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Our Weekly top cover stories of 2011

OW Staff | 1/4/2012, 5 p.m.

The Dream: coming to America
Los Angeles' African immigrants discuss their journey and aspirations

By Jasmyne A. Cannick
OW Contributor
They say America is a big melting pot and Los Angeles is a microcosm of that great American ideal. The city has always been a dream for many African immigrants. However, there are only about 881,300 Africans in the nation, and about 26,000 immigrant Africans in Los Angeles, representing almost 3 percent of the Black population.

The African nations most heavily represented in Los Angeles County include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. And with the influx comes diverse cultures.

Some immigrants confess that their political privileges have indeed been boosted since coming to the States. Others comment that African Americans are a bit spoiled.

"In Africa, nothing was given to us," explains Nigerian native and business owner Kehinde Ololade, 46. "I had to walk to school. My parents had to pay for our tuition and for us to have a desk, a chair, textbooks, and uniforms. Education was not free. Our classrooms had no air conditioning. Too many American children take education for granted. I stress the importance of a good education every day with my children."

Cecil Williams, a 28-year-old Sierra Leonean fled to Los Angeles during the civil war in Sierra Leone that lasted 11 years. Like other immigrants, he and his family came to escape oppression, war, and to build a new life. He completed secondary education in nearby Gambia and then applied for college in America.

"I didn't wait for an American college to find me," he remembers. "I went and found an American college, and it wasn't an easy process. Technology in Africa is not the same as it is in America. Even finding a computer with reliable Internet access can be a daunting process, but I was determined, as were my parents."

Foster care: OK but improvements needed
Blacks comprise nearly one-third of children in care

By Lisa Fitch
OW Contributor

Without a doubt, foster care is an institution that has saved thousands of children, kept families together, and given the abandoned something to look forward to. But by the same token, families have been torn apart, children abused, and many kids have been passed from one home to another. Few would argue that many foster children have issues they take along with them like packed luggage.

Foster mother of five, Annie Hall, has grown to understand her role as a parent.

"I consider myself a professional mother," said Hall. "I enjoyed raising my kids, and I'm enjoying it again."

Hall and her husband, Elisha, a retired Marine, nurtured three of their own children, who now are 28, 30 and 33. She used to visit with her sister in Palmdale, and helped her with the five children she adopted out of the foster care system.

"I never expected to have five foster children of my own," Hall said. "It just worked out that way."
"They have issues and need love," Hall added. "Love can turn around just about anything."