Term limits are forcing City Councilwoman Helen Foster to step down, and the four African candidates running to replace her reflect population changes in her South Bronx district. Borough reporter Erin Clarke filed the following report.
African markets dot the streets of Morrisania and many other Bronx neighborhoods. The borough is home to a large African population, and now three sons and a daughter of the continent are vying for a seat in the city council, to replace outgoing City Councilwoman Helen Foster.
The chairman of Community Board 5, Dr. Bola Omotosho, said, "That shows that the African community has come of age and now we can sit at the table and improve on the diversity which New Yorkers are used to."
His words echo the census data.
"The census report of 1990 shows about 16,000 Africans in the Bronx and the last census shows over 60,000," said Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, the chairman of the United African Coalition.
That includes City Council District 16, which covers Morrisania, Morris Heights and Melrose.
So Omotosho is running for the council seat, as are city tax auditor Abiodun Bello, businessman Ahmadou Diallo and Naaimat Muhammed, an aide to Foster.
"I just really want to make sure that this precedent is set and then open more doors along the way," said Muhammed.
They all have strong ties to the African community and are each in constant contact with the United African Coalition which represents their countrymen, but say they aren't running only for Africans.
"I set the tone clear, that as African-Americans or Africans from back home, we all are one," said Diallo.
Ultimately, the coalition will throw its support behind just one of the candidates in order to make sure the African community's vote isn't split.
"Whatever decision they come up with I'll be satisfied, because to me it isn't Abiodun alone," said Bello.
"I guarantee you that at the end of that day the other three will be backing that person, so there is no fractionalization," said Bukola Shonuga, a member of the United African Coalition.
Especially since there is another candidate already in the race. Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson has also announced her candidacy.
The coalition has held meetings with all four African candidates and is expected to choose one to support next week.