Twenty-Two Children Become America’s Newest Citizens At Baltimore Museum Of Industry Ceremony

— The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIC) celebrated 22 children who became new citizens of the United States of America in a ceremony at the Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI) on October 31, 2019.

USCIC Deputy Associate Director Michael Valverde administered the Oath of Allegiance to the children from 17 different countries, including: Cameroon, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Monsterrat, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.

“Today these special 22 children have the opportunity to join the United States and be welcomed by us,” Valverde said. “They are part of our American family, and the opportunities that come from that are unbelievable and unimaginable. Every ceremony is a big deal, and we can actually watch America grow a little bit smarter, stronger, and richer.”

Twelve-year-old Ilian Asong of Prince George’s County came to receive his citizenship certificate. He attended the event with his mother, Rita Folefac, who is from Cameroon.

“Bringing him here is really special because he has the opportunity to experience this,” Folefac said. “As parents, we always try to let our children know they matter. We say it on a regular basis, but when the child gets it from another person, it impacts him more.”

The citizenship certificates will provide the young Americans with additional documentation needed when it’s time to apply for driver’s license, a job, college or a passport.

All of the new citizens are under the age of 14.

Asong will need the certificate one day because he has big plans.

“I want to be an IT engineer when I grow up,” Asong said.

After the ceremony, families explored the museum.

Since 1981, BMI has welcomed visitors to witness the exhibitions, participate in hands on activities and learn more about Baltimore’s industrial legacy. Museum officials say it was fitting to hold the ceremony at the BMI because of Baltimore’s early legacy as a city of immigrants.

“This is a great day. We are so excited to be a part of the American community,” said Folefac.

New Museum Connects Children To African Heritage

A celebration at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Pimlico Road Arts and Community Center introduced the Sankofa Children’s Museum of African Cultures to the Park Heights area. More than 70 guests attended the event, dressed in their African attire, on Saturday October 26, 2019.

The event took place in the museum’s showroom, where exhibits of African tribal masks, clothing, and musical instruments surrounded the tables where guests sat. Guests experienced African cuisine like jollof, fried, and white rice, waakye stew, plantain, fried and baked fish, chicken, mixed vegetables, peanut butter soup along with other traditional treats.

Benita Biney, 10. shows off the Ghanaian dance, Adowa at the Sankofa Children's Museum  on Saturday October 26, 2019 in Baltimore.

Mori Johnson

Benita Biney, 10. shows off the Ghanaian dance, Adowa at the Sankofa Children’s Museum on Saturday October 26, 2019 in Baltimore.

WEAA’s 88.9 FM, Sandy Mallory hosted the affair as she sat in her native blue African attire alongside museum founder, Esther “Mama Kiki” Armstrong.

A Ghanian native, Armstrong moved to Maryland and opened the Sankofa African and World Bazaar gift shop in 1994.

“I am aware of how little information, true information there is in our communities about Africa,” said Armstrong. “I found that there are people who really like the culture but don’t know where to get the information.”

Originating in Ghana, the Mwana Pwo, a mask representing a maiden ready for marriage, sits on display at the Sankofa Children's Museum.

Mori Johnson

Originating in Ghana, the Mwana Pwo, a mask representing a maiden ready for marriage, sits on display at the Sankofa Children’s Museum.

Jim Clemmer, Armstrong’s husband is the museum curator. He studied tribal art and is the one who selects which pieces will be showcased.

“This piece is the mwana pwo, which means a beautiful young maiden, fully trained and ready for marriage,” Clemmer explained as he stood next to the case where the Angolan mask sat.

African art and decorations adorn the walls. The first room, which was The Art Room, honored the generosity of the Ferris Family Foundation.

Young visitors to the museum will be able to play and create art. Instruments are there for children to test their musical skills. A large floor puzzle in the shape of Africa is there to help children connect to the continent.

“We are reaching out to schools so they can plan school trips around the museum,” said Armstrong. “We want to incorporate this into their curriculum, so children will be learning history and geography in a fun way and won’t even realize that they are learning.”

During their visit to the children’s museum guests also can visit the gift shop. The gift shop boasts authentic, traditional West African clothing, jewelry, home decorations, works of art, and a story to go with each piece.

“We are not just selling things in my shop, we are trying to educate,” she said. As she touched the patterns on her gown, Armstrong went on to say, “If you want this, I am going to tell you the history of it.”

Armstong said Sankofa is a symbol that comes from the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. It is a bird that resembles a peacock, in the sense that it is colorful and has a long neck. It stands with its head facing backwards while his feet are faced forward. This is the logo for the gift shop, and according to the company’s website, it is a reminder that people need to know and understand their past, so they are able to move forward.

The museum will host its grand opening in February as part of Black History Month.

Admission into the museum is $10.

For more information on how to become a volunteer or to donate to support the museum, call (410) 366-0886.