U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, last week joined fellow congresswomen Jennifer McClellan, D-4th, and María Elvira Salazar, a Florida Republican, to introduce legislation recognizing African Diaspora Heritage Month in September.
Virginia and Florida are home to two of the largest African diaspora communities in the country – and approximately 2.1 million sub-Saharan African immigrants live in the U.S., according to a release from Spanberger’s office. The measure would recognize the history, importance, and contributions of the African diaspora in Virginia, Florida, and across the country.
“I am proud to once again lead the effort to recognize African Diaspora Heritage Month, recognizing the vital role the African diaspora community has played in shaping our nation’s rich history and culture,” said Spanberger in a statement. “African immigrants have been essential to Virginia’s continued growth and prosperity, and I’m proud to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary contributions of the African diaspora.”
The African diaspora community has deep ties to Virginia, from the first Angolans who arrived on its shores in 1619 to now being one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in America, said McClellan. While in the State Senate, she said she led the charge to make Virginia the first state in the nation to designate September as African Diaspora Month.
“Now in Congress, I am proud to co-lead this effort at the federal level with Congresswomen Spanberger and Salazar,” McClellan said. “The more than 115,000 African diaspora immigrants in Virginia — and over 2.1 million nationwide — should be celebrated for their incredible contributions to our local communities and our nation.”
The Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution to designate September as Virginia African Diaspora Heritage Month in March 2022.
The African diaspora in the United States and Latin America make up an essential part of a rich cultural tapestry and it is important that the United States recognize these achievements, said Salazar in a statement.
The legislation is a companion to bill led in the U.S. Senate by Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA, and is is supported by the Virginia African Diaspora Community.
“The African diaspora makes our Commonwealth and country stronger,” said Kaine in a statement. “I’m proud to introduce this bill to celebrate this diverse group and acknowledge their abundant cultural and economic contributions to our communities.”
“Time is always right and the right time is the best; with our future ahead of us and our ancestors beside us; the time is now for the African Diaspora Heritage Month bill to pass and be a law,” said Princess Philomena Desmond-Ogugua, Virginia African Diaspora Committee.
Bo Machayo, with the Virginia African Diaspora Committee, said they are grateful to see the measure reintroduced.
“The African Diaspora is a vital and integral part of American society, and it is long overdue that we acknowledge and celebrate their significant contributions,” said Machayo.