Chioma Nnaji

Chioma Nnaji
Location: Dorchester, Massachusetts Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Community/Civic Engagement, Immigrants and Refugees, Public, Population and Community Health, Racial Justice, Sexual Health Populations Served: African-American/Black, At-Risk/Vulnerable Populations, Immigrants and Refugees, LGBTQ+ Communities, People Living with HIV/AIDS
Program Director
Multicultural AIDS Coalition

Immigrant communities are overpoliced, face unprecedented levels of surveillance, and are unjustly detained or deported at increasing rates. Black, LGBTQ and Muslim communities are disproportionately vulnerable to these acts of structural violence due to racism, heterosexism, transphobia, and Islamophobia. And, at the same time, these communities stay resilient, productive, and culturally rich. As an organizer and community health worker, Chioma’s work lives at the intersections of public health, racial justice, and immigrant rights. Thinking about a Culture of Health that prioritizes health as a human right ensures that we uplift the humanity of immigrants. They are entitled to being counted and visible, being respected as a community, and being in an environment without fear, one that prioritizes and fosters their health.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Activated Massachusetts African Community: Elevating the Voice of African Immigrants
The alarming inequities experienced by African immigrants are often missed because African immigrants are subsumed under the umbrella of black/African Americans. While the number of African immigrants in the U.S. is large and rapidly growing, African immigrant communities across the U.S., including Massachusetts, do not have a voice and are not visible. I am the co-founder and current president of the Activated Massachusetts African Community (AMAC). Plans were in place to launch AMAC in March 2020 by holding regional community conversations; however, due to COVID-19, the group became focused on implementing urgent COVID-19 response and relief services. This prevented AMAC from dedicating time and resources to building a membership base that will support visibility and sustainability. Hence, the proposed strategic initiative will further AMAC’s mission by building a membership base and network to achieve organizational goals. This includes bringing together a diverse planning team to host the inaugural African Immigrant Advocacy Day. My long-term goal is to elevate the presence of African immigrant communities, advance equitable solutions at state and local levels, and drive lasting social change supporting the wellbeing of African immigrants in Massachusetts.

Chioma is an ethnic blend of egusi soup and fufu from her father (Imo state, Nigeria) and okra gumbo packed with everything from her mother (Shreveport, La.). Both the parents and the village that raised her instilled the importance of community organizing, justice, and being grounded. These values have led her work over the past 20 years in public health. She is #unbought #unbossed #unapologetic in her passion to bring the voice and needs of African diaspora communities to the table of health policy, research, and service delivery in a way that recognizes community assets and respects cultural values and practices.

Click here to watch Chioma’s Legacy Project video.