For tens of thousands of African New Yorkers, language can be a major barrier. In the last month, ACT has led two important breakthroughs to help African immigrants access services and engage in their community.
ACT members and volunteers at Community Interpreter Corps Launch. Photo credit: Mekinda Mekinda
IDNYC, Now in French!
IDNYC is New York's municipal identification card. It provides a vital service for many immigrants, especially those with no other way of getting legal i.d. So it's especially important that IDNYC be accessible to immigrants with limited English.
And that's why Africans were surprised and disappointed that the IDNYC application was translated into 30 different languages-- but not into French. After English, French is the most spoken language of New York's 130,000 African immigrants.
ACT's staff and our Volunteer Business Outreach Director Lawrence Blaber worked together with our sister organization Pan-African Community Development Initiative to challenge our community's exclusion. We patiently and persistently advocated with NYC's Director of Language Access, IDNYC staff, and the Citywide Language Access Advisory Committee.
ACT invited IDNYC staff to a membership meeting, where ACT members directly voiced their concerns about the need to translate forms and make interpretation available at application sites.
After several weeks of follow-up, we got the news: the IDNYC application is now available in French!
And we're not done yet: community members who need bilingual help applying to IDNYC can call ACT at (347) 746-2281, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Interpreter Koku Afeto learns what it's like to interpret professionally at the United Nations.
Community Interpreter Corps Launched
In February, ACT launched our Community Interpreter Corps, a group of multilingual ACT members providing volunteer interpretation for African communities.
ACT helped 17 of our members apply to the NYCertified Program, a program organized by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs that trains and certifies volunteer interpreters. Five ACT members have already been accepted to NYCertified, giving a big boost to New York City's capacity to reach African New Yorkers who speak French and African languages.
Community Interpreters will volunteer with both ACT and NYCertified, translating outreach materials, simultaneously interpreting meetings, and helping community members access services.
ACT will help Community Interpreters find training and professional development opportunities, and pursue employment as interpreters, translators, and bilingual service providers.
Community Interpreters aren't just using their language skills to find rewarding employment. They're making sure that the voices of New York's African communities are heard-- and understood.
...and Many More to Come!
These two milestones are just the beginning. In the months to come, ACT will be developing the Community Interpreter Corps, surveying African communities about language access issues, and advocating with City agencies.
If you'd like to get involved, call ACT at (347) 746-2281, or contact us online.