Posted on December 13, 2004

Bridging A Gap In Understanding In Harlem

Petra Cahill, MSNBC, Dec. 10

NEW YORK — Daba Diakhate talked about her life as an African immigrant in Harlem.

“They used to throw rocks at me, they used to throw sticks at me. They used to try to jump me,” the 17-year-old said. “One time they tried to take my sneakers, but they realized they weren’t name-brand, so they were like, ‘Here, take your Payless sneakers,’” she said, to the jeers and laughter of her fellow students at the Umoja Media Project, a gathering of of black Americans and African and Caribbean immigrants.

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The children of recent African immigrants are often picked on at school because they are seen as different from their classmates. They are made fun of because they speak with a different accent, have darker skin, wear different clothes, and are told that Africans smell.

Nassou Camara, a 15-year-old 10th-grader whose parents hail from Senegal and the Gambia, told a story about what happened to her one day when she wore a necklace with a charm in the shape of the African continent around her neck. Another student said to her rhetorically, “You’re not going to bring no disease here, right?”

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