Editor-in-Chief, New Americans Magazine
In 2010, Deba Uwadiae, his wife and three children were selected to receive visas through the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, allowing them to move from their native Nigeria to Columbus, Ohio.
Their transition wasn’t easy. In Nigeria, Deba had risen from political reporter to editor-in-chief and publisher, but Columbus news outlets overlooked him. His wife had studied physics and managed the family travel agency in Nigeria, but she, too, couldn’t break into the professional job market. They suspected their accents created a barrier. Receptionists would sometimes offer them Spanish interpretation. “I speak fluent English; I don’t speak Spanish,” Deba says with a laugh.
While working with his wife at Cheryl’s Cookies to make ends meet, Deba was determined to make the most of their American opportunity. He started his own publications, the New Americans and New Americans Business magazines, which cover subjects relevant to the Ohio immigrant community. The New Americans magazine currently trains 10 interns from the Ohio Media School, employs four part-time contributors and works in partnership with Apex 1 Radio. Deba’s wife returned to school and now works as a nurse on the front lines of the pandemic. Two of their children are college educated and their third just graduated form high school.
Deba feels welcomed by the people of Columbus and loves the life that he and his family have built here. In 2018, he joined a City Council-sponsored leadership and professional development program, which helps new immigrants become active community stakeholders. However, he also recognizes that the City could do more to support new arrivals. “We need ads and outreach to connect them to resources,” he says. “After the pandemic, we need events that bring them face to face with social services organizations, employers seeking workers and others who can help them acclimate to the City.”
In the meantime, Deba is stepping up. In response to the global pandemic, he started the New American Community Information Center (NACIC) to connect local immigrants to life-saving social services. NACIC has also helped immigrants apply for citizenship and assisted new citizens with voter registration.
Deba believes his news outlets and nonprofit work can help foster a more welcoming community. “When immigrants are seen, when our accents are heard, we are normalized,” he says. “It’s not that people don’t want our talents; many simply aren’t exposed to us. Once they are, they’ll see everything we have to offer.”