The United States is home to a thriving African diaspora that has made important cultural, scientific and civic contributions.
As the United Nations on August 31 commemorates the first International Day for People of African Descent, we are featuring six members of that diaspora.
Kehinde Wiley (above), whose father is from Nigeria, is a New York City-based portrait painter who references 17th and 18th century portraiture to render African American subjects in contemporary settings. In 2017, Wiley became the first Black artist to paint the official portrait of a president when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery commissioned him to paint former President Barack Obama.
Somali American model Iman graced runways and magazine covers for decades, but she has also been an active philanthropist. She’s the first global advocate for CARE, a humanitarian and anti-poverty organization, and has worked with the nongovernmental organizations Children’s Defense Fund and Save the Children.
Nigerian American economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the seventh director-general of the World Trade Organization. She is also the first woman and first African to serve in the position since the organization was founded 26 years ago.
Farai Chideya, whose father is from Zimbabwe, is an American journalist, writer and radio host from Baltimore, Maryland. She has reported for NPR, ABC News and Newsweek magazine, in addition to being a distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute from 2012-2016.
Ethiopian American Gebisa Ejeta won the World Food Prize in 2009 for his research on making sorghum resilient to drought, extreme weather and diseases. A distinguished professor of plant breeding and genetics and international agriculture at Purdue University, Ejeta has also served as an adviser to several U.S. government agencies to address world hunger.
Amara La Negra — a Dominican American singer, actress and television show host — advocates for the inclusion of Afro-Latinx voices in the national and international entertainment industry. She has sparked conversation about colorism and pushed for a broader representation of the Black Caribbean and Latin American diaspora. “I have to use my voice to talk about Afro-Latinos because I feel like we’ve been ignored for so many years,” she told Allure magazine in 2018, “but mainly at the end of the day, my message is that you should never feel that you aren’t beautiful.”