United African Organization

UAO aims to serve as the African Community Resource Clearinghouse wherein constituents gather, access information, share experiences, exchange views, and coordinate organizational capacity development. UAO's hub of resources on this website is intended to assist community members in navigating services, programs and resources that are available to help them cope better in the United States.

Blues for Water II: A Concert featuring singer/pianist Johari Jabir

October 1, 2014NancyBlog, Editorial Nook


Blues for Water II: A Concert to Raise Awareness of the Global Water Crisis featuring singer/pianist Johari Jabir. 

Date/Time: Sunday, October 19, 2014 at 4:30pm 

Location: Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church, 600 E. 35th Street, (corner of 35th and Cottage Grove) 

Admission is Free. A free will offering will be taken in support of the following organizations:         

  • Friends of the Earth Middle East, a collaborative effort between Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists.

  • Faith in Place, a local ecumenical faith based environmental organization.

  • United Africans Organization, a community-based coalition of African organizations in support of social and economic justice for African refugees in Illinois and Africans on the continent.                               

Contact: Johari Jabir, (312) 852-5013 or jjabir@uic.edu              Sixth Grace Church, (312) 225-5300 

On Sunday, October 19 at 4:30pm at Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church, singer/pianist Johari Jabir will present a concert to raise awareness of the global water crisis. Johari is an artist, scholar and teacher. He is the accompanist at Sixth Grace Church, and he is also an assistant professor in the department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago where he teaches courses in 19th/20th century black cultural studies, religious studies, and the history of black music.

A singer, pianist, composer, and choral conductor, Jabir is both a classically trained musician and a musical artist trained in the gospel blues tradition of St. Louis, Missouri where he was born and raised. Johari will present an afternoon of love songs, protest songs, and gospel blues. His renditions of love songs are reminiscent of the Platters; he sings gospel music in the crooning style of Sam Cooke; and he writes and performs protest songs in the tradition of Nina Simone. La Vonzelle Paige, Vocalist and Music Director at Sixth Grace Church will perform on the program. A small rhythm section will accompany Jabir, and he will render some duets with the soulful Chicago cellist Khahari Lemuel. The concert will feature new arrangements by Jabir such as his Suite Lament, which he describes as a “serenade of comfort to black mothers who have lost children to violence.” He will also render a group of spirituals and gospels he calls, Afrikans at the Jordan that celebrate the Jordan as a trope in black culture.

Jabir will repeat the finale from his previous “Blues for Water” concert of 2013 with his rousing rendition of the spiritual “Amen!: In Tribute of Freedom Fighters.”

Two Outstanding Persons & Group to be Honored at African Unity Gala & Awards Benefit, 9/20

September 5, 2014NancyBlog
Press Release                                                                 CONTACT:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                           Nancy Asirifi-Otchere (312) 949-9980
Aug. 25, 2014                                                                   gala@uniteafricans.org


An African group based in Illinois and two outstanding individuals will be honored at this year’s African Unity Gala & Awards benefit on Saturday, September 20th. The event will take place at the IIT Tower Building, Illinois Institute of Technology, 10 W. 35th Street, between 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Hosted by the United African Organization (UAO), the honorees are the Ethiopian Community Association, Distinguished Community Service Award; Dr. Edwin Silverman, Ubuntu Leadership Award; and Kodjo Akakpo, Community Volunteer Award.

“We seek to recognize them for their immense contributions toward the development of our community through the use of their talents and skills, sacrificing their time, and generously supporting our mission,” said Dr. Alie-Kabba, UAO’s executive director. “We hope that by recognizing them, others will also be inspired to give back to the community.”

Dr. Kabba appeals to all to attend the benefit or support it, as an expression of support for the mission of the United African Organization. 

Side attractions at the benefit will include a silent auction and a raffle. The gala will feature renowned performance by Fehinty African Theatre Ensemble depicting African culture and identity based on the work of Zimbabwean author, J. Nozipo Mariare’s Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter.

Tickets for the event are: $75 person and $30 for students with valid student ID.

The United African Organization is a dynamic coalition of African community-based organizations that promotes social and economic justice, civic participation, and empowerment of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois.
For more information about the African Unity Gala & Awards  or to serve as a volunteer, contact Nancy Asirifi-Otchere at (312) 949 – 9980, or visit www.uniteafricans.org. E-mail is gala@uniteafricans.org.
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Fighting the System: Medicaid Applicants Left in the Dark

August 12, 2014NancyBlog

The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has been flooding the news. While the Hobby Lobby debate continues on social media, it is a conversation limited to a particular population – those with health insurance and those who understand the healthcare system. During my time as an intern at United African Organization (UAO), it has become apparent to me that there is a serious blind spot in the current administration of healthcare coverage. The African immigrant community is struggling to receive the health insurance they have applied for.

During my short two months at UAO, I was given the responsibility of following-up with the healthcare clients.  Now, I have to be honest.  At first, this seemed like a very mundane task of constant phone calling, but as I spoke with the clients I became incredibly engaged.  I was shocked by the number of people who applied for Medicaid in January and have yet to receive any notification from the Department of Human Services.  I want to strip away the idea that they were passively waiting for a response.  Many of the individuals who were comfortable with their English were visiting and calling local offices; all to no avail.  What I came across during these short phone calls was a cathartic release of pent-up frustration with a system that seemed to be working against them.  The helplines were a maze of menus and button pressing, and none of them offered a French-speaking line.  Denial letters were blunt and lead clients through similar dead-end helplines.  Some clients have waited months for a promised callback only to be left in the dark.

So, this was my daunting task, to learn what was happening with these 6-month-old applications.  Like the clients I was supporting, I began to dial the same help lines.  With my native-English fluency I did not feel I was capable of navigating the system.  Each local office and larger administrative offices all had their own phone numbers.  It took research to even learn what number I should be calling.  If I did stumble across the correct line, I had to wait a minimum of 15 minutes to speak with someone.  Being just an intern, I was not qualified to learn any of the information I was calling for, which was disheartening.  After a couple weeks I reached sympathetic hearts, or maybe people who followed different privacy regulations.  And after months of waiting, I was able to tell the clients that something is happening.  I still don’t know how long their applications will take or if there are missing information, all I know is the location-South Loop Office, Uptown Office, All Kids Bureau, etc.

Out of the 29 families who applied for Medicaid in January with the help of UAO, only 8 had been enrolled.  The other 21 had heard no word from the Department of Human Services (DHS).  While the backlog is a huge barrier for DHS, the lack of communication with applicants is disheartening.  The silence pushes people away from the healthcare system, putting them at risk. National healthcare is a goal that should be reached for the United States; however, the local administration of the system needs to first be accessible to its clients.  In the meantime, organizations like UAO work hard every day to ensure the needs of their clients are being met.

Written by by Tamara Meyerhoff – 2014 Summer Intern

Volunteering at our Citizenship Workshop.

August 7, 2014Alie KabbaBlog

“I really had a wonderful Saturday[…]I enjoyed figuring out the passport pictures station and trying my hand at the N-400. It’s really amazing what can be accomplished for these people with that support.” – Mary

This past Saturday, while most of my friends were still sleeping, I was catching the Red Line from the suburbs to Truman College on Chicago’s North side. Once a month United African Organization (UAO), in partnership with other immigrant organizations across the city of Chicago, runs a completely free citizenship workshop for Permanent Residents interested in applying for Naturalized US citizenship. I was lucky enough to attend one.

At 8am we rearranged the Truman College cafeteria into easy-to-follow color-coded stations, red, yellow, blue, and green. After a delicious breakfast of donuts, bagels, and coffee, I took my position at a blue table and prepared to help eligible clients tackle the newly adapted N-400 naturalization application. One by one people filed into the cafeteria and sat down with our attorneys to discuss their eligibility for naturalization. After a few minutes or so those who had been approved were sent to me and nine other volunteers to tackle the remaining paperwork. Over the course of roughly three hours the other volunteers and I had the opportunity to help people from all over the world begin the process of obtaining their own American Dream.

At first the responsibility was nerve-racking, but as the day went on I became more and more comfortable with the paperwork, and as result began to really understand just how much impact we were having on people’s lives. Throughout the day I met people from Ghana, Colombia, Pakistan, and Mexico, all extremely grateful for the work we were doing on their behalf. Guiding the applicants through the forms I was able to listen to some truly amazing stories from some truly amazing people.

Finally, as if the experience wasn’t fulfilling enough, the day ended in a fabulous feast of local Ethiopian food. Looking back, I can say that this was truly a wonderful experience and that I would highly encourage anyone who is interested to come and help out the next time around.

Our next workshops will be Saturday September 27th and Saturday November 1st at Truman College. Hopefully we will see you there!

Email Sondra Furcajg at Sondra.furcajg@uniteafricans.org for more information regarding volunteer opportunities. 

Written by Lance Greenberg, Summer 2014 Intern

DACA in the African Community

August 4, 2014Alie KabbaBlog

“UAO is a very good organization that has made sure everybody has opportunities. They are very graceful and understanding. UAO is like family to Africans in Chicago”- Matthew

When he was a child, Matthew came to the United Sates from his home country of Kenya and, through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), has been able to lead a happy and prosperous American life.  After speaking with Matthew for only a few minutes it became clear that he has taken full advantage of the DACA program, and has continued to work hard towards his own version of the American Dream. DACA, he says, has allowed him to work and go to school here in Chicago, for which he is very grateful. In addition, Matthew made it very clear that DACA status has put him at ease when it comes to the thought of deportation, allowing him to focus on the more important things in life like friends and family. While Matthew does admit that DACA is not written in stone, and that the next administration following Obama’s departure may potentialyl choose to discontinue the program, he chooses to have just as much faith in America as it has had in him. DACA, he says, has allowed him to get a taste of the American Dream, and hopes that one day he can contribute to his community as a full United States citizen.

Friday August 15th will mark the two-year anniversary of the release of the DACA. Put in place by the Obama administration in June of 2012, the program is one example of the administration’s commitment to immigration reform- a hot topic among policy makers in Washington today. As our last blog post announced, Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently renewed the DACA program allowing persons who qualify to remain in the United States without fear of deportation for another two years, and opening the doors to a handful of opportunities for undocumented immigrants who otherwise live in fear of the American government day in, and day out.

Recent USCIS statistics have shown that there are over 32,000 DACA applicants in the State of Illinois alone, making it the state with the 3rd largest number of total applicants in the country. While numbers indicate that close to 1,200 Nigerians applied for DACA nationwide, they are the only African nation to crack the list of the top 30 most applicants per country (Mexico tops the list at 443,500 applicants). Among the individuals who received DACA status after applying at the time of its survey, USCIS specified that 59% of DACA recipients have obtained new jobs, 21% have internships, 49% opened a bank accounts, 33% were granted a credit card, 21% obtained healthcare, and 45% overall increased their job earnings.

Here at UAO, we are committed to the advancement of all immigrants, and as a result have spent some time exploring how DACA has affected members of our own African community here in Chicago.

For more information on applying for DACA status we encourage you to reference our previous blog post and visit USCIS at the following link: http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca.

Written by Lance Greenberg, Summer 2014 Intern

Department of Homeland Security announces DACA Renewal Process

On June 05, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced the process for individuals to renew enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has submitted to the Federal Register an updated form to allow individuals previously enrolled in DACA, to renew their deferral for a period of two years. At the direction of the Secretary, effective immediately, USCIS will begin accepting renewal requests. USCIS will also continue to accept requests for DACA from individuals who have not previously sought to access the program.  As of April 2014, more than 560,000 individuals have received DACA.

“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” said Secretary Johnson. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”

The first DACA approvals will begin to expire in September 2014. To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA. USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires.

DACA is a discretionary determination to defer removal action against an individual. Individuals in DACA will be able to remain in the United States and apply for employment authorization for a period of two years. Individuals who have not requested DACA previously, but meet the criteria established, may also request deferral for the first time. It is important to note that individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, are ineligible for DACA.

Individuals may request DACA renewal if they continue to meet the initial criteria and these additional guidelines:

  • Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The renewal process begins by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.

USCIS will also host both national and local DACA informational sessions. USCIS will provide further information on these sessions during which USCIS officials will provide additional information on the DACA process and be available to answer your questions. For information on local DACA engagements, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

To learn more about the renewal process or requesting initial consideration of DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Panel on US-Africa Policy Advocacy: Trade, Security & Human Rights

May 23, 2014NancyBlog

Have you ever answered the question “Why are we here?” Featured at the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair  is a discussion on current US-Africa policy on trade, security, and human rights – its impact on the continent of Africa, and how we can build an engaged constituency in the African Diaspora to shape US policy and hold the Obama administration accountable.

Saturday – May 31st
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Schulz Auditorium
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
See detailed schedule of the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair here
Meet our Panelists:
Sam Ntum
Prexy Nesbitt

Opportunities for Small Businesses

May 23, 2014NancyBlog
Thriving small businesses are vital anchors for community development. The “Opportunities for Small Businesses” panel at the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair will help you discover news ways to fuel your business and learn how alternative financing options and micro-loans are leading many small businesses to success. You will also learn more about the role of the State of Illinois Central Management Services, the state’s purchasing process, and doing business with the state. Leading the discussions are Chimaobi Enyia of Illinois Central Management Services and Kyama Kitavi of Accion Chicago.
Saturday – May 31st
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Schulz Auditorium
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
Meet our Panelists:
Chimaobi Enyia, IL CMS
We would be so glad to have you there to add your views and experiences to the discussion.
See you on May 31st!
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