CCSC Host Panel to Discuss Perception-vs-Reality for Caribbean Nationals in the U.S.

On Saturday, February 24, 2018, Caribbean Community Service Center (CCSC) celebrated Black History Month with a lively event and panel discussion at the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit. Much of the inspiration for the event was informed by a book called “Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities” By Mary C. Watters 1999 which explored West Indian and black identity in the United States.

To explore the topic, attendees had an opportunity to participate in a very informative panel discussion on “Perception vs Reality.”  The event was moderated by Tati Amare, co-host WDIV Live in the D and participating panelists, Maureen Levy Caribbean business owner; Ime Ekpenyong, African entrepreneur; and Ayanna Rufaro Walters, African-American nurse practitioner.  Panelist shared their personal stories and diverse perspectives on the black experience in regards to their personal and professional lives. 

Maureen Levy was born and raised in Jamaica West Indies. Maureen immigrated to the USA in 1989, an alumnus of the University of Detroit Mercy where she earned a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 1995. After working in the hospital setting for several years, she went on to pursue work in the home care setting where she worked as a field nurse to administrative duties for several home care agencies. Maureen currently is the owner of Elsmar Home Health Care where she holds the title of CEO/Administrator. She is responsible for the day to day operations of the agency.

Ime Ekpenyong, second generation immigrant, was born in Harlem, NY on November 12, 1977, and at the age of 3, relocated to Nigeria with his parents. Ime moved back to the US in 1993 to further his education. He has a BS from the Ohio State University, an MBA from Capital University, and a PhD in Organizational Management & Leadership from Capella University. Ime’s professional experience includes over 20 years in the Pharmacy Benefits Management (“PBM”) industry. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer of ScriptGuideRX (SGRX), a Michigan-based Pharmacy Benefit Management Corporation serving private and public entities nationwide. 

Ayanna Rufaro Walters, witnessed diversity being raised at various military bases. Born in Yuba City, CA. Ayanna spent much of her early years residing in Dayton, OH., Miami, FL., Hanau, Germany and Tacoma, WA. Ayanna started her career path in the Health and Sciences field in Detroit, MI. She graduated from J.T.P.A. School of Practical Nursing with a Practical Nursing diploma 1996 and pursued her education by attending Henry Ford College where she earned her Associate Degree in Nursing in 2006. Ayanna currently works at Wayne State University as a Research Study Nurse and Connect to Protect Detroit Coordinator, where she provides her clients with HIV/AIDS intervention and prevention.

Ayanna is an active board member of Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Association where she organizes fundraising activities. She is the co-founder of a nonprofit organization Warriors Achieving Knowledge Education & Understanding Pathways Purpose (WAKE UPP) that educates and empower youth on safe sex and abstinence. She is also the creator and founder for God Got Your Back (GGYB) apparel where incorporates her message through the clothing and accessories that she designs.

The event closed with participants completing a survey. Audience feedback raised the importance of continuing to create events that bring together Caribbean, African and African-American to dialogue and address issues of race, identity and cultural awareness to help build collaboration and understanding among the various groups; emphasis was placed on the need of all people of color to support one another.  Attendees recommended CCSC to host future dialogues focused on engaging young people on the issues of race, identity, and culture. Overall, participants praised the program for being well organize, timely and relevant to building a stronger community.