Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Africana Studies

First Advisor

Brian Purnell


Much of the discourse surrounding African immigration to Maine has centered on the provision of public services that facilitate community development and integration. This project investigates different types of leadership strategies employed by African individuals in Maine that advance community objectives. When African immigrant leaders are empowered to affect public policy, they re-frame traditional conceptions of aid-dependency and vulnerability commonly applied to African immigrants in media and popular culture. Through leadership in nonprofit and civic spheres, African immigrant community leaders translate grassroots connectivity with informal networks into meaningful influence in the realm of public policy. This project focuses on the evolution of community leadership in Maine’s Somali community, the network of immigrant-serving organizations that provide specialized public services across the state, and the capacity of one organization in particular, the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (MIRC) to ensure accurate representation of policy initiatives to civic officials for individuals unable to participate in the electoral process. This project evaluates the political utility of ‘lived experience’ as a component of diversity in the realm of public policy.