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Lessons from Black Immigrant Women Advancing Community Success

Magazine, The Immigrant Experience, Clasp.org, By Hannah Liu

One in ten Black people in the United States is an immigrant. And nearly one in five is a child of an immigrant. But Black immigrants are too often overlooked in media and policy discourse and are often left out of important decision-making processes. As a result, challenges like language barriers and racism in the immigration system go unaddressed, and families must confront greater hurdles to economic security.

Community organizations like African Community Housing & Development (ACHD) in King County, Washington, are working hard to bridge the gap. Its leaders are developing solutions to help the area’s African Diaspora community thrive. The organization’s approach holds lessons for advocates and decision makers.

Black immigrant communities are a fast-growing and extremely diverse population. But despite having similar education rates to non-immigrants and participating in the labor force at a higher rate, Black immigrants face higher rates of poverty. The median income of Black immigrant households in the United States was $57,200 in 2019, much lower than the overall median income of $68,703. Black immigrants are also much less likely to own their homes than non-immigrants, preventing many families from building intergenerational wealth crucial to breaking cycles of poverty.

Hamdi Abdulle and Bilan Aden co-founded ACHD in 2019, after community members and elders came together to discuss what issues they were facing and brainstorm solutions together. From these conversations, they created a two-pronged approach to their work. The first is to address the immediate needs of the African Diaspora community through housing, education, and access to better paying jobs. The second is to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty through economic development, network building, and large-scale systems-change efforts. ACHD works to bring the over 40,000 African Diaspora immigrants and refugees who live in the Seattle area together by strengthening streams of information. As Ms. Abdulle says, “An informed community is a thriving community.”

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