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Nigerian-Americans Convene In Houston To Celebrate Culture & Raise Money

Many who attend the annual convention think of it more as a family reunion.

Iyoha Charles is rummaging through a pile of clothes hangers on the floor and carefully hanging up her handmade kaftans. She says it takes about a day to sew the ankle-length robes of brightly-printed fabric and elaborate embroidery. Charles came to the U.S. from Nigeria in 2010 and moved to Houston a year and a half ago when she married an American.

"Being around a Nigerian community makes you feel very much at home," Charles explains. "It's like home away from home."

Charles is selling the traditional Nigerian clothing at the annual convention of Edo National Association Worldwide, or ENAW. The event, hosted by Bini Club of Houston, Inc., took place in West Houston during Labor Day weekend.

Some visitors, such as Andrew Amadasun, see it as a reunion.

"It's a place where we can talk again, speak the language again, share values and things that we do together," Amadasun says, who flew in from Nigeria for the event.

Part of the convention's goal is to raise money for medical assistance and community improvement in Edo State, located in the southern part of Nigeria.

“We’ve been to several villages and we’ve established two medical centers that are being used as we speak,” says ENAW President Franklin Omoruna.

Another goal of the gathering is to provide more parks and green space for the area. Last year, the Migration Policy Institute reported that Texas is home to approximately 40,000 Nigerian Americans and about half live in the Houston area.

"If you look at the population in Houston, you tend to meet Nigerians who are from either the Yoruba tribe or they're Igbo," says Amen Oyiboke, a first-generation Nigerian. Her dad moved to Houston to work in the medical field, which is what draws a lot of people from the country.

That's why this three-day weekend of music, art, and camaraderie is a priority for so many of the immigrants. They see it as a way to preserve the culture for younger generations born outside of Nigeria.

Stella Ejedawe is a Nigerian-American in charge of the Women's Affairs Committee of ENAW. The Los Angeles resident was in town with her teenage daughter, who just returned from a trip to Africa.

"They're born here, they're Americans," Ejedawe says. "But we want them to also know, ‘Hey, you're African. This is your culture. This is what we do.'"

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