How Igbo Union Emerged

Gift

2 months ago

Igbo Kwenu! It’s an exciting period in the history of Ndigbo and the greater Nigerian community in Northern California. To put our feelings into proper perspective, we need to take a stroll down memory lane.

Between 2012 and 2015, both years inclusive, the “Inspired Women of the Bay Area” and Chief Ike Orji, the current Coordinator of the Igbo Union, gathered over two hundred (200) Igbo youths and young adults, 13 to 32 years old, to create a forum called the Igbo Youth & Young Adults Home Coming. The mission was to have a platform that will afford these young adults the opportunity to interact, organise symposiums, cultural shows, build strong personal and community relationships, and be celebrated!

The group actually were able to hold five (5) social events back-to-back in San Francisco, Daly City, Emeryville and Oakland for 4 years respectively. At the 4th year event, the group produced a brochure, having asked parents to buy a page for $50 per family for their child to send in his/her photo with a bio. Many parents did. We also built a website (igboyouth.org). After the 4th year, the youths were asked to plan the 6th event and present the budget for funding. Unfortunately, the youths did nothing!

After the failure of the Igbo Youth and Young Adults Homecoming experiment, the vision to create a unified forum for Ndi Igbo in Northern California commenced in 2017. We began by organising outreaches, town halls, and seminars in different cities here in Northern California. We were looking for ideas and listening to Ndigbo on how we could pick the most needed thing in our community and how to achieve it. We also developed a 10-point sample opinion survey, which was shared with everyone on a large email database. Many of us responded. We then collated the responses and scored them. The results were published through the usual email publications. Among the highest ranked was to build a multi-purpose cultural centre.

To run with our vision, the Igbo Union was incorporated as a cultural association with the State of California. We also obtained 501(c)(3) certification from the IRS. The mission of Igbo Union is to promote the unity, socio-economic progress, and security of Ndi Igbo in Igboland and in the Diaspora. The Igbo Union is for all of us, including our children.

Having gone thus far, we are therefore elated, and find it encouraging, and a welcome development, that our youths have started to do something for themselves. We have seen the steady growth of young adults and youth organisations like the Umu-Igbo Unite, the Igbo Youth Associate, and the likes. We are excited about these new initiatives to create awareness and nurture and encourage our young adults and youths to interact among themselves! We, as parents, and the Igbo Union, as a corporate body, will continue to encourage and support any effort geared towards the cultural growth of our children as Ndigbo even as we still participate in the larger Nigerian space. We pray and hope that these new efforts will be sustained.

While our excitement is boundless, we are at crossroads at the moment with the fierce urgency of a central place we can call our own; the Igbo Cultural and Heritage Center. We all know how much our families and community associations spend annually on event halls. The money we spend to rent these venues does not stay in our community! Also consider the benefits to our community if we have a common gathering place, that houses a place of worship, with spaces for our town’s and state’s meetings.The proposed 10-Million-dollar edifice will include multi purpose event halls, African markets and restaurants, office spaces for rent, and places of worship. The center and the businesses it will anchor will create jobs for the community, and most importantly serve as a monument for our presence as Ndi Igbo in America.

We are pleased to inform you that currently, we have raised close to $60,000 and our target for this year, 2023 is $100,000. We have had two meetings this year with the office of California State Senator Steven M. Glazier (SD-7) Staff office, chaired by city Councilman Dominic Aliano who was a former Mayor of Concord, and Claire Alaura, who had served as Mayor of Oakley. At the meetings, we discussed our vision, the urgency for a cultural center for our growing Igbo Diaspora population. We also shared with them the proposal for funding assistance by the State, which they received very well.

Further meetings were scheduled and a promise to take our proposal to the entire California State Assembly was made! We reiterated that the proposed Cultural Heritage Center would be a monument for our people and posterity. We emphasised that the cultural center will be a public interest property, not the property of one man or one association.

All having been said, we are pleading with you to support this vision by donating your service, expertise, or financial resources. As a 501(c)(3) certified charity, the Igbo Union is very excited to involve our community in all our fundraising efforts. Every donation made to the Cultural Center Fundraising Appeal Fund is tax deductible. May God give us strength and a pleasant attitude towards our collective progress and fruitful endeavors!

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