With its long history of welcoming immigrants, Minnesota is considered a haven for African immigrants and refugees. Drawn to the state by family ties, a vibrant immigrant community, job and educational opportunities, and a growing number of social service programs, the number and percentage of African immigrants and refugees continue to grow in the state. According to a Minneapolis Foundation report, 13 percent of Minnesota’s foreign-born residents in the 2000 Census were from Africa—a higher percentage than any other state in the U.S.
Even so, African immigrants and refugees face many challenges as they navigate into mainstream communities. They experience lower level of access to a wide range of resources and opportunities due to a long list of barriers. At its core are the extremely huge resource and access disparities, which disproportionately and increasingly affect the capacities of African immigrants and refugees to achieve socio-economic security and to make meaningful changes in their new communities—influencing policies and decision-making processes in sustained ways.
There is certainly a need to employ culturally competent tools to address the ever-growing access disparities and resource information gaps within the African immigrant community, and to help create new possibilities for increased civic participation.
While many non-profit organizations have sought to respond to some of these unique challenges with traditional programs, there is no integrated framework to confront these issues in ways that resolves persistent problems around cultural fluency, reduced assets and capacities, and the marginal roles of the African immigrant community in building shared leadership efforts, where people of diverse cultures work to solve public problems and produce new positive realities.
AIS was established to fill these voids and to break new grounds.
Founded in 2005 and restructured in 2010, AIS is a volunteer-driven initiative of about 50 volunteers contributing an average of five hours per month.