stereotypes and promote a more positive understanding of the African immigrant experience. When we fail to understand the connection of African American history to these challenges faced by these students, the differences become apparent in challenges of culture shock, representation in the media, and family values.

The speakers in the program faced challenges with culture and racism. Asking for help was difficult due to the language barrier and America’s individualistic culture. Adjusting to a new community when coming to the United States for school was especially when back home, community responsibility was highly valued. Similar struggles were seen in chapter 4 of “Freedom on My Mind,” which describes the creation of African American culture and the blending of African traditions during the 18th century. In class, we discussed how African Americans would turn to newly enslaved Africans to be reminded of their culture. However, the students in the program shared different experiences, feeling judged rather than welcomed by the black community. One speaker was asked by a black peer if she lived in a hut and how she got water, revealing how Africa is often portrayed as inferior to America. Chapter 17 of “Freedom on My Mind” discusses the meaning of blackness and how it has changed, moving further away from black unity. The text states, “Yet in 2007 and 2010… only about 1/3 blamed racial discrimination as the reason blacks did not advance. This was an outstanding change from 1994, when a majority felt that racial discrimination held blacks back… more affluent, and better educated African-Americans…along with younger blacks, they were more likely to believe that blacks and whites had a lot in common, and that the black middle class and poor were growing apart”.(1026) Earlier this year, we discussed African American history and how it is taught in a way that encourages African American children born in America to disconnect from their identity and accept the status quo. Over time, the black narrative has been suppressed by Western teachings, leading to a loss of African culture in the black community. This shows how powerful negative racial ideologies can have in a society. Remembering African culture can help to counter the negative ideologies and biases that have historically been associated with Africa and its people. By celebrating their African heritage, African Americans can help to create a more accurate understanding of Africa and its people and promote greater unity and understanding within the black community.

The second obstacle each student had experienced were the negative effects of misrepresentation in the media. The students in the program shared that Africans never get the credit they deserve, whether in music, films, or news. Africa is still seen as a developing country and the media is only supporting this narrative. In the article “Media Representation of Africa: Still the same old story?”, both Mahadeo and McKinney look at the impacts of stereotypes and their role in the media. The media is a big part of our culture today, it constructs meaning on what’s going on in the world. When representation of Africa is very limited and generalized, this is very dangerous because it creates a single narrative.

An example given from the text was in the summer of 2005 when everyone’s focus was on ‘saving’ Africa. The text states, “Much has been written and analyzed on the theme of media images and the ‘Third World’, but it seems the media are, as David Cromwell and David Edwards claim (2005), “unable or unwilling to tell the truth about the real causes of the problems facing us”, especially the underlying structural causes. The controversies around media images and themes depicting how the ‘developing’ world is portrayed…With the cultural space opening up from the 1960s onwards, around representations of gender, ethnicity, and class, amongst others, the stage was set for questioning Third World imagery and its connotations in post-colonial times. The focus was on news reportage and charity with its “images of helplessness, dependency, and suffering…” (Mahadeo/McKinney, 14). By not giving Africans the credit they deserve and holding onto this old image of Africa, the media perpetuates negative stereotypes about Africa and its people. The media need to represent Africa and its people positively and accurately to counter these stereotypes. The program highlighted the importance of telling their own stories and sharing their own experiences to counter these negative stereotypes. They emphasized how a more diverse representation in the media gives Africans the credit they deserve and to create a more accurate and nuanced understanding of Africa and its people.

In addition to the challenges of culture shock and representation in the media, the speakers at the “Black and Born Outside” presentation also spoke about the challenge of missing family and different family values. For many of the speakers, seeing family was a struggle throughout the year and didn’t happen that often, especially the longer they stayed in America. This led to feelings of loneliness and disconnect from their home and culture. While they could always call their family and friends, it was never the same as being with them in person. The experience of being with family was missed out on, and they felt like they were a different person than when they left. This disconnection from family and culture can be particularly challenging for African immigrants, who often face barriers to accessing social support and services in the United States. The speakers emphasized the importance of staying connected to their families and communities, even from afar, and finding ways to maintain their cultural traditions and values. They also spoke about the need for greater support and resources for African immigrants, particularly around issues of mental health and social isolation. Overall, the “Black and Born Outside” program highlighted the complex experiences of African immigrants in the United States and the importance of creating greater understanding and support for this community.

In conclusion, the program covered a lot of challenges African immigrants face coming to the Americas. Without acknowledging these struggles, it can be difficult to fully understand and appreciate the experiences of African immigrants in the United States. The speakers at the “Black and Born Outside” program shared their personal stories and perspectives on these challenges, providing valuable insights into how immigration can impact individuals and communities. By sharing their stories, they helped to raise awareness about the unique experiences of African immigrants and the need for greater support and resources for this community. The program also emphasized the importance of celebrating the diversity and richness of African cultures and traditions and recognizing the contributions that African immigrants have made to American society. By acknowledging and valuing the experiences of African immigrants, we can help to create a more welcoming and inclusive society for all. Moving forward, working together to address the challenges faced by African immigrants, we can help to create a more equitable and just society for all. This includes advocating for policies that support immigrant communities, promoting cultural awareness and understanding, and investing in education and job training programs that help to build economic stability and opportunity. Ultimately, the success of African immigrants in the United States depends on our collective efforts to create a more inclusive and supportive society. 


Work cited 

Mahadeo, Michael, and Joe McKinney. “Media Representation of Africa: Still the Same Old Story?” Media Representations of Africa: Still the Same Old Story?, 

White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.

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