Dr. Eric Edi
President and COO of AFRICOM -Philly, the Coalition of African and Caribbean Immigrant Communities (AFRICOM), and a lecturer in the College of Sciences, Health and Liberal Arts at Philadelphia University.
Dr. Edi is a native of Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. With a Fulbright Scholarship he attended and graduated from Temple University (Class of 2005). Since being in the United States, Dr. Edi has shared his professional time between academia and community organizing among the growing African immigrant populations in Philadelphia.
Describe a discovery you made as a Black man:
Where do I begin to answer this question without silencing the past!! Well, it amazes me that in this 21st century, in this period of globalization and global citizenship, W.E.B Dubois’ notion of the color line continues to shape our social and professional lives. As a Black man, especially a Black immigrant, I find it interesting that being educated or having a skill is not necessarily a passport to a decent life. The hurdles that we must traverse as Black people today in schools, streets, families, and workplace make me reflect on the meaning of humanity, togetherness, and global citizenship. I also wonder when the high-tech life of the now will translate into less ignorance and more tolerance of one another. I try to understand the causes of the disconnect among foreign-born and US-born Blacks in the US.
How do you push through your worst times?
We all go through difficult times in our lives. I have had my own. I will have more. But thank God, I am alive and healthy. I guess it is important to accept that things will not always be bright. I see worst times as opportunities for growth. The Christian faith is my first weapon. I was raised by Methodist parents in Côte d’Ivoire and I spent 11 years of my young life in a Catholic school. This Christian-based upbringing shaped my character. When times are troubled, I pray.
The second weapon is my very optimistic nature, which, sometimes irrationally, makes me hope that I will make it. Every day, I motivate myself to be jovial and inspire somebody. This is the reason I devote much time to AFRICOM to bring hope in the immigrants, who probably need it more than I do. There is nothing more powerful than helping someone make it through.
The third weapon is the strong social capital that I am blessed with. I am the third of 12 children, (6 brothers and 5 sisters) scattered between Europe, Africa, and North America. Eleven siblings are a lot of people to talk to, laugh, sing, pray with, and get some energy from. My daughter and the 18 nieces and nephews add to this list. Talking to them refreshes me. In the Philadelphia area, I have trustworthy friends, who support my leadership. I thank them for their criticisms and encouragements.
Finally, there are two spaces where I escape, when I need to relax: my kitchen and the soccer field. I take pride to invent new recipes or try those that I come across. Soccer takes me back to the basics of teamwork. I have not been regular to the field lately but the spring is here. We shall see how many happy moments I can get.
Describe a soul-restoring, story about Black family life and love:
It is sad that we hear more about broken Black families. This rhetoric duplicates the purposeful de-humanization of Black cultures and communities. There is no better way to destroy a community than attacking its most important cell: the family.
Yet, there are countless Black (immigrant) families, where love, resilience, and good values, have helped children achieve more than their sometimes illiterate parents have been able to. I know this good family living in Northeast Philadelphia. The husband, who is a friend of mine,
came to the US. He delivered newspapers, worked in restaurant, saved money for years, and created his landscaping company. In10 years, he became a successful business owner and employer in the Cote d’Ivoire community. He married his sweetheart from Côte d’Ivoire in 2006 and paid for her to go to college, despite all warnings from his friends.
Today, his beautiful wife is a math teacher. They have three wonderful high achieving children. They have gained respect and admiration from other community members and their Northeast neighbors.
In the Philadelphia area, there are many stories of Black love and Black family life involving African and African American parents. How many of those haven’t sent their children to college, developed and implemented projects in rural Africa, sent medical supplies to help the needy in Africa? But the beauty about Black family life is that it also includes extended family ties, friends, etcetera.