If any one word could sum up the 2020 election, it would probably be diversity. Around the country, up and down the ballot, we saw underrepresented communities step forward to represent themselves.
This election saw many firsts: First woman vice president, first Muslim Colorado state legislator. And among those first, across the country, were many African Immigrants elected to office.
Here in Colorado, our very own Naquetta Ricks made history as the first African Immigrant in Colorado’s General Assembly. After unsuccessful runs for CU regent and Aurora city council, the Liberian native has finally broken through the ceiling and claimed her seat in the state legislature. She is the first Liberian American elected to a state legislature anywhere in the country.
After her big win on election night, Ricks told a crowd of supporters “Together we can, and together we have to do it… please hold me accountable.”
In Wisconsin, Samba Baldeh a Gambian native became the first Black man to represent Dane County in the Wisconsin legislature, also making him the first Muslim to serve in that body. He told journalists “I hope my win is also an inspiration to particularly kids of color and Muslims to show them, ‘Look, we can do this. This is all our country and we should see it as such, and behave as such, and participate as such.”
In Minnesota, Esther Agbaje became the first Nigerian American elected to the state legislature. Esther ran on a progressive agenda and the belief that “together, we can build the inclusive and just society we deserve.”
The District of Columbia also elected the first Nigerian American to the U.S. Congress, Oye Owolewa. He made D.C.’s statehood his main focus during his successful campaign. He is now headed to the House of Representatives, where he will join Eritrean American Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado and Somali American Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Africa has the fastest-growing number of immigrants in the United States, according to a Quartz analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. The number of African immigrants grew at a rate of almost 50% from 2010 to 2018.
This growth in population must be reflected throughout society, including in media, politics, and every other major sector. It will not be easy, but it is possible and that has been proven by the groundbreaking figures listed above.