19 Individuals, Organizations, and Moments That Stood Out In 2019 Among Kenyans In American Diaspora

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When defined, the Greek word Diaspora means “scatter.”

There is no denying that Kenyans living abroad are a scattered seed. Kenya-the motherland-is the farmer and every year she gets a bountiful harvest from the seeds spread out world over.

The US Census Bureau estimates that there are 150,000 Kenyans living in America. The amount of remittance sent back home by this demographic continues to soar every month. In fact, Kenyans in America send more money to Kenya than all the other regions combined.

In 2019, Kenyans in America continued to shine in various fields.  There are also Kenyan-owned companies and organizations that left an indelible imprint in the mental sheets of many.

This is the African Warrior Magazine list of individuals, organizations, and moments that shaped conversations in America Diaspora in 2019.

  1. Jean Ayacko.

When Jean Ayacko left Kenya at the age of 18, she was positive that she wanted to begin her adult life in America. She had attended Sony Primary School and had concluded her secondary education by graduating from The Kenya High School.

In America, Ms. Ayacko works a full-time job, and also serves an administrator for KWITU-an organization that brings together Kenyan women living in America.

Ms. Ayacko has made a good life for herself in America. She is also one of the most astute and prolific show hosts in Diaspora America. The show, which runs on her social media platform, is highly regarded by many because it informs, educates, and entertains not only Kenyans in America Diaspora, but in other parts of the world as well.

 

2. J.S. Ondara

When J.S Ondara migrated to America from Kenya in 2013, he didn’t know how to play a guitar. That did not stop him from having dreams of one day being mentioned in the same breath with Bob Dylan.

Fast forward to two years ago, Ondara, using the moniker Jay Smart performed in-front of a modest crowd. Since then, it has been an upward climb for Ondara and America has been taking notice of an emerging superstar.

This year, Ondara received nomination for the 2020 Grammys, where he will compete against Keb’ Mo’, Yola, Mason Cunningham and Calexico and Iron & Wine in the coveted Americana category.

3. African Coffee Club

There is no doubt Americans love coffee. In an article posted by Huff post, the United States imports more than $4 billion dollars’ worth of coffee each year. This is because Americans consume 400 million cups of Coffee every day, which translates to 146 billion cups of coffee every year.

African Coffee Club Coffee Safari

African coffee club, which is Kenyan co-owned, was established in April and offers coffers lovers in America a unique opportunity to experiment an African coffee safari. Each month subscribers get a taste of coffee from a different African coffee growing region.

African Coffee Club have positioned themselves as the near-perfect tour guide to the amazing continent of Africa.

4. Wanjiku Gatheru

Wanjiku (Wawa) Gatheru was among 32 people in America elected to the American Rhodes Scholar Class of 2020 to continue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford in England.

Wanjiku’s academic and service endeavors had been widely recognized before the Rhodes Scholar announcement. She was a 2019 Truman Scholar and a 2019 Udall Scholar, the first student in UConn’s history to win those illustrious honors in the same year. She has also received several other prominent plaudits during her time as a UConn student, including the McCullough Leadership award, the University’s highest student leadership award.

5. Hodgen Mainda

Born in Nairobi Kenya where he attended St. Mary’s standard 1-4, St. Mary’s Mosocho standard 5-8, and then Mang’u High School, Hodgen Mainda immigrated from Kenya to America in 1997.

In September, he became the first Kenyan to hold the office of Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance.

In an interview with African Warrior Magazine earlier this year, Mr. Mainda noted:

“I have always had the mentality of “make the best of every experience and work hard.” Working hard and making an impact wherever you are because you never know where that will lead you.”

Read More: Hodgen Mainda’s Journey From Kenya To The Tennessee Cabinet, And His Hopes For Collaboration With Kenya County Governments

6. The Kenyans In America We Lost.

2019 was a sad year for many Kenyans in America and their families in Kenya had to contend with losing loved ones in a far away land.

Norah Borus Chelagat, a computer science student at Stanford University who ran a coding camp for youth in her native Kenya committed suicide according to the Santa Clara Medical Examiner’s Office.

Mid this year, Kenyans in Southern California turned up in large numbers to pay their last respect to 6 year old Arianna who died on Independence day from accidental choking.

Ariana

In April, Bonventure Alfred Ng’ang’a Gitau, 35, drowned in the lake when an inflatable kayak that he was travelling in capsized.

Conrad Mwoshi Natse, 36, had been in the US for two years pursuing nursing at Medical Career Center in Waltham, Massachusetts and was found dead in his house.

Chris Masakah, 35, a US Marine, died in Arizona where he was on holiday with his family. Media reports that Chris drowned while rescuing a young girl of Canadian descent from suffocating in water.

Alex Oyombe Gradin, a student at Lane Community College, was shot and killed in a parking lot behind Taylor’s Bar and Grill in the early hours of May 4, according to the Eugene Police Department. He was 21 years old.

7. Ramogi Huma

In 2015, Ramogi Huma, whose father is Kenyan, was named by Time Magazine as one of the 12 new faces of black leadership in the US., Huma was recognized for his role in building public support and achieving historic gains for college athletes.

Ramogi Huma

In early 2014, Huma led the effort to unionize Northwestern University football players. A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that players indeed function as school employees and deserve a seat at the bargaining table. A few months later, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) board gave major conferences autonomy to offer players stipends.

“None of this happens without Ramogi,” says Tim Waters, national political director of the United Steelworkers union, which has helped fund Huma’s efforts.

This year, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner that taps on Ramogi’s work, which will force the (NCAA) to allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses.

8. Kenya America Diaspora Class of 70’, 80’, 90’s Re-union

In September, nearly 200 Kenyans who migrated to America in the 70s, 80s and 90s gathered in Bakersfield, California last Saturday for a grand reunion, a first of its kind among Kenyans living in Diaspora America.

Those in attendance originally settled in California upon arrival in America, but some of them later dispersed to other states.  Attendees were mostly from the States of California and Washington, and had not seen each other for many years.

Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o, in his keynote speech encapsulated the significance of Africa’s diverse languages, emphasizing that Africa’s linguistic capabilities are the foundation of the continent’s strength and value in the world.

9. KWITU Re-union

In August, over 500 women drawn from across the United States of America attended the 2019 KWITU reunion.

Kwitu Re-union

KWITU is a non-governmental organization established in 2015 to connect, empower and support Kenyan Women Living in the USA.

The founder and president of KWITU, Lilly Richards, told African Warrior Magazine that the organization she leads is perfectly morphing into one that provides a support system for Kenyan women who buy into the vision of empowerment.

10. Anah Ambuchi

Anah was awarded the Inaugural Rising Star Award for her short film “Made in His Image” at the Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase in France.

Anah Ambuchi, just 12 years old, is an accomplished writer, producer, director, model, and dancer in Chicago.

The movie is her debut and comes four years since she enrolled at Kids W.A.Y Acting Academy, where she trained under nationally acclaimed acting coach Jossie Harris Thacker, who would later become an executive producer and co-director for Ambuchi’s short film.

11. Halima Aden

Kenyan born US-bred model Halima Aden has re-wrote history by becoming the first ever model to grace the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue wearing a hijab and burkini.

The Somali-American model was born at Kakuma refugee camp and relocated to the USA at the age of 7 where she grew up in St Louise and Minnesota.

At the age of 19, Halima became the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant and she made it to the semi-finals. After that, her modelling career opened up.

The 21-year-old model and the magazine had to travel all the way to Kenya for the shoot to get her as comfortable as possible and make it nostalgic. The shoot took place in Watamu Beach

12. Adios Las Vegas Sevens

This year, it was announced that the American circuit of IRB series will no longer be held in Las Vegas.

Welcome to Los Angeles!

The 2020 American leg of the Rugby sevens will be held in Los Angeles, USA from 29th February to 1st March

Las Vegas has been one of the most popular tournaments on the Sevens World Series. The 2016 tournament was broadcast on NBC and its sports networks and is reported to have reached national and international audiences to over 400 million homes and 147 countries.

13. The 6 Billion Extradition Case

Early this year, a Kenyan who worked as an accounting manager was accused of embezzling more than $36 million from a Los Angeles media technology services firm. He escaped to Costa Rica, but was extradited to Los Angeles to face charges

14. Charles Mwangi

Kenyan-born Charles Mwangi, who has been working at Tesla for over six years, early this year announced he was leaving the company. He was the senior engineering director.

Mwangi announced he is teaming up with Shen Jackson, another longtime Tesla manufacturing executive at a startup. Jackson spent seven years at Tesla and was the director of manufacturing engineering.

15. Ken Opalo

Ken Opalo is an assistant professor at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service and a nonresident fellow in Security and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings

His research interests include the political economy of development in Africa, elections and democracy consolidation, and sub-national governance in Kenya. This year, his book “Legislative Development in Africa: Politics and Post-Colonial Legacies” went on sale and offers an opportunity for Kenyans and other Africans in Diaspora to better understand some of  the socio-economic challenges bedeviling the motherland.

16. Martin Mburu

Martin Mburu, a Kenyan immigrant in the United States, has been voted the 2019 district teacher of the year in Clarendon School District 1, South Carolina.

Mr. Mburu employs green screen technology, animation, flipped classroom, 3D technology, podcasting, computer programming, virtual reality, and music videos to build a relationship with his students.

 

17. Graduating Class of 2019

Every year, thousands of Kenyans immigrate to the United States of America, the proverbial land of opportunities.

While there is no singular reason that ties all immigration stories- evidently, a unique fact about Kenyans in America Diaspora is that they are highly educated when compared with other immigrant groups in America.

This year, thousands of Kenyans graduated from various institutions in America in different and diverse fields.

A highlight reel of some of the Kenyans who received their powers to read!

18. Mwakilishi

If there is a Kenyan Diaspora owned media outlet that has been consistent in informing Kenyans about the goings on back home, it has to be Mwakilishi.

19. Happily Ever After

There were many Kenyans in American Diaspora who found love, and got married in the year. African Warrior Magazine wishes all the newly weds all the best in the new calling.

African Warrior Magazine graced the nuptials of Ruth and Dennis earlier this year and as we celebrate this couple, this is a reminder that there is love in America. For the single ladies and guys, go find it.

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