Kenyan Immigrant Supports Fellow Community Members’ Journey to Achieve Their Full Potential

Wangari Fahari, Artist, Entrepreneur, and Director of DEI&B for Beverly

When Wangari Fahari was 20, she represented her native Kenya at the U.S. Open Taekwondo Championships in Atlanta. “I’d always dreamed of coming to America — that’s why I worked so hard,” she says. 
Fahari moved to Dracut, Massachusetts, to join family, and enrolled at Middlesex Community College on a student visa. But she couldn’t afford tuition and fell out of status. One day, she heard a band rehearsing in a nearby house. She’d always loved to sing, and she was performing jazz and R&B around town. 
Within a few months, a manager from Boston spotted Fahari performing and helped her sign a record deal. The label petitioned for a visa, but when a family member fell ill with cancer, Fahari had to break her contract. In a flash, her visa was gone. Meanwhile, it emerged that she’d suffered abuse by senior music industry figures, and she was given a humanitarian visa to help with the investigation. 
She couldn’t work until her new visa was processed, however, and she lost her home as part of her settlement with the record label. One day, feeling helpless, she walked into City Hall. “I told them, I’ve got nowhere else to go,” she says. A kind administrator came forward to help, pointing her to housing ordinarily used by Lutheran Community Services to resettle refugees. 
Serendipitously, Swahili-speaking refugees from Burundi had recently moved in. Fahari began driving them to appointments, teaching them English, and helping them find work. “I’d felt so lost when I first arrived, so I took joy in helping them,” she says. “I’d finally found my purpose.” 
Newly energized, she began raising awareness for UNESCO and American Jewish World Service. Fahari also rekindled her music career, singing in Swahili for the first time, and winning a national tour following on the world music circuit. She launched her own label, Fahari Records, and signed dozens of world-music artists. 
Today, Fahari is an ambassador and board member for numerous organizations and charities in Massachusetts and beyond. In recognition of her work, the City of Beverly recently appointed her its Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. 
In this role, Fahari hopes to help people in need achieve their potential. “I hope my journey helps people realize that refugees and unhoused immigrants who are struggling today can become tomorrow’s success stories,” she says. 

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