In the summer of 2017, Imani Holmes ’19 took advantage of two experiences that were, quite literally, in different worlds. She traveled to Spain, where she explored cultural identities of African immigrants on the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, she worked via Skype to complete a six-week industry-based mentorship program sponsored by Citi Bank in New York to learn about financial models.
Sounds like too much for one person to hold in her head. But Holmes, a global commerce major and Spanish minor from Atlanta, is a determined young woman, intent on wresting the most from her education.
It all began with a desire to study internationally. “I really wanted to study abroad, but I also wanted to be an RA (resident assistant) for another year,” said Holmes. “My Spanish professor, Dosinda Alvite, suggested that I do research abroad over the summer. She helped me refine my proposal and find contacts with African immigrants in Madrid and Barcelona through her relationships there.” Through the Lisska Center for Scholarly Engagement, Holmes received funding to conduct her two-month summer research project.
While in Spain, Holmes conducted extensive interviews with first- and second-generation African immigrants such as Equatorial-Guinean author and historian, Donato Ndongo and Aquí la Tierra journalist, Lucía-Asué Mbomio Rubío. “I could see they were longing for a cultural identity,” she said. “In addition to dealing with immigration concerns such as lack of employment opportunity and racism, many second-generation African descendants desired a deeper connection to their home country. However, this yearning for connectivity was overshadowed by the media’s negative portrayal of African immigrants.”
Holmes also interviewed organization leaders, including Rafael Sánchez, the general sub-director of Fundación Súr and, Mariona Sobrequés, project manager and social media coordinator for Fundación Mujeres de África. They spoke about the important role that NGOs serve as creators of enriching cultural and educational programs. These include public radio programs about issues facing the African immigrant community, and professional development for African businesswomen interested in ecommerce and digital strategy.
“Imani’s proactive attitude and her deep understanding of her research topics were brilliantly put into action in her summer project,” said Alvite. “When we met in Madrid in June, I was very impressed with the multiple connections she had made with prominent cultural figures that also work with African migrants and exiles in Spain. Imani’s passion, discipline, and dedication to learning are outstanding.”