Voices From Our America

Voices Lifted, Lives Amplified

VFOA is an applied research project dedicated to preserving and disseminating the neglected narratives of the American experience. Through oral history interviews, we aim to create social and educational resources that provide communities with a more complete understanding of life in Our America.

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Featured Voices

In Their Own Words


“You know, it’s sad. Panama should have been a bilingual country from the year one, because we [West Indians] were here, and we could have [given] the language to them…. But due to ignorance and prejudice—mostly prejudice—they overlooked English…”

Augustus Trym

“My best advice to the young people coming today should be to study. It is their duty that they should study. To be successful in any profession, one has to study, and therefore many of them lack that. So many of them became very, very dormant and could not get a job when they got bigger because they know no profession.”

Joheta Clark

“At school the teachers use to speak to me in Spanish, so when I reached home I used to have problems with my parents because they talk to me in English, and I had the problem that I wanted to answer them in Spanish, and they say: ‘no way, in school, not here at home. I talk to you in English, answer to me in English’.”

A Word

From Dr. Nwankwo

“VFOA has long been a dream in the making, with the Panamanian core beginning as a seed in 1998 during my first visit to the Isthmus, and maturing over the last ten years during my sojourns to a range of sites across the Americas. Throughout the course of my travels, I have been struck by the richness of the histories and cultures I have encountered, particularly those of African Diaspora communities. As I have journeyed from place to place, however, I have been troubled by the extent to which so many of our histories, these individual and collective histories of experience, are not well known beyond (and even within) our communities themselves. My research, including my book Black Cosmopolitanism, has centered on the relations (positive and negative) between populations of African descent in the Americas, covering areas such as poetry, anthropology, and contemporary music. Simply put, it has become clear to me that we, the people of the Americas don’t know enough about ourselves or about each other. We see each other on TV, or encounter each other briefly in other ways, but don’t really know or understand the nuances of the histories, experiences that drive our approaches to viewing the world and each other. Consequently, our interactions, whether between West Indian and non-West Indian Panamanians, or between U.S. African Americans and Caribbean people, or between older generations and younger generations within the same community, are not always as enriching or as productive as they might be if we were armed with more knowledge about our own history as well of the histories of those with whom we are interacting. ”

– Ifeoma Nwankwo

Get In Touch


Box 1654 Station B, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235



The VFOA Team

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