African Affairs Advisory Group

African Heritage Month September  2018 - link to report

The advisory group meets on the second Thursday of every month at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The AAAG has exceeded its goals every year. The African Affairs Advisory Group serves as liaison between the African communities and the County government. The purpose of the African Affairs Advisory Group is to ensure that the County Executive is well informed of and able to act effectively to respond to the needs and concerns of African immigrants living/and or working in Montgomery County. The Advisory Group is comprised of a chair and vice chair who are designated by and serve at the pleasure of the County Executive and approximately 30 political, religious, and other leaders in the African community. The Advisory Group’s primary tasks include: advise the County government on the needs and concerns of African immigrants in Montgomery County, including but not limited to policy initiatives, budget priorities, economic and other partnership opportunities, and help County agencies with access for the implementation of programs; reach out to the African immigrant community in Montgomery County to bring their needs and concerns to the attention of the County government and to inform them of County programs and resources; identify opportunities for increasing the cultural competence of the County government workforce to better serve African immigrants in the County; identify opportunities for increasing the capacity of nonprofit organizations and faith communities serving African immigrants in the County; and identify opportunities for collaboration of public, community, and private organizations to better serve the County's African immigrant community.

Advisory Group Members
Advisory Group Recommendations to the County Executive - Fiscal Year 2016 (DOC)
Staff Liaison

 African Affairs Advisory Group 2018

African Affairs Advisory Group 2018

Advisory Group Members 2018
Chair: Omega Tawonezvi
Co-Vice Chairs: Ermiyas Mengesha & Rashida Bright
Committee Co-Chairs:
1. Economic Development Working Group:  Mensah Adjogah & James Alexander
2. Health Working Group: Harriet Shangarai & Opening
3. Education Working Group: Solomon Teklai & Soffie Ceesay
4. Culture Working Group: Fatmata Barrie & Omega Tawonezvi
5.Outreach Working Group: Kennedy Odzafi, Opening
6. Sister Cities: Yasin Yimam & Tracy Dixon
Past Designated Chairs and Co-Chairs:
Mumin Barre, Somalia                         Soffie Ceesay, The Gambia
Remi Duyile, Nigeria                           Ivo Tasong, Cameroon
Josephine Garnem, Sierra Leone       Kennedy Odzafi, Ghana
Solomon Ayele, Ethiopia                    Elias Woldu, Ethiopia
Fatmata Barrie, Sierra Leone             Harriet Shangarai, Tanzania

For additional information follow African Affairs Advisory Group on Social Media @Africanaag


African Affairs Advisory Group photo

aaag photo 2015

aaag photo 2015

One way that the Montgomery County Government honors individuals, residents, movements, groups and organizations in the county is through celebrating, respecting and embracing their diverse heritage. For the many meaningful contributions made by the African immigrant community of Montgomery County, September 2018 was proclaimMONTGOMERY COUNTY CELEBRATES AFRICAN HERITAGE MONTH
ed by County Executive Isiah Leggett as African Heritage Month. Montgomery County’s African Affairs Advisory Group (AAAG) organized a Proclamation event on September 6th to recognize this important recognition. Most importantly, 2018 marked the 10th anniversary of the African Affairs Advisory Group. This year’s Proclamation event saw participants from various government and non-government organizations. The theme for the program was “The Status of African Immigrant Health”.
African American Heritage Month photoThe theme was chosen to highlight ongoing health care challenges faced by continental African immigrants, specifically diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer and mental health. Since most African immigrants are sometimes collectively grouped with other groups, their unique socioeconomic, health and cultural issues are sometimes not recognized or adequately addressed. Other challenges to African immigrant health range from a reluctance to seek care, suspicion of the health care system, language and health insurance barriers and stigma to lack of education about illnesses and availability of resources.  The first half of the program featured a panel of distinguished experts discussing these issues as well as answering questions from the audience. The second half focused on the reading of the Proclamation by the County Executive, an award and recognition ceremony of community leaders making positive change, and the presentation of the newly elected AAAG executive staff.
The Welcome Address was given by Omega Tawonezvi, 2017 Chairperson for the AAAG and Josephine Garnem, Liaison from the Office of Community Partnerships Montgomery County. This was followed by the panel discussion on the Health of the African Immigrant. Ray Bridgewater, President and CEO at Assembly of Petworth started of the discussion with education about Prostate Cancer, and presentation on the epidemiology, causes, risk factors, primary and secondary prevention, management, treatment and available resources for the most common cancers in the African Immigrant population.
Dr. Sombo Pujeh Fiakpo, discussed research on HIV/AIDS within the African immigrant population. She mentioned that Maryland is 5th among the 10 most prevalent HIV/AIDS rate in the country. She discussed its prevalence in men especially MSM in the African communities, the treatment gap and available resources.
Dr. Rachel Singer, Clinical Psychologist discussed psychological issues among the African communities and the stigma associated with them. She mentioned a number of psychological illnesses such as depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse. which was prevalent in these African communities. Furthermore, she discussed the deleterious effects of stigma on preventing individuals from seeking treatment.
Dr. Odeylia Kraybill, Expressive Trauma Therapist used her time to discuss trauma and mental health among African Immigrants. She hit upon points of refugee trauma, hidden traumas from emigration among the African communities and their effects on mental health.
Dr. Akua Asare-Danso, psychiatrist, elaborated on diabetes and hypertension among the African immigrant community. She highlighted the trends of prevalence, lifestyle changes of emigration that increase risk of acquiring these illnesses and the need to actively engage with one’s health through education and accessing available health resources.
The panel members mentioned various county resources available to immigrants that can help mitigate these health issues among African Immigrants.
Other submissions and questions were given by the audience including faith-based leaders who were ready to collaborate with the African Affairs Advisory Board to help in education and awareness creation among the people. Audience members who were engaged in community outreach also mentioned the interventions they are taking within the communities to help through outreach programs, guidance and counselling and appropriate referrals to community resources especially the Montgomery county.
Some of the highlighted points from the first half of the program compiled by Emmanuel Kofi Danso are as follows:

  1. African immigrants should avail themselves of the many and varied resources in the county in order to take charge of their own health,
  2. African immigrants can learn to demand more from their leaders wherever there is a gap in care there,
  3. African immigrants can learn to embrace the full spectrum of tools available in the continuum of cancer and mental health care including research,
  4. Africans do not participate in research therefore are not fully represented when policies are made and funding is allocated. The inclusion of African immigrants in health research and the need to disaggregate data, identifying Africans separate and apart from African Americans is necessary,
  5. African immigrants can work very closely with community, grassroots organizations within their population to help broaden their reach within the county.

The second half of the program started with the National Anthem from Linda Dogbe. Montgomery County Executive, Ike Leggett, was invited to read and announce the Proclamation. He, along with the AAAG executive, presented a variety of awards to outstanding community members within the DC, Maryland, Virginia African community. Lastly, the new leadership for the African Affairs Advisory Group was inaugurated and introduced. This was followed by professional pictures and a Refreshment and Networking session.