Meet Papa Dia, a community leader, mentor and founder of the African Leadership Group, an advocacy organization that has helped thousands in the African immigrant community. Papa grew up in Senegal, West Africa, and currently lives with his family near Denver, Colorado.
Published on I Am An Immigrant
Papa reflects on his decision to immigrate to the United States. “I came here in 1998, and like most immigrants, I came here seeking an opportunity for a better life. I came from a very poor family, and growing up, it was very difficult. Eating was a luxury. But as poor as we were, we were very happy. What we had, we shared with one another.
When I came here, it was a relief for my family. I was able to work and send money home to them. I couldn’t speak English and my first job was at the Tattered Cover bookstore. I was hired there, my job was stocking books, and I was making $5.25 per hour. It was a great place to start, because I was surrounded by books, so I had access to them. I used them to help me learn to speak and write English.”
He started working at a bank, and his success there inspired other immigrants to seek out his help and guidance. “The bank became my school. I spent 18 years in the banking industry. Every year there, I was getting a promotion. When I was at the bank, the branch where I was working had a hotel nearby where African immigrants were working.