Effort Would Honor African Diaspora Community and Culture Every September
Today, the Virginia Senate passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) resolution (SJ 34) to establish September as Virginia African Diaspora Heritage Month.
The annual heritage month celebration would help to recognize and promote awareness of the cultural history of more than 115,000 Virginians of African Origin, one of the fastest growing communities in the commonwealth. Delegate Michelle E. Maldanado (D-Prince William) is carrying the House companion, HJ 133.
“Virginia’s African Diaspora community plays a critical role in our economy and neighborhoods across the commonwealth,” said Sen. McClellan. “Honoring September as African Diaspora Heritage Month will increase Virginians’ understanding of the African Diaspora community and its history. I’m proud to work with community leaders like the Virginia African Diaspora Committee to pass this resolution, and I look forward to passing it through the House.”
The resolution’s passage in the General Assembly comes after former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) released a proclamation in September 2021 to recognize the month as African Diaspora Month.
“From the first Angolans who landed at present-day Hampton in 1619 to the diaspora becoming the fastest growing population in the commonwealth, this legislation is a needed step toward acknowledging how Africans are an important part of Virginia’s story,” said Philomena Desmond of the Virginia African Diaspora Committee.
“Virginia’s past, present and future will always be intertwined with the African Diaspora and the contributions we make. Over 115,000 Virginians are a part of this community,” said Bo Machayo of the Virginia African Diaspora Committee. “The passage of this resolution by the Senate reaffirms not only our African identity, but our place here in the Commonwealth by celebrating our diverse culture, achievements, and economic strengths.”
“African immigrants and their families are essential to Virginia, whether it’s through our small businesses, international trade, or working as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and more,” said Kingsley Obaji of the US Africa Economic Alliance. “This resolution is a step toward recognizing the diaspora as an influential, educated, and vibrant community which helps make Virginia the best state for business.”
Across the country, African Diasporans are the fastest-growing population of immigrants in the United States, with the population of African immigrants growing at a rate of nearly 50% from 2010 to 2018. African Diaspora households also have contributed about $10.1 billion in federal taxes, $4.7 billion in state and local taxes, and spending power of more than $40.3 billion in 2015. In the Commonwealth, African Diaspora Virginians are small and medium business owners actively contributing to economic growth and job creation, generating over $205 million in international trade.