Many people are ready to hop on flights to Wakanda, the fictional African nation in the movie, Black Panther. Many more are ready to come to the Africa that actually exists. But unfortunately, some of those who wish to visit the continent cannot make the trip, either for financial reasons, lack of time, or fear/unfamiliarity.
Luckily, a large Diaspora and recent pools of economic migrants means there are Africans, and in essence, pockets of Africa all around the world. New York City, the largest city in America, is especially notable, as it hosts over a million black African immigrants as of 2010.
In New York City, one is sure to find a plethora of African nationalities who bring to the city their unique languages, food, and history. Below are specific places to get a taste of these facets of Africa’s unique culture in the city.
African languages are widely spoken in the Bronx and Brooklyn
A central tenant of African culture is language. As Africans move to the Diaspora, they surely bring with them their rich dialects, and New York City’s linguistic pot is no exception.
Writer Andy Kiersz shared that Kru (spoken in Liberia and the Ivory Coast), Ibo (southeast Nigeria), and Yoruba (southwest Nigeria) speakers can be found in north, central, and south Bronx (the neighborhoods include Woodlawn, Eastchester, Mott Haven, and Hunts Point). Amharic, spoken in Ethiopia, is the third largest language in the Rockaways section of Brooklyn. The Mande family of languages which are spoken in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Ivory Coast are the third most widely spoken in east Bronx (including Throgs Neck).
Looking to tap into the depth of the spoken word of various African ethnic groups, you know exactly where to go.
African restaurants sell food that gives you the home away from home experience
There are a plethora of African restaurants in New York City; many exceptional small mom and pop shops that never make it to the internet. For the sake of convenience, I will focus here on a few African restaurants that have an established internet presence.
Forbes wrote an article of the top 10 African restaurants in New York City. A few notable spots have closed since the article was published.
Still, the gorgeously designed Ethiopian restaurant, Massawa, promising to dish each meal with fleshy injera, and the vibrant Buka, serving flavorful, spicy Jollof and suya have their doors open and promise to delight.
Other commendable restaurants on Forbes’ African restaurant list which are still open are Ivorian Farafina Cafe & Lounge, Ethiopian Queen of Sheba and Bati, Senegalese Cafe Rue Diz and Moroccan Le Soux.
A feel of African history away from home
No tour is complete without a historical site visit, and especially not a visit to New York City without seeing the African Burial Ground. It is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for both free and enslaved Africans. It is located in the Civic Center section of Lower Manhattan, New York City in the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway.
The site was discovered in 1991 when construction workers stumbled upon the graves of 424 African Americans as they got ready to lay the foundation for a new federal building. It turned out that the site was once a swamp-like area where people of African descent—often enslaved—were buried in what was referred to as “Negro Burial Grounds.”
Juanita Jones, an elderly African American who interviewed with VOA about the site said the following, “most of these were young people but they didn’t live to be so old. They died very young. You looking down here you see babies, newborns, and young people dying. It’s very bad”.
The site is a National Monument and has been open to visitors since 2010.