From an early age, Goziem Nwafor devoutly watched the show “Static Shock,” which featured a black crime-fighting superhero. As one of the few black students in his elementary grades, the image of a young black hero fighting crime and racism resonated with Nwafor.
“Even though it was a show for kids my age, it talked about important topics we should know about, racism, guns [and gang] violence and intimidation,” he said.
Today, as a junior specializing in information technology, Nwafor continues to spread his message in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (APAF) and in the community at large, raising awareness of racial issues.
Nwafor was born and raised in Tallahassee, but just before he turned 8, his family moved to his native Nigeria. There he attended a boarding school, which he says forced him to become self-sufficient.
“It just taught me to be independent,” Nwafor said. “It reminded me that I needed to be able to handle things on my own.”
He thinks this was one of the driving factors that led him to get involved in so many organizations and get into the position he is in today.
Cultural roots had always played a role in his life growing up, as he and his siblings’ names were traditional Nigerian names.
However, his total immersion in Nigerian standards became evident when his family returned to the United States when Nwafor was 14, following the terrorist attacks Nigeria faced in 2015.
When his family fled to the United States, Nwafor and his siblings went to live with their uncle in Dallas, while his parents stayed briefly in Nigeria to complete the process of moving to the United States.
In Texas, he attended Bishop Lynch High School (BLHS), where he was one of the few black students, he said.
It took him a while to feel confident enough to befriend other students, as he felt he couldn’t relate to them after being raised in a different culture.
Nwafor said there were various pop culture expressions and references in Nigeria that he could no longer use.
His return to the United States highlighted the separation between Africans on the continent – like Nwafor – and Africans in the diaspora.
“There’s just a disconnect, because we didn’t really understand each other and didn’t really know that we were all the same,” Nwafor said.
Nwafor’s passion for creating unity was evident in the BLHS Pan-African Club, which he founded as a junior. His goal was to create a space for black students to bond.
“What I’ve tried to do is create a sense of belonging for black students in our school, because it’s easy to lose that sense of pride – a sense of self within our blackness, within in a very white school,” Nwafor said.
“I just wanted to create this safe haven so we could build our self-esteem and be able to connect better with each other.”
Nwafor was first exposed to Pan-Africanism as a concept during his second year of college by watching videos of other well-known Pan-Africanists including Malcolm X, WEB DuBois and Marcus Garvey.
Pan-Africanism is the social movement that pushes for unity among the entire African-American community.
He said he connected with the creed because it represented a solution to some of the problems faced by the black community.
“That’s what we need,” he said. “It’s the foundation of how we can all, as people, come together and move forward as a unit.”
Nwafor said he created a quote that represents his beliefs in creating a safe community for African Americans that he often uses, “We need to bring Afrocentricity around.”
“We have to bring our darkness, the full effects, raw and uncut everywhere because it’s beautiful,” he said. “It should not be obscured for anyone.”
At USF, Nwafor was involved in several organizations surrounding racial activism, including the USF Chapter of the NAACP and APAF – the oldest intercollegiate fraternity for African American men.
It was at APAF that he met freshman biomedical science student Ryan Austin, where they worked together on projects for the fraternity.
He really got to watch Nwafor grow over his years at USF, according to Austin.
“Just seeing all the things he’s accomplished, from being a shy, friendly guy, to becoming a USF ambassador, to holding different positions in our chapter,” he said.
“He got this opportunity for the lecture series and I messaged him. I said, ‘I’m really proud of you for everything you’ve done. I have certainly seen all of your growth.
By continuing his efforts for the Pan-Africanist movement, Nwafor said he hopes to help push more African Americans into positions of ownership and leadership, in businesses and institutions.
Nwafor is well known on campus for his friendly demeanor and the way he is outspoken about his cause, according to Austin. He expects Nwafor to be able to sustain his passions to support the black community long into the future.
“He’s strong in his beliefs and I know he’s been very productive,” Austin said.
“I feel like if there was ever a time when there was a need for someone like [Malcolm X] to step up, to make changes, I really see he could be someone to do that.