Dr.Bola Delano-Oriaran is doing some amazing things in the State of Wisconsin! Especially for those residing in the Fox Cities regional area. The nonprofit, African Heritage Inc, based in Appleton, Wisconsin that she co-founded and helps lead is focused on supporting and increasing the awareness of African Americans, Africans, Blacks, and members of our service area that have an interest in African American/Black culture and issues.
One of the primary goals of this organization is to be a medium for educational and cultural exchanges.
We had an opportunity to speak with them and learn more about how this nonprofit is making major impact in the community.
Please tell the reading audience about yourself and African Heritage.
As a young child, I felt myself marked by a spirit of kindness and a desire to bring people together to make a difference. One of my earliest projects involved raising money for a man with “dis”ability living in transition in my community. I was then just 13 years old.
Wanting to make as significant an impact as possible, I enrolled at the historically Black Savannah State University in Georgia to study political science. I earned a bachelor’s degree and immediately went on to earn a master’s in public administration. Attending a historically Black institution in Savannah provided the foundation for understanding systemic racial inequities. I was a member of the student government association and was involved in movements advocating against Apartheid in South Africa. I was also elected college queen, and featured in Ebony Magazine.
My PhD work helped secure a position at a leading liberal arts college in Wisconsin, USA, where I now have served as a professor and pioneering community builder for more than a quarter century. Today, I am a widely-published authority on multicultural education, cultural responsiveness, and relevant and sustaining pedagogies. I am a sought-after speaker and coach on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging issues in schooling and society and on community-engaged-learning. I have been recognized as one of the most influential African Americans in the state of Wisconsin, and my work has been celebrated with numerous awards and accolades. This work is reflected in my travels to Australia, England, Costa Rica, Ghana, Hawaii, South Africa, Peru, and New Zealand.
I am the co-founder of African Heritage, Incorporated (AHI) in Appleton, Wisconsin. AHI is a not-for-profit organization unapologetically centered on amplifying the voices of Blacks and African Americans in Northeast Wisconsin. Our 23-year organization is dedicated and committed to supporting, engaging, and advocating for Black families. As the idea generator and engagement strategist for the organization, I have created, developed, and cultivated AHI programming, including co-founding the Juneteenth community program, a regional program in Appleton that draws more than 5,000 people annually, and the African Heritage Emerging Student Leaders Institute, a leadership opportunity centered on Black students and focused on engaging white educators to learn how to use culturally relevant and engaging pedagogies to teach Black students well.
What advice would you give to new nonprofits?
The vision of your organization should intersect with your own vision. Your vision must be centered on the needs, strengths, and assets of the people you serve from their perspectives. As an authority and consultant on initiating, developing, planning, and cultivating culturally authentic engaging programs for Black folks, I have been successful because my vision is aligned with my community’s needs. I am directed and centered based on the strengths and assets of my community. I am surrounded by a village of people who are in and assets to my community.
What can people expect from you in this next quarter of 2021?
With my co-editors, we have released a new book, Teaching Beautiful Brilliant Black Girls. This book highlights the work of over 80 sista scholars who highlight models on transforming school environments, so Black Girls can do more than survive, but thrive and excel. Black Girls / Building and Nurturing Villages for Black people is my passion; this is my ministry, as I am a Beautiful, Brilliant Black Girl and mother to a Beautiful, Brilliant Black Girl.
What is the one thing you know for sure?
With God, all things are possible! Just give it to God, and everything you try will succeed.
How can we stay connected with you and follow your entrepreneurial journey?
Why was it so important for you to get your message to the community during this time?
It takes a Village to engage and support each other. We are that village. As an organization, African Heritage, Inc., we amplify our voices and use our assets – our people – to engage our people – Black folks. Our campaign on COVID 19 calls our Black communities, families, elders, sistas, brothas, and all to L.I.V.E by getting relevant access to Lifesaving Information Vaccination Education rooted in our histories and experiences.
All images courtesy of Dr. Bola Delano-Oriaran