This First-Generation Nigerian American Wants To Bridge The Gap Between The African Diaspora And The Political Process
You might not have heard of Missouri City in Texas but you need to know about Steve Okoroha.
Steve Okoroha is an attorney and community leader running for city council in District C of his hometown of Missouri City, Texas. A resident of 25 years, he is working to make a bigger impact in his own backyard.
“I consider myself a uniter of people. That’s probably my biggest strength I’m bringing to Missouri City,” Okoroha said.
Though many people leave for college and often start new lives elsewhere, Okoroha has always known Missouri City is home. Just outside of Houston, the city of approximately 75,000 people is a place “someone can succeed and thrive,” Okoroha said.
His main platform is to help transform the “bedroom community” into a place for residents to live, work, and play. Growing up, he noticed fellow community members went to work, bought groceries, or sought out entertainment in neighboring Sugarland or Houston. As a council member, he hopes to shift energy back to Missouri City by developing transportation, increasing vocational training, and easing local tax burdens.
The city council felt like the right move for Okoroha, a longtime political enthusiast. His interest in politics first peaked in middle school. By the time he graduated from Georgetown University and relocated back to Texas, he interned for three congressional representatives and also joined the Obama campaign.
“Now is the time to really try to effect change, really try to learn about the process, and get involved with the process, but also inspire others to do so as well because there are very few people of African descent running in politics and we need to change that,” Okoroha said.
As a first-generation Nigerian American, Okoroha is also part of the newest wave of black immigrants and first-generation Americans mobilizing people and building conversations among diaspora communities. His record as a member of the American Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, partnerships with the Society for Africans in the Diaspora (SAID), among other services to the broader Houston community highlights this commitment.
Situated within the nation’s most diverse metropolitan area, African immigrants are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the Houston area. However, political engagement among this group has room for improvement. It is common for many immigrant groups to keep their heads low and focus on caring for their loved ones in their household as well as those abroad.
He described the state of political engagement among African immigrants as, “We get the highest degrees and we have a lot of economic power, but we’re not united in the sense that we are able to show and flex our political power like other minority communities.”
Fortunately, he has started to see a “spark light up within people.” In late September, SAID — in partnership with African Public Affairs Committee (AfriPac) and the Nigeria Cultural Parade — hosted a “Houston-African Political Candidate Forum.” At the event held at the SAID Pan-African Library, Okoroha with two other Nigerian candidates shared their platforms and discussed the broader Houston political landscape with community members. This engagement speaks to base building efforts of civic and community leaders among African immigrants.
“I’m passionate about my people and I’m passionate about trying to improve upon our condition, access to resources, and education so people can get the things they need to thrive in this country,” Okoroha said.
More broadly, Okoroha recognizes black people’s political destinies are integrally tied to one another.
“I think our issues are very similar and it only behooves us to come together and be able to impact the amount of change we can do on a greater scale ... hopefully [Africans] wanting to be more involved in the political process will help bridge that gap,” Okoroha said.