Vera Azuka Osuokwu-Idam is an esteemed professional and community advocate whose extensive work across various domains has significantly impacted numerous lives. Her unwavering commitment to her community, professional distinction, and advocacy for unity and empowerment all together stands as a beacon of inspiration for many within and beyond the African diaspora.

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As the publisher of Afrik Digest International Magazine, Vera has created a pivotal platform that unites the African diaspora by disseminating news, lifestyle stories, and community profiles, all from its Colorado base.

As someone who came to the United States as an immigrant, she understands the struggles that the average immigrant goes through. She has ensured her talents and outlet have been used to ensure immigrants have a voice that can advocate for them.

Vera’s entrepreneurial skill is evident in her roles as CEO of Confetti Events Manager and AfrikTide Publishing, where she oversees event organization and book publishing, respectively, catering to a wide array of needs.

With a rich editorial background in Nigeria, where she served as a book editor for one of the country’s foremost publishers, Vera has honed her literary craft, which she continues to apply in her multifarious roles.

Vera’s extensive community service includes membership in the Colorado State’s Community Advisory Committee on New Americans and the Colorado Statewide Community of Practice, earning her widespread recognition and numerous accolades for her contributions.

Her dedication has been acknowledged by the African Leadership Group, and African Chambers of Commerce Colorado among others, with her ALG award speech underscoring her belief in the transformative power of passion, happiness, and health in achieving success. 

She sat with me, Tolulope Omotunde, a staff with Afrik Digest, for an in-house interview where she talked about a whole range of issues about Afrik Digest and the black community in Colorado and beyond.

Below are excerpts from the interview.
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Vera Azuka Osuokwu-Idam is the publisher of Afrik Digest Magazine, headquartered in Colorado, USA.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): Finally I get to sit with you to tell the whole world about AfrikDigest. So, what exactly is AfrikDigest all about?

Vera Idam (Publisher/CEO): Afrik Digest is a cherished African lifestyle magazine dedicated to recounting narratives from African immigrants and people of African descent in America. Headquartered in Colorado, USA, our publication covers a diverse array of topics, including culture, lifestyle, civic matters, business, education, and entertainment. Our inception was driven by a compelling need to serve the community, providing a platform for voices often marginalized. We illuminate community initiatives, share immigrant experiences, and spotlight local events.
At Afrik Digest, we actively engage with our community members and listen to their perspectives on civic matters, healthcare, education, and economic challenges. Our commitment extends to forging partnerships across culturally diverse groups. Through our print and online platforms, as well as our social media channels, we disseminate verified information, emphasizing truth and transparency.

Our coverage strategy is meticulously tailored to address the specific needs of African immigrants and people of African ancestry. Distribution decisions are guided by necessity and financial feasibility, reaching people where they reside. The Metro area of Colorado, particularly Aurora and Denver, along with Boulder and Colorado Springs, remains our primary coverage zone, reflecting the heart of our community.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): Okay. So what exactly is the mission and vision of AfrikDigest?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO): At Afrik Digest, our mission is clear. To address critical coverage gaps within Colorado’s larger community. We recognize that mainstream media often overlooks the unique experiences and perspectives of African immigrants. We want to bridge this gap, and we’ll be committed to leveraging any philanthropic funding that grace brings our way to this purpose. We also aim to become a trusted platform for African and Black immigrant voices in Colorado. By doing so, we foster a sense of belonging and empower our community with relevant information. We have also identified two significant coverage gaps which are representation and language barriers. At Afrik Digest, we say representation is everything. Mainstream media fails to capture the cultural nuances and complexities of the Black immigrant experience in Colorado. Many Black immigrants who do not speak or read English fluently, are limited in information and representation access.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): How does  Afrik Digest intend to bridge this gap that you just talked about?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO): By ensuring that we dish out tailored content for Black Immigrants/DiasporaAfricans. We create content specifically tailored to the Black immigrant community. From personal narratives to interviews, documentaries, podcasts, and profiles that highlight their triumphs and struggles. We also explore critical issues relevant to Black immigrants, such as access to resources, cultural preservation, and addressing racial discrimination.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): How have you been able to run and fund your operations so far?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO): It has taken a lot of resilience, doggedness, determination, and sheer passion to keep the flag flying. AfrikDigest has been privately owned, operated, and funded since inception solely by myself. Despite our marvelous relentless service to the community, we continue to struggle with the challenges of funding. It is an ethnic media outlet, and things are even tougher being far removed from the mainstream. As a newsroom committed to making a positive impact within our community, we are fueled by passion. However, without adequate financial support, our efforts remain limited. We have been relentless in advocating for equity and inclusion, yet our mission cannot be fulfilled without the essential resources.  Our funding challenges mean Afrik Digest operates with smaller teams due to budget limitations. This means we have none or fewer journalists available to cover stories, leading to gaps in coverage and the quality of our reporting. For example, as much as we place a high premium on quality reporting, limited funds impact our newsroom’s quality of reporting to a great extent, such as investigative journalism, which requires time and resources, suffers.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): You have talked about the challenges of funding which is key. What other challenges or experiences have you encountered or learned so far?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO): The challenges and experiences have been varied. Aside from the funding challenge which no doubt is a huge factor in a lot of our operations because year after year, ethnic media outlets like Afrik Digest grapple with financial constraints. We largely lack the resources to consistently seek out news stories, so our struggle is real. Aside from that, we have challenges with human resources.  High turnover rates due to financial instability result in a loss of institutional knowledge. New journalists may not fully understand the local context. While this is a critical challenge for the ecosystem, it’s not a specific issue for us, as we have not hired a full-time journalist in a long while.

There’s also the technological challenge as well. Transitioning to digital platforms requires investment in technology and training, which smaller outlets like ours may lack. Also analyzing data for investigative reporting demands specialized tools and skills that may be scarce while limited resources force a lot of newsrooms like ours to prioritize certain stories over others, often favoring breaking news. So those have been some of the challenges that we have encountered so far.

Despite these headwinds, Afrik Digest has demonstrated resilience and effectiveness within the local news ecosystem. We thrive on community partnerships and collaboration and continue to partner with various organizations to fulfill our mission of amplifying African voices and promoting community engagement. Our newsroom took the lead in establishing the Colorado Ethnic Media Exchange, a coalition of local minority newsrooms united to advocate for their diverse communities across Colorado. CEME members collaborate to address shared challenges encountered by ethnic media organizations and foster understanding among different communities. Additionally, Afrik Digest is a member of the Colorado Press Association (CPA) and frequently engages with media partners such as the Colorado Media Project (CMP) and CoLab in community events and programs.

I am proud to say that we actively seek our audience’s input through periodic Google Forms surveys distributed to members of the African community. We gauge their expectations, preferences, and concerns. This intentional feedback loop ensures our reporting remains relevant and impactful.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): And despite all these challenges you strongly believe that AfrikDigest is unique?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO): Yes I do because our commitment to authentic storytelling sets us apart. We amplify voices that often go unheard, shining a spotlight on African and Black immigrant experiences, and we have been consistent in capturing the essence of our community. We have also effectively operated and planned improvements through collaboration and content sharing. We have and are still collaborating with other local news outlets, sharing content, and co-publishing investigative pieces. This expands reach and ensures important stories reach a wider audience, while also ensuring that our community engagement remains solid. We have participated in local events, town halls, and community meetings while building relationships with community members to have solid sources for valuable story leads and foster trust.

Another thing that sets Afrik Digest apart is our commitment to serving the underserved. We amplify the voices of the voiceless and strive to level the playing field. From my personal experience, new Americans are often excluded from decision-making tables due to a lack of confidence in advocating for themselves. The immigrant community tends to be reluctant to present themselves as needy, yet they contribute significantly to the growth of the United States economy through their taxes. Worldwide, news media wields social influence and has the power to transform society. When a segment of society is left out of the media net, they are left behind. Our community has experienced this exclusion, which underscores the undeniable need for an ethnic media outfit like Afrik Digest.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): Alright. So where exactly is the coverage area for Afrik Digest?

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO):  Our geographic scope extends to people of African heritage residing in the Denver metropolitan areas, including Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Greeley. According to the 2020 Census, over 45,000 African immigrants live in Colorado. To reach them effectively, we’ve established additional channels such as community associations, churches, and community engagements. Recognizing that not everyone in our community speaks and understands English, having a media owner who belongs to that community ensures everyone feels included and relevant in our media output.

Tolu (AfrikDigest): Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me

Vera Idam(Publisher/CEO):  It’s my pleasure

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