The Association of Nigerians in New Orleans, simply known as ANNO is a 501 (c)(3) federal tax-exempt status formed and registered as a nonprofit organization with the Louisiana secretary of state by members of the Nigerian immigrant community in New Orleans in the early 80s. At its inception, many of the founders were students, bachelors, and married couples who saw the ned to come together as one Nigerian who found themselves in the United state. They envisioned coming together would enable them to preserve the diverse cultural heritage, protect their offspring from exclusion, and promote love, peace, and unity among all Nigerians resident in New Orleansts. Also, they saw the need to comradery among themselves while preventing backlash and marginization in their new adopted home.
Back home in Nigeria, Independence Day celebration is a memorable and unique event celebrated on the 1st of October each year to mark the independence of Nigeria from the colonial rule of the Britons. This annual event, Nigerian communities all over the U.S specifically the Nigerians in New Orleans takes pride in celebrating the so called “The Nigerian Independence Day.” Since the inception of ANNO, the association had hosted the Nigerian Independence Day celebration for virtually every year until the disaster popularly known as Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August of 2005. This catastrophic disaster caused many of ANNO members to dispersed to many U.S state just like many other residences of New Orleans at the time. Besides the celebration of Nigerian Independence, the organization also promote and support its members in other celebration including birthday celebrations, graduations, the death and bereavement of relatives viz a viz espousing the mission statement of the association. That said, some of the aims and objectives of the organization include the following:
- To maintain a viable Nigerian organization in New Orleans
- To assist members in times of need within the capabilities of the organization
- To foster unity among Nigerians
- To provide a forum for cultural interactions and for discussing issues that affect Nigerians at home and abroad.
- To commemorate Nigeria’s national day annually
- To maintain contact with the Nigerian Embassy/Consulates and solicit pertinent information that will be useful to the Nigerians in New Orleans.
- To foster National pride among Nigerians in New Orleans
- To serve as a support group for Nigerians arriving in New Orleans
- To discourage sectionalism among Nigerians who reside in New Orleans and
- To foster cultural interaction with the City of New Orleans
Over the years, ANNO had enjoyed the benefit of strong leaders who ensure that the aims and objectives of the organization hold and maintained wholly. Those who have had the privilege to lead the association as presidents before the hurricane Katrina include, Dr. I.C.A. Okpalobi, Mr. Tunde Afolabi, Chief Gibson Chigbu, Dr. Mr. Pius Nwizu, Chief Calistus Agochukwu, Chief Chuka Okpalobi, Chief Calistus Agochukwu, Mr. Osagie Odeh, Engineer Tony Emuka, and Mr. Henry Chigbu. During the few years following the hurricane Katrina, the organization became too fragile to carry out an elaborate event such as the Nigerian Independence Day celebration. The population was lacking memberships, due to the impact of the hurricane as well as the recovery effort overwhelmed everyone allowing very little energy for any major celebrations. However, the incessant support for one another in times of need continues. A few birthday celebrations, memorials for deceased loved ones and funerals for some members of the community were done even at the time of difficulty.
In 2011, the organization managed to host another Nigerian Independence Day Celebration. Two years later, the organization decided that it was time to revamp itself, change leadership and chart a new course. The organization then elected Mr. Alabo Derafaka as the president who leads the organization from that point until the last part of 2017. For the first time since recovery from hurricane Katrina, post Katrina leadership has changed hands from Mr. Derafaka’s administration to current administration led by Dr. Earnest Airhia as president.
There is something different in post Katrina ANNO, and the organization is also trying to adjust its approach to be congruent with the change. The differences now are that while some of the pre-Katrina Nigerian community members returned to New Orleans, others stayed behind in the different dispersed cities where they migrated. Another bonafide difference is some of those that returned, now live in the surrounding areas of New Orleans as opposed to living in New Orleans as they did before, but they remain faithful to ANNO. Also, some people who could not return to New Orleans now stay as far back as Baton Rouge while they remain connected to New Orleans socially and through their businesses. Also, to those that returned, post Katrina New Orleans also attracted a new brand of Nigerians who are mostly young, vibrant, savvy and determined. The third and perhaps most obvious development is the fact that while many of the members of the pre-Katrina Nigerian Community were first generation Nigerians, the post Katrina Nigerian Community became virtually dominated by the children of the first-generation Nigerians. Many who have grown to adult age and others still growing and increasing the number of the Nigerian community in New Orleans. The Nigerian community is therefore no longer comprise of Nigerians who became American Citizens only, but also quintessential Americans of Nigerian heritage who are willing and eager to be in touch with their Nigerian roots. These developments culminate with the increasing intermarriage between Nigerians and Americans, and the increase in modern social media apparatus from emails to Google. Other media associated with the afore said development includes LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, Flickr, VK, ClassMates, and Meetup. Additionally, teleconferencing, video chats and conferencing, facetime, skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, QQ, QZone Baidu Tiebato, Viber, Sina Weibo, Line, Snapchat, YY.com, creates further amagamation. While telegram, Taringa, Foursquare, Renren, Tagged, Badoo, Myspace, StumbleUpon, The-Dots, Kiwibox, Snapfish, ReverbNation, to mention but a speck; ANNO is now dealing with a new Nigerian community with a new disposition, and it is all great.
The post-Katrina leadership of ANNO is now responding to these new but great developments by improving it focus, communication infrastructure, and overall goal. While Egusi Soup and pounded yam with pepper soup, Jollof Rice and Edikaikong still occupy the central part of ANNO’s celebration menu, Jambalaya and other American foods now also commonly find their way to ANNO’s ceremonial table. The traditional breaking of the Cola-nut is also now accompanied by cutting of the cake. In the same vein, the photos and video records of ANNO’s events have migrated from its ancient DVDs to ANNO’s YouTube Channel and website where virtually anyone anywhere in the modern world can access them. Many within the community are now advocating and advancing their issues and concerns using WhatsApp, Facebook and the myriads of other social media channels. The celebrated events such as baby-shower are now trending amongst pregnant couples, and graduations of all levels have peaked. Businesses owned and operated by Nigerians are on the rise.
As a result of the new reality of the Nigerian community in New Orleans, the interest in having a hub has increased. There is now an increased chatter about acquiring a building that will serve as a central and ambassadorial place for the community. The current administration wants to officially put the Nigerian community on the New Orleans map by seeking to advance the community interests in the city such as making our arts and craft available, food and fashion common, and having the Nigerian flag flying high at the New Orleans City Hall. ANNO also encourages the advancement of Nigerian entertainment here in New Orleans. For instance, in February 2017 during the debut of the Afro-Carnival Ball, it was Nigerians who were the first royals (KING & QUEEN) of the ball. In February of 2018, Nigerians became the royals of the Afro-Carnival ball for the second time in a roll. Also, in February of 2018, ANNO leaders and members actively participated the first premiere of a Nigerian movie (3Some) here in New Orleans. There is also a new wave of networking and collaborations with other African communities in promoting common interests. The Alabo’s administration revamped the Nigerian picnic and broadened it. It is now otherwise called PINIFRI which stands for Picnic for Nigerians and friends. Dr. Airhia’s administration took the picnic and its name to its conclusion by doing it now in collaboration with other African communities. The administration is also working on a possible program that targets the most youthful part of the community, and programs that the female audience of the community can actively get involved. In summary, the aims and objectives spelled out at the beginning of ANNO, the post-Katrina ANNO is also focusing on the following:
- Secure a Nigerian Cultural Center as a hub to channel the activities of ANNO and the Nigerian Community
- To develop a platform for social and economic interaction including networking among the community members as a whole and in the subgroups such as the youth, students, women, men and so on.
- Promote business initiatives within the community
- Create a support system for Nigerian students especially the new arrival, and rewards system for academic achievements at all levels of education.
- Promote Nigerian cultures and entertainment
- Promote and perpetuate Nigerian cultural artifacts including art, craft, food, fashion, and so on; and infuse them into the already rich Gumbo of American cultural heritages.
- To serve as a support group for Nigerians arriving in New Orleans
- Educate the public about Nigerian culture and values and aid in the study of Nigerian society, customs and cultures.
- Create a support system for aging Nigerian-American population and support system for the ailing and disabled Nigerian-American population.
- Create self burial insurance or enroll members who otherwise may not be covered by external burial insurance to unburden their families at the time of death
- Increase social events to cover many occasions that are of interests to the community from New Orleans and Nigerian. For instance, increase participation in Mardi-gras, Thanksgiving, 4th of July celebration, Nigerian Independence Day, and end of the year celebration.
- Create a source of funding for the organization’s activities.
- Create avenues for collaboration and comradery with other African communities here in New Orleans and other Nigerian organizations in the vicinity
- Actively pursue resources to help members of the community who fall victim to a natural disaster in New Orleans such as hurricanes, tornados, flood, mudslides and so on.
We encourage everyone to stay tuned as ANNO executive strives to serve you. Remember to volunteer, contribute, support, donate your time and money to the good courses of the Nigerian community in New Orleans, and as we say in Nigerian, " I go better"