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2 Houston groups connect Blacks to African roots

The groups are trying to unite the African diaspora through shared rich history and accomplishments.

HOUSTON — KHOU 11 is sharing what connecting Black Houstonians to African roots looks like by profiling two organizations for the kick-off of Black History Month.

Both groups are trying to unite the African diaspora through shared rich history and accomplishments. Picture an NPR Tiny Desk concert set up where events and creative juices flow. Then there’s so much more to uncover once you walk further into a space that celebrates Black African history right here in Houston.

“This was the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah," said Society for Africans in the Diaspora Institute founder Adebowale Folorunsho. "Ghana was the first country that got its independence on the continent of Africa.” 

As for President Nkrumah’s U.S. connection, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. attended his inauguration in 1960.

The Society for Africans in the Diaspora Institute, also known as SAID, opened a Pan-African library on Westheimer in 2019. 

“Next to Nelson Mandela, you should know this as well, that's Fela Kuti,” Folorunsho said. "Otherwise known as the father of afro beats. We didn't put the names because we want to engage with people.” 

Unlike most exhibits that have your usual reading facts on a wall, SAID has none.

“When you put the name people start looking," Folorunsho said. "You know, this is not a museum. It's not a galleria. We want people to engage and learn here.”

Folorunsho said there is a history filled with hidden gems all over the library that you won't get anywhere else. 

“These books, you can't find them in Barnes and Noble. Some of these are collector's copies. Majority of our Black stories are told through the civil rights movement. And that's great because we stand on the shoulders of all these great people that fought for u," Folorunsho said. "But at the same time, our story exists before slavery, and this year the SAID passport pamphlet is making its return, with not only insightful information but trusted resources for people who want to travel to Africa for the first time.

SAID and Lindsay Gary team up to take people from Houston to the continent, Folorunsho said.

Another group looking to uplift the African diaspora by showcasing present-day community excellence is the Professional Association of Young Africans, also known as PAYA. They host a PAYA honors ball every year. 

“If you have any type of interest in Africa or any kind of connection or roots in Africa our goal is to unite our demographic,” said  PAYA founder Olamide Kayode.

Kayode started this group a decade ago. 

“We are doing a global digital platform," Kayode said. "An online digital membership where people will have the opportunity to come and learn and do transformational workshops.” 

Current and new members who join, who've never visited Africa will get to experience it, including other parts of the world on PAYA’s global world community tour kicking off this year. 

“We will be stopping by and doing this world tour doing these tour stops in different cities in order to meet, collaborate, give back, network,” Kayode said.

What SAID and PAYA share is a common goal to positively connect people to the African diaspora, whether that be right here in Houston or across the globe.

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