‘There’s something magical happening in Alief:’ Alief embraces Nigerian culture

KPRC 2′s ‘Our Town’ is a new series exploring communities in Houston. The Alief/Westwood area, one of the most populated neighborhoods, is known for its vibrant community spirit.

Houston is home to the largest Nigerian population outside of Nigeria. The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 report found 34,937 Nigerian-American’s call Houston home. Many of them live in Alief, according to Council Member Tiffany Thomas who represents District F.

“There’s something magical happening in Alief,” Thomas said. “I often say District F particularly Alief is the cultural currency for the city of Houston. We give the city flare. There’s no other place in the city that you can come and get a different flare of jollof rice, or you know various African markets.”

Thomas shared she and city leaders are working to get direct flights to Nigeria and a consulate to accommodate the Nigerian community.

“Representing that largest number Nigerian Americans right here in Alief is significant and we want to make sure they have all the resources available to them as Nigerians and Houstonians,” Thomas said.

Rilwan: What is it about Alief that is so special, means so much to you?

Councilmember Thomas: Well, it’s home for me. I went to high school here. I purchased my home here. There’s a reason why my parents purchased their home here. The experience I had as a young person walking the halls of Alief ISD with individuals with various backgrounds.

Rilwan: What is it about the business aspect would you say that people feel like, ‘we can succeed in this realm?

Councilmember Thomas: I think it’s a part of the grit of the community. Taking those economic principals and then also the dream of coming to America, coming to Houston particularly, and knowing that this is an economic opportunity for them.

Ivy Okoro was born and raised in Alief. Her parents migrated to the United States for education then moved to Texas after finding community.

“Alief is pretty much our gathering space. It basically represents a familiar cultural climate. A familiar family community connection,” Okoro said. “It’s just where all of us really recognize one another.”

Ivy Okoro's family photographs. ((Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.))

Rilwan: Describe growing up in Alief for you.

Ivy: Growing up in Alief was such a beautiful experience. Seeing so many people from different walks of life. People that look like you and people that did not look like you. Alief definitely represents a melting pot.

That melting pot is a reason why Tunde Fasina opened Wazobia African Market eleven years ago.

“We saw that there was a need for our people, Africans and Nigerians, to get food in a conducive environment,” Fasina said.

Rilwan: Describe Wazobia, the word itself, because it also represents the different Nigerian groups here in Alief community.

Fasin: Three words from three different societies. The ‘wa’ means come in Yoruba. The ‘zo’ means come in Hausa. And the ‘bia’ means come in Igbo communities. It’s basically come, come, come. Using that name gave us instance recognition within our own community. That’s why we chose the name.”

Artwork in Wazobia African Market. ((Copyright 2024 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.))

Fasina opened the market in 2013 selling African products and food. He quickly realized he found a niche with a growing customer base. In 2017, they saw a boom, “we increased 100% in volume and began to import products directly from local communities in Africa,” according to the company website.

“I’m excited to be here. Proud to be here amongst my community, amongst the greater Houston community at large,” Fasina said.

Councilmember Thomas had previously said she felt District F, which includes represents the Alief area in west Houston, was often forgotten. However, recently, she’s changed her tune.

“We are definitely the future. We are no longer forgotten. It’s one of the reasons why I have worked to change the narrative about the west side being the best side of Houston and one of the reasons why is because we are the culture currency,” Thomas said.

‘Our Town’ explores communities in the Houston area

KPRC 2′s ‘Our Town’ will take an in-depth look at 10 communities in our area that are overcoming day-to-day adversities. Explore our work so far!

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