05 August 2005

Africa in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Nortwest has never been a prime destination for Africans and African-Americans. Statistics from 2000 show that even in urban Seattle, three-quarters of the population is white, and just 8.4 percent black. And the farther from Seattle you get, the paler the landscape.

Still, there's evidence that things are changing. A few weeks ago I met a recent immigrant to Olympia. Originally from Togo, Olowo-n’djo Tchala has settled quickly into his Northwest home, and along with his wife Rose runs a bustling business in soaps and lotions made largely from shea butter imported from Togo. Along with that and raising a family and various critters, they also collect, repair, and ship used bicycles back to Togo for kids to use to ride to school. Just one example of an African becoming part of the fabric of the increasingly multicultural Northwest.

The next census is five years away, but the Northwest, like the rest of the country, expects more immigrants and migrants, among them Africans. A curious side-effect is the conflict that can arise between Africans and African-Americans, as detailed in the cover story of the latest ColorsNW by Silja J.A. Talvi: Africans in America: The Changing Face of the Black Community. Some such friction may be inevitable, but in the long run a more diverse community is a stronger and more vibrant community. And that's where I, for one, want to live.

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