APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Dr. Taiye Philips Oriaran is one of the founding members of African Heritage, Inc., the leading black organization in the Fox Cities.
They are celebrating 23 years of supporting African American and black culture and issues.
“Let’s create a forum, an official forum, that allows us to share our experiences, that allows us to support each other, that allows us to elevate everybody in the community,” said Dr. Oriaran.
“I really could connect with their mission and that is to increase the awareness and appreciation of African Americans and blacks in the area,” said Dr. Sabrina Robins, a Board Member for African Heritage, Inc.
Dr. Robins first came on as a volunteer after moving to the Fox Cities from Detroit.
“So there was a great need and there still is a great need to understand not only who we are as a people but what our needs are and what our experiences are in the Fox Valley,” said Dr. Robins.
While Dr. Oriaran has resided here for the majority of his professional career he is also a transplant to Northeast Wisconsin.
“My formative years were in Nigeria. I was born in Nigeria,” said Oriaran.
Dr. Oriaran studied Forest Resources Management in Nigeria before pursuing a Master’s in Paper Sciences at Miami University in Ohio and later a Ph.D. in material sciences at Penn State University.
It was during his early years here that Dr. Oriaran started to experience the changes that come with leaving the environment you’ve been in your entire life, most notably discrimination.
Oriaran said, “Nigeria is a predominately black country… I didn’t even know there was anything like discrimination until I got to this country.”
Dr. Oriaran says he thanks God that all in all people have been nice to him in America but his experiences have shaped who he is as a black American and community leader.
In terms of discrimination, I think some of my experiences here are really what inspired some of us to really say ok let’s found an organization where we can bring people together so we can understand our differences, so we can find common grounds,” said Oriaran.
Robins said, “We need leaders like Dr. Oriaran that is open that have the skills and the desire to chip in to help lead that change, be that understanding so that Northeast Wisconsin really can have that sense of belonging for everyone.”
Dr. Oriaran said the goals of the group include education, sharing culture, and making everyone feel comfortable and they do that by holding events right here in the Fox Cities.
Oriaran said, “We have some core programs that we think are very important for our mission. We have a black history program.”
“And then we have juneteenth which is the commemoration of the ending of slavery in the united states,” said Robins.
And these events position the group as leaders that are taking this community forward.
“Reaching out. If you do it with authenticity, with integrity, then the sky is the limit for who you can influence,” said Oriaran.