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.

2014 UAO African Youth Forum a Huge Success

April 15, 2014AdminBlog

Roughly sixty participants joined United African Organization staff and volunteers at the 2014 African Youth Forum. Focusing on issues such as youth violence and incarceration, immigration and education, this year’s forum succeeded in raising awareness and inspiring youth participants to envision a better future for themselves and their community.

Vickie Casanova leads dance session

After School Matters instructor Vicki Casanova kicked off the festivities with a short interactive African dance presentation. With the help of students from the West Indian Folk Dance Company and After School Matters, Casanova got all of our youth participants up and moving to the beat of the shekeres and African drums.

Following the dance session, participants broke into two groups to discuss youth violence and incarceration, and immigration. VISTA member Jasmine Davis from First Defense Legal Aid led a “Know Your Rights” interactive session where she discussed basic legal rights and what to do and say if you are confronted by a police officer.

Jasmine Davis educates youth participants on their basic legal rights 

Meanwhile, UAO Executive Director Alie Kabba spoke to youth participants about current trends in African immigration to the US and the significance of immigration reform for the health and growth of the African community.

After enjoying a delicious spread courtesy of Yassa African Restaurant and Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, the forum wrapped up with an inspiring poetry reading from Spoken Word artist Tumelo Khoza followed by an education panel consisting of young African professionals. Members of the panel made clear the importance of a post-secondary degree in today’s job market and the need to set both a short and long term plan to achieve your goals.

Our thanks to all those who helped make the 2014 African Youth Forum possible. We look forward seeing you all again next year!

To find more pictures from the 2014 UAO African Youth Forum, please visit our Facebook page.

by Max Woxland, UAO Intern

Outreach for UAO’s African Youth Forum in Full Swing

March 23, 2014NancyBlog

UAO Executive Director Alie Kabba pictured with Truman students

Outreach efforts for the 2014 African Youth Forum are well under way. Over the past two months, United African Organization (UAO) staff members and volunteers have been working tirelessly to reach out to students and young professionals across the Chicago area and raise awareness about the upcoming forum.

The forum—which will take place on March 29th from 11am until 4pm on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus—brings together both African and African-American youth to engage interactively with a wide array of issues. This year’s topics include immigration, youth violence and incarceration and education. The goal of the forum is to foster youth dialogue on these issues and develop a collective plan of action to overcome them.

On March 13th, UAO staff members visited with the Truman College Africans and Friends Student Club (AFSC) to discuss the forum and recruit potential volunteers and participants. This was UAO’s second visit to Truman College to talk about the forum and its third visit in the past four weeks. In February, UAO Executive Director Alie Kabba also joined the AFSC as a panel speaker for their 2014 “Africa on Display” event.

Thanks to the warm reception UAO received from AFSC President Emmanuel Acheampong, its most recent visit to Truman College was a success in galvanizing student support for the forum and resulted in the AFSC offering to set up informational displays on various African countries at the forum. UAO’s continued partnership with the Truman College AFSC demonstrates its commitment to collaborating with youth groups and increasing awareness in the Chicago African immigrant community about its events, programs and services.

If you or anyone know would like to join UAO at the African Youth Forum as a participant or a volunteer, please RSVP online or call at (312) 949-9980. More detailed information about the forum can found on by clicking here.

Share information about the African Youth Forum on Facebook, Email, Tweet #AfricanYouthForum. 

by Max Woxland, UAO Intern

Petition for Parents of U.S. Citizens

February 5, 2014NancyBlog

Only U.S. citizen over the age  of 21 years old may petition for their parents (mother and father) to live in  the United States as lawful permanent residents (green card holders).

To start a petition for your  parents, you must submit the following documents:

  •   1) Form I-130, Petition for  Alien Relative with a filing fee of $420
  •   2) Proof that  you are a U.S. citizen
  •        a) If you  were born in the U.S., copy of your Birth Certificate
  •        b) If you  were not born in the U.S., copy of your Naturalization Certificate or U.S.  Passport
  •   3) Evidence of  the qualifying relationship
  •        a) If you  are petitioning for your mother, a copy of your Birth Certificate showing your  name and            your mother’s name
  •        b) If you  are petitioning for your father and your parents are married, a copy of your  Birth
  •            Certificate showing your name and the  names of both parents AND a copy of parents’
  •            marriage certificate
  •        c) If you are  petitioning for your father and your parents are not married, a copy of your  Birth
  •            Certificate showing  your name and your father’s name AND evidence that you were
  •            legitimated before  your 18th birthday.

What does it mean to  be an immediate relative? “Immediate relatives” are  certain immigrant family members of U.S. citizens, including:

  •   – Spouses of U.S.  citizens
  •   - Children (unmarried and under  21) of U.S. citizens
  •   - Parents of U.S. citizens (the  U.S. citizen must be 21 or older)

Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not need  to wait in line for a visa, because visa numbers are always available to them.  Immediate relatives who are in the U.S. may be able to file Form I-485,  Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status and Form I-130 at  the same time.

If you are a U.S.  citizen over the age of 21 and your mother or father is outside the  U.S., you will file the Form I-130 along with the supporting documents  with USCIS. If it’s approved, your mother or father will complete the visa  process at the local U.S. Consulate in their home country.

If you are a U.S.  citizen over the age of 21 and your mother or father is in the U.S.,  they may be able to file Form I-485 and I-130 at the same time.

Health Care Coverage Enrollment Off to a Strong Start

February 5, 2014NancyBlog

UAO’s Health Care Coverage Enrollment Program is off and running. In the month of January, UAO succeeded in signing up over sixty individuals for health care coverage.

UAO Program Coordinator Nancy Asirifi-Otchere signs up a client for coverage

UAO staff member Lauren Herzog is the coordinator for the Health Care Coverage Enrollment Program. Over the past few months, she has worked to increase awareness in the African community about the new health care law and also planned free health care enrollment events around Chicago.

The January 23rd event, which took place at Gold Coast Taxi’s offices in Uptown, enrolled over thirty Ghanaian taxi drivers and their families in health care coverage. The workshop was such a success that Gold Coast Taxi and Herzog collaborated on a second enrollment event in February.

Participants at UAO’s enrollment events are guided through the health care coverage application process by an In-Person Counselor (IPC). IPCs undergo rigorous state and federal training and are experts on the new health care law. “IPCs are fully trained to understand the Medicaid system and the Affordable Care Act. If you have any questions, they can answer them. That way you end up with a plan you fully understand,” Herzog said.

Lauren Herzog assists a client

Although enrollment numbers have been strong thus far, they are expected to increase as the March 31st deadline for health care coverage draws nearer. Herzog anticipates future backlogs in the system—especially if you are applying for Medicaid—and encourages all those planning on attending an enrollment event to do so soon. “At this point, most people think March 31st is way off. However, that deadline is much closer than it might seem,” Herzog said.

UAO will hold more enrollment events in the month of March. Please visit our website for more detailed information. Participants need to bring with them photo identification, a social security card, income information and immigration information. The enrollment events are free and open to the public.

by Max Woxland, UAO Intern


Affording Naturalization to Become a US Citizen

January 11, 2014NancyBlog
Many green card holders who are eligible to apply for citizenship hesitate to do so because they
are discouraged by the cost of naturalization. However, do not let the cost prevent you from applying! A Fee Waiver option is available to eligible applicants that could eliminate the cost of applying. You could be eligible for a Fee Waiver, if you are low-income and can prove that you are unable to pay the application fee. That is if:
  • you receive a means-test benefit from the state or federal government, such as Medicaid, food stamps, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  •  your household income is at or below 150% of the poverty level (see chart)
  •  you have a financial hardship, such as recent unemployment or high medical expense
Documents you can use to support a fee waiver request include:

Federal tax return;                          Recent pay check stubs;                                        Utility bills;
Medical receipts;                            Tuition statements;                                                 Child care or elder care receipts;
Receipts for rent or mortgage;       Documentation of unemployment benefits              Statement on legal debt;
  • An official letter showing the beneficiary, the agency granting the benefits, and the amount of the benefits (SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, SSI, etc.);
  • Statement from an employer on business letterhead that shows salary or wages paid;
To determine whether or not to grant a fee waiver, USCIS officials review every application and the supporting documents.  Each case is unique and is carefully reviewed based on your particular circumstances and the evidence that you provided. If your application is denied for any reason, USCIS will provide you with a full explanation of its decision
Find out more by contacting UAO at (312) 949-9980.

Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

January 7, 2014NancyBlog

The U.S. Department of State is currently seeking applications for a new exchange program for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. The Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), will bring 500 young leaders ages 25 to 35 to the United States each year beginning in 2014 for academic coursework and leadership training and will create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to put new skills to practical use in leading organizations, communities, and countries. The Washington Fellowship includes:

A 6-week Academic and Leadership Institute: Fellows are placed at U.S. colleges and universities for academic institutes.  Institutes will focus on skills development in one of three areas: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management. 

A Summit with President Obama in Washington, DC: At the conclusion of the academic and leadership institute, all Fellows will participate in a Presidential Summit.

An optional 8-week U.S. Internship:  As part of the Fellowship application, individuals may apply to receive practical training at a U.S. business, civil society organization, or public agency in the United States.  Approximately 100 Washington Fellows will be selected for U.S.-based internships.

Continued Activities in Africa: Fellows will have the opportunity for continued networking opportunities, ongoing professional development, access to seed funding, and community service activities upon their return home after the Fellowship.

We invite you to reach out to any qualified young African leaders you may know and encourage them to apply for this prestigious Fellowship opportunity. The online application for the Washington Fellowship and more information can be found at http://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/washington-fellows/Completed applications, including all supporting documents, are due by January 27, 2014. All applications must be submitted via the online application system.  Any questions about the application should be emailed to washingtonfellowship@irex.org.


Mandela: A Life of Struggle and Triumph

January 1, 2014NancyBlog

The mortal remains of Nelson Madiba Mandela rest at his birthplace of Qunu, but his immortal vision of Africa united and at peace with itself will stay with us through eternity. Madiba was the crown jewel of African nationalism and its arduous battles against Western colonial occupation of Africa.

His early beginnings as an activist were intricately connected to the unfolding forces of the African liberation movement, which emerged at the turn of the twentieth century with the single goal of defeating colonialism and regaining Africa’s independence. He was the last of Africa’s Founding Fathers like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Sekou Toure of Guinea, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Augustino Neto of Angola, Samora Machel of Mozambique, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Milton Margai of Sierra Leone, and Houphouet Boigny of Ivory Coast. His ascendency as the first democratically elected President of a free South Africa in 1994 marked the triumph of African nationalism and the effective end of Africa’s anti-colonial struggles.

The death of President Mandela provides us with an opportunity to look back at the life of an exemplary African leader whose legacy will always inspire us in our struggles to advance social justice and human dignity. His was a life of constant struggle and agitation, interrupted only by the twenty-seven years he spent in prison. Far from breaking his spirit and will to fight, the years in prison only hardened his resolve to continue the long march to freedom. No hill of despair was insurmountable for him; no river of personal pain was too wide to cross; and no indignity in prison made him to question his commitment to the liberation struggle of his people. He did not buckle under the weight of apartheid tyranny nor did he lose his sense of destiny. He was, in essence, a prisoner who could not be conquered, bought or sold at the expense of his people.

From activist to prisoner and statesman, Madiba embodied the finest tradition of service and sacrifice. He carried himself with a deep sense of pride as an African on whose shoulder rested the fate and hope of a nation in transition from white minority rule to a rainbow nation with liberty for all. Every critical analyst would agree that the new South Africa of today is both Mandela’s baby and its Chief Architect. He was a master strategist who knew how to straddle the delicate balance between the demands of change on the part of the oppressed and the fears of the oppressor. Like a well-trained midwife, Madiba assured South Africans of all backgrounds that the new South Africa will be capable of meeting the challenges of post-apartheid transformation of the country. He became the consummate Hope Dealer and Salesman of a dream for his people and the world at large. Even those who once called him “terrorist” quickly changed their vocabulary after drinking the Mandela Kool-Aid! Without doubt, it could be argued that only Madiba had the ingredients to pull it off with his infectious grace, charm and charisma.

If he had so chosen, Mandela would have easily become one of Africa’s failed Life Presidents by pursuing the path of one-party dictatorship because of the super-majority that the African National Congress enjoyed in parliament during his presidency. However, he proved to be a leader with an abiding faith in democracy as a necessary component of African liberation and development. He refused to be the Big Man with concentrated powers in the Office of the Presidency or executive branch. In this sense, Madiba proved to be a great student of history.

He learned from the mistakes of other Founding Fathers of post-colonial Africa who overstayed their usefulness in office. By so doing, he became Africa’s preeminent elder statesman. What a remarkable fit by a man who once declared matter-of-factly at the age of thirty-three that he would someday be the first black president of South Africa!

Madiba gave us a reason to embrace the truism that, even in the darkest hour when all seems lost and nothing stands between us and the deep blue sea, the forces of oppression, exploitation and greed will eventually crumble in the face of a determined people in pursuit of freedom and justice. As we say goodbye to Africa’s Favorite Son of the hour, let us remember the unfinished business at hand: the long march to a strong and democratic United States of Africa. The powerful currents of African nationalism which galvanized the masses of African people to end colonialism on the continent should be awakened for the final battle for African unity. Liberation and development are two legs of the Golden Stool of African independence, but it cannot stand without a third leg. African unity is the missing third leg of the Golden Stool of African independence. Therefore, it should be the responsibility of Africans to dedicate our lives to this battle of the century. With unity, this will be the African Century. If we prove equal to the task, African unity will be the bulwark against another scramble for Africa and the best guarantor of African independence for eternity.

African unity is the ultimate triumph of African nationalism. Let’s build the United States of Africa in memory of Mandela, Nkrumah, Toure, Lumumba, Sobukwe, Nyerere, Cabral, Machel and for generations to come. As Mandela said, “I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent.”

Rest in Peace, Nelson Madiba Mandela!

Forward to the United States of Africa!!!

By Alie Kabba, Executive Director of United African Organization in Chicago. For more information, visit www.uniteafricans.org.

Citizenship Program Described “Like Magic” by Participant

December 19, 2013NancyBlog

Newly-minted American citizen Afiavi Amouzoo had one word to describe to the Free Citizenship Workshop: magic.

When asked about her experience at the workshop, Amouzoo replied, “All I had to do was give them my ID and my green card and then it was just like magic!”

Free Citizenship Workshop Alum Afiavi Amouzoo

An aspiring nurse and resident of Chicago for the past seven years, Amouzoo came to the US as a refugee in 2006. Thanks to the outreach of the United African Organization (UAO), Amouzoo attended the Free Citizenship Workshop and received American citizenship this past summer.

Amouzoo’s path to American citizenship started one fateful day a year or so back when she drove her cousin to an appointment at UAO’s offices located on the IIT campus. Her cousin, the owner and operator of a daycare business, was receiving assistance from UAO in filling out paperwork. While waiting for her cousin, Amouzoo met UAO Program Coordinator Nancy Asirifi-Otchere and received a brochure for the Free Citizenship Workshop. In April of 2013, she attended the Free Citizenship Workshop and received citizenship a few months later.

Amouzoo and UAO Program Coordinator Nancy Asirifi-Otchere discuss services

Born in Togo, Amouzoo greatly values the many job and educational opportunities in the US. Despite having received her diploma in Togo, Amouzoo encountered great difficulties in finding a job there. “Life was not bad, but it was difficult to get a job. So I came here to study and have a better life,” Amouzoo said.

Since becoming an American citizen, Amouzoo has acquired many new benefits. As an American citizen, she now has the ability to return home to Togo for visits, a privilege previously prohibited while she was still a refugee.

Amouzoo also sees citizenship as important for her own job security. She knows others whose professional advancement has been hindered by their green card status.

Amouzoo is grateful for the services provided to her by UAO and plans to volunteer with UAO in the future. ”I want to help. I want to do something for the community and for the organization because they helped me,” she said.

For all those considering attending the workshop and applying for citizenship, she has a simple message, “I would encourage them to do it, to go to the workshop and get it done.”

by Max Woxland, UAO Intern

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