African American Studies
INTERVIEWER: Jane Edwards
INTERVIEWEE: Agossou Amossou, Bamezon Comlanvi
SUMMARY BY: Patrick O’Donnell
Agossou Amossou and Bamezon Comlanvi both immigrated to the US from Togo. Amossou, who works as a security guard in the Bronx Museum and is earning a bachelor’s degree in French from Lehman college, came to the Bronx in 2004. Comlanvi also works in security and came to the Bronx in 2002. He is also studying French at Lehman College. During the interview, both men discuss the difficulties and differences they have experienced in relocating from Togo to the US. Foods, music, religion, languages, and family life are all quite different in the US. Both men send money home to their families in Togo on a regular basis.
Before coming to the US, Amossou worked as a French teacher in Gadan for nearly ten years. Political unrest there forced him to move, and he considered going to France. However, he earned a student visa to go the US, since he knew that he could apply for political asylum as a refugee while working at the same time. He was granted asylum soon after. His first job was at a General Electric warehouse in Queens, where he worked every day from 9 AM to 6 PM. Later, he decided to take a security job, since security companies often offer benefits which allow their employees to attend school. He began working for Conni Security in Manhattan, and was soon promoted to a stable post at the Bronx Museum. Amossou lives with his wife, who works at the General Electric warehouse, and his 15-year old daughter, who attends high school.
Bamezon Comlanvi came to the US from Togo in 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from a university in Togo. Upon arriving in the Bronx, he went to Catholic Charities, which offers a number of programs which help recent immigrants look for employment. After a series of temporary jobs, he finally landed a full-time job at a liquor store in Harlem (125th St.) After about a year, he decided to earn a certification in “home attendance.” He would go to homes for seniors and the sick and take care of them. After about a year and a half, he changed his career again. He began working for FDC security, where he works the night shift, from midnight until 8 AM. Like Agossou Amossou, he attends Lehman college, where he is working towards a degree in French—the college would not let him study social work, as he already had a foreign degree in sociology. Comlanvi also supports his wife and his 18-month old daughter.
Amossou and Comlanvi say that one of the biggest differences between Togolese culture and American culture is family life. In Togo, it is common practice for a man to have more than one wife, and domestic disputes are settled between families, rather than between families and the police. In the US, wives can appeal to a number of governmental organizations if they are victims of domestic abuse, and once in America, they frequently have little patience for polygamous relationships, since they are not the norm in the US. Amossou also says that it is difficult to raise his daughter, who is very much affected by American culture.
Amossou, Agossou and Comlanvi Bamezon. August 12, 2008. Interview with Bronx African American History Project. BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Amossou, Agossou and Comlanvi Bamezon Part 1.mp3 (86190 kB)
Amossou, Agossou and Comlanvi Bamezon Part 2.mp3 (20601 kB)