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Why I Launched ENODI For People With Immigrant Backgrounds

Editor’s note: This article was heavily updated on January 21, 2021.

In 2017, I had the privilege of being selected for the TED Residency to work on my idea worth spreading — ENODI. ENODI highlights the lives of first-generation people and immigrants of African, Caribbean, and Latin descent who identify as Black. We also feature the stories and realities of all first-generation and immigrant people globally.

The ENODI website

ENODI’s purpose

The goal of ENODI is to create a digital space that impacts real-world perceptions and narratives of the people with immigrant backgrounds whose identities converge with being Black but are almost never heard from in this context.

I also explore the identities and experiences of all people with immigrant backgrounds who were born and/or raised in a country different than their parents of any heritage.

Using the example of myself, I’m a Black man and Ghanaian-American born in New York City. However, on issues concerning Black people in America, my experience is often overlooked. When people think of Ghanaians, they usually just consider the people living there now, and I’m definitely not the first image of many people’s thoughts on what an American looks like — yet all of these identities define me.

Black immigrants are an afterthought on immigration issues in the U.S. And even when they or their children achieve success and notoriety, such as Colin Powell, Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Issa Raye, Shirley Chisholm, and others, their immigrant heritage is rarely, if ever, spoken of in most news reporting.

We almost never hear from Afro Latinos in this context, either. The late Gwen Ifill and Jean-Michel Basquiat, along with, well-known figures like Sophina DeJesus, Rosie Perez, Carmelo Anthony, and Jharrel Jerome are usually perceived as one or the other and not both.

As we saw with Naomi Osaka’s U.S. Open win in 2018, her Black Haitian heritage was erased in most news coverage of her success. We’re seeing some movement with Kamala Harris’ Jamaican, Indian, Black, and American identities being generally observed and covered. But we have a long way to go to understand the sum of people who hold multiple ethnic and national identities.

I talk about this in my TED Talk that has been viewed over 1 million times and translated in 28 languages (you can watch it at this link ).

How ENODI developed from a project to a podcast

While the research component to ENODI was launched with my Stanford Knight Fellowship where I focused on the private messaging networks of immigrant communities — the original idea for ENODI was to be a project that was inspired by Helena Price’s Techie’s Project.

I invited guests to TED headquarters in New York and documented our conversations that were to be transcribed and shared. I also photographed a portrait of each guest. As I reviewed our conversations, it was clear that people needed to hear their voices. The text alone did not capture the energy that clearly needed to be felt to fully understand both the humor and heartache of these stories.

I continued inviting people to speak with me, but now for the purpose of publishing the audio. I feature people who are willing to share a range of stories about their lives and their identities.

When you listen to these stories, you will learn about how people live at the intersection of their multicultural identities. You will hear how this has affected their view of the world. Guests speak about their accomplishments, their failures, and their challenges. They share how their experiences have impacted the lives they have chosen to live.

What’s an Enodi?

Enodi is a term I’ve created to define a group of people that meet all three of these points of identity:

  1. You are directly from or one generation removed from a country in Africa, the Caribbean, or Latin and South America (i.e. you or at least one of your parents were born and raised in one of these countries).
  2. You were born in or immigrated at a young age to a country different from the one at least one of your parents were born and raised. You grew up in this country.
  3. You identify as Black, either as determined by the country you grew up in, or in a general or international way.

For example, I am an Enodi, because I was born and raised in the U.S., my parents were born and raised in Ghana and I identify as Black.

You may have been born and raised in the UK, your parents might be from Trinidad. You may be biracial and identify equally with your Jewish and Senegalese heritage and grew up in Canada.

You may have been born in Bermuda, but your parents are Jamaican and Grenadian and arrived in the U.S. when you were five years old like Dr. Jody Dublin (hear Dr. Dublin’s story at this link).

Or you may be Afro Latino, born in the U.S. with Dominican heritage who considers himself Black, like Remysell Salas (listen to Remy’s story at this link).

The ENODI Podcast is available now on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

How to be featured

If you’re an Enodi, I want to hear from you.

If you have an immigrant background and were born and/or raised in a country different than your parents, regardless of your countries heritage, I want to hear from you, too.

If you are interested in being featured kindly submit the form at this link: https://www.enodi.co/be-featured

If selected, we will have a great conversation. We’ll share it with the world. It will be dope.

I encourage you to share and distribute this note with your community and professional networks. Share this with your friends, with your colleagues, with your schools, with any and everyone whom you believe would make a great feature.

Feel free to send a note on our contact page if you would like to be involved. Reach out if you are interested in collaborating, if you have partnership ideas, or if you simply want to say hello and share your thoughts.

Please leave your comments below and let’s start a conversation right here.

Michael Rain leverages storytelling and technology to expand the world’s perception of diverse communities. He is the founder of ENODI, a Stanford Knight Fellow, and a TED Resident & Speaker with a TED Talk that has over 1 million views.

Subscribe and listen to The ENODI Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.



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Michael Rain

Storyteller // ENODI Founder // TED Speaker & Resident // Harvard Grad student // Stanford Knight Fellow // Columbia Alum // Technologist and emerging designer