Chidinma Okorie (BA, MSc.), Doctoral Researcher at Loughborough University, reflects on her passion for inspiring and motivating other Afro-Caribbean diaspora, as well as some of the obstacles she faces as a diaspora leader. Chidinma shares her learnings from the 2019 United Diaspora programme and how Julia Middleton’s talk on CQ stimulated questions and conversations that enabled her to become more culturally intelligent.
Diaspora leaders are said to be natural interpreters and bridge builders because they have feet in multiple places. At a time, when there are so many forces of fragmentation and so much focus on differences, I believe that it is particularly important and relevant to bring the different diaspora together.
I first learnt about the United Diaspora programme from a friend who participated in the inaugural Common Purpose diaspora programme in Armenia in 2017. I applied for United Diaspora because I believed that attending the programme would provide me with an intellectually stimulating platform to exchange ideas with leaders across the many different diaspora of the world about the challenges that we face, and then proffer practical solutions to resolving them. I also viewed the programme as a great opportunity to network outside academia.
The value of bringing many different diaspora together is that it creates a space for us to learn from and support one another. It is amazing to discover that we actually do have so much in common and can put our ideas, efforts and resources together to achieve even greater goals.
During the programme we were asked, “What does it mean to be a diaspora leader and what are some of the challenges you face?” For me, being a diaspora leader means harnessing the strengths and benefits of diversity that underpins the diaspora towards achieving a common purpose that benefits all. It is about finding that balance and bridging the gap between meeting the needs of both countries of residence and origin, without losing one’s identity and values.
However, negative stigma and stereotypes are among the common challenges that I have observed, which unfortunately have hindered the integration and assimilation of some diaspora groups into their resident communities. Some have felt excluded and, in extreme cases, discriminated against on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion, etc.
Outside of my doctoral studies, I am part of an Afro-Caribbean diaspora group known as ‘Black Excellence’, and we are all about inspiring and motivating black people across the UK to break the barriers and reach their full potential. We celebrate the achievements of our people as a way of unsettling some of these stereotypes; as well as encourage involvement in local politics and community projects as a way of getting our people integrated into their resident communities.
What struck me the most throughout the United Diaspora programme was the genuine drive and passion that fuelled the works that everyone did in their respective roles as diaspora leaders. Leadership is about service to others and it was reassuring to learn from equally passionate and highly motivated diaspora leaders about the amazing service they have rendered to their constituencies.
The highlight of the programme for me was the conversation around Cultural Intelligence (CQ). Julia Middleton delivered a brilliant lecture on CQ, in which she shared so openly and honestly. It stimulated questions and conversations that ultimately made me much more culturally intelligent. There is a commonality in diversity that is worth tapping into and being culturally intelligent aids in harnessing this strength. I look forward to the collaborations that the United Diaspora 2019 has birthed!