Young Innovators Bringing the Diaspora ‘Face2Face’ with Africa

Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng envision a unified Pan-African community

How did you two come to this partnership, and what does each person bring to the table?

Appiah: Initially, we connected on Facebook. The first time we spoke, the conversation just went to our experience growing up here, talking about being joked about our accent or how people would say things like, ‘Go back to Africa.’ And we talked about what we’d do to change this for immigrants—not just Africans—to educate the world on what’s going on in the community.

Boateng: Sandra went to Syracuse University and has a very strong background in communications. I attended the very first black college, Lincoln University, and earned my business degree there. It made sense that we’d collaborate. In a nutshell, after our first conversation talking about our experiences growing up in America, and identifying what it would take to address these issues, which was media, it was a no-brainer that we develop the concept of Face2Face Africa.

Appiah: What the two of us bring to the table— Isaac is the businessperson. He deals with everything business related. He’s a very smart businessman. I’m more of the social person… the social entrepreneur. I’m very into the community, and very open to what’s going on. With his background and my interest in social issues, it’s just a perfect match.

There’s been a historic divide between African-Americans and Africans. How to you two plan to unify the communities via Face2Face?

Boateng: I’m in a fraternity, and 90% of my brothers are African American. It’s a Pan-african magazine, meaning [it caters to] any individual of African descent. For example, in one of our issues, we are tackling stories of individuals who are trying to link their roots and identify their heritage in Africa. So, that’s a way of bridging the gap. This magazine is for all Africans—I consider you, my African sister, who happened to come to America.  We are brothers and sisters, and that’s how I see it.

When I was putting together our team, I wanted to make sure we had all people of color represented—those from Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe. This team is representing the Pan-African movement and respecting our continent. We also have the Faceless Awards, where we have the “Friends of Africa” category. You don’t have to be from Africa to be honored. We want to unify everyone of African descent.

Appiah: What I’m really trying to do is send message of all of us having a common root. … We’re also featuring columns from prominent African Americans, who have such great experiences, having gone back to Africa and being transformed. … We want to encourage this movement of people going back home, and get the conversation going about what it means to be an ‘African-American,’ ‘African,’ ‘Black American.’

There are stereotypes within African communities as well [about African-Americans]. Some are not receptive of their African American brothers and sisters, and it can be a very painful, hurtful thing. From both angles, we want to address what’s causing the separation, and we hope that over the years we can get the discussion going.

Boateng: I also think that by our collaboration, people will realize that we are truly one family and we are all from the same great, great, great, great grandparents. Unfortunately, slavery separated us. And I think that message will come across.

You both mentioned a movement to reconnect with Africa. What are three tips you’d give professionals who want to expand their boss moves into the global market?

Boateng: Consistency. Be consistent with your objective and really tackle it with everything you’ve got. Also, don’t let the noise of naysayers take you off course.

You must have passion for what you’re trying to do, and be sure you’re filling a void. Whatever you’re offering should be unique.

Right now with the Web, so much information is available. Read as much as you can online and follow news on what’s going on in the international community. Get updated on trends and developments. Also, make sure you’re networking, attending as many events as you can, and setting up meetings with key figures to get a better understanding of community.

Appiah: Travel as much as you can. If you go and see for yourself, you’ll come back a different person with so many ideas.

Continuing with words of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self today?

Boateng: Based on the things I was doing at 21, I’d say, ‘What are you doing?!’ (Laughs). Had I known what I know now, I would’ve done this a long time ago! Find a mentor who is successful and who’s doing things you seek to do. Really follow that person and ask them to mentor you and guide you so you won’t make bad decision. They’re wiser, older, they have the education. Find a mentor to guide you every step of the way.

Appiah: I’ll take it back to 18 or 19 since I’m not that far from 21. (Laughs.) I’d say, ‘Be open to the infinite possibilities. Don’t close your minds to your current plan as if that’s it for your life because it sometimes doesn’t work that way. Me, I ended up doing something completely different that I love. When one door closed, it didn’t stoop me because other doors opened up to me. Open your mind and keep pushing, and everything happens in your life for a reason. As long as you’re passionate, you’ll get to your purposeful destination.

To find out more about Face2Face Africa, visit Face2FaceAfrica.com. You can also join Face2Face Africa founders and Arik Airlines at the magazine’s Los Angeles launch event Friday, Feb 1,  for a chance to win two roundtrip tickets to West Africa. Find out more information here.

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