Case Study #3: Centering Black newcomer communities during Welcoming Week

The challenge: Partners in Cleveland wanted to bring visibility to the often invisible Black immigrant and refugee communities in their city.

The solution: By working with Black-led organizations like the local NAACP chapter, Black speakers came together for an event that formed new partnerships.

Why it matters: This event forged new connections between the African American community and Black newcomers that have led to lasting relationships and increased understanding.


The panel-style event, Advocacy, Allyship, and Alliance: What it Means to be Black in Our Community, was conceptualized by Global Cleveland and its partners after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Elizabeth Cusma, the former program director at Global Cleveland, said that the organizers wanted to center Black communities in Cleveland, including the often invisible Black immigrant community.

Event logistics

Organizers asked the local NAACP chapter to partner, who excitedly agreed as they had been wanting to connect to the local African community. They also partnered with Mordecai Cargil, co-founder and partner of ThirdSpace Action Lab, a local racial equity consulting firm. Mordecai served as the facilitator for the panel discussion, and panelists included Esther Ngemba of Global Cleveland, Kwame Botchway of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Danielle Sydnor of Cleveland NAACP, and Cecil Lipscomb of United Black Fund.

The discussion topics were driven by the all-Black facilitator and panelists. The event led to a robust discussion on African American and African immigrant bridge-building in Cleveland.

Long-term impact

According to Elizabeth, participants, organizers, and panelists were very excited about the event for weeks afterward. More than 50 people attended the virtual event, which is still available to view on Global Cleveland’s Youtube channel. Since then, African immigrants are now participating and have leadership roles with Cleveland NAACP, including panelist Kwame Botchway.

For two years in a row, Cleveland NAACP has included African women’s groups in their Women’s History Month events. Elizabeth is hopeful that this event was the beginning of continued bridge-building between the communities.

Lessons learned

Elizabeth said that it’s important for events to have uncomfortable conversations, otherwise they don’t make a difference and recycle ideas people already know. From her perspective, this event especially “showed how we can be better by working together.”

More examples of events that center newcomer communities of color:

Milwaukee YMCA #BelongingBeginswithUs activities with the local Asian American community, 

Race, Racism & Immigration event in Dallas


Thank you to Elizabeth Cusma, former program director at Global Cleveland, for sharing insights about this Welcoming Week event.