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Nigerian Immigrant Lives the American Dream

Lookman Afolayan Mashood moved to the United States from Nigeria in 1996. For several years, he worked in a restaurant as a dish washer and cook. Later, he directed day-to-day operations at the eatery.

About five years ago, he and his girlfriend, Natalie Goldberg, opened their own restaurant in Brooklyn -- one of New York City’s five boroughs. The restaurant sells Nigerian food. It is called “Buka.” That is a word in the Hausa language for a simple eating place on the side of a road that sells good food.

Mr. Mashood thinks his business, called Buka New York, is the most popular African restaurant in the city.

“There's no food compared to Nigerian food. Anybody can cook goat, anybody can cook beef. But when a Nigerian man cook(s) beef for you, you will see the difference. We always bring the flavor out of anything we cook, whether its fish, whether its beef, whether its chicken, whatever we cook -- it's very distinctive -- that colonialism has not been able to change! So, I’m very proud to say I present Nigerian food as it should be, in New York.”

Mr. Mashood says it was not easy to operate a restaurant.

“Nobody give you money to start a restaurant -- there’s no angel fund for restaurants, so you have to struggle very extra hard, you will never have enough money. So if you want to have a restaurant, you need a heart -- I think heart is the most important thing, the conviction I’m going to have a restaurant.”

People eating at the restaurant like the choice of foods.

“So, it has okra, smoked fish, goat meat, and you eat it with pounded yam.”

“When I dine here, it’s like I’m home. And that’s the truth.”

Mr. Mashood says that when he lived in Nigeria, he was just one of many people around the world who wanted to live in the US.

“You cannot stop immigration -- the best of America is immigration, because it is only the bright mind(s), in all the corners of the globe that want to come to USA. It’s only the people that want to advance, those are the people who apply for (a) visa, and want to come here. The dream is still very available, still alive, and especially for Nigerians, because if you want to come to America and work very hard, you will survive. You will gain the reward of what you’ve done.”

I’m Bob Doughty.

VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reported on this story from New York. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

borough – n. one of the five main areas of New York City

distinctive – adj. having a quality or characteristic that makes a person or thing different from others; different in a way that is easy to notice

colonialism – n. control by one country over another area and its people

angel fund – n. money offered by governments or other organizations to help people starting a business

conviction – n. a strong belief or opinion

okra – n. a tall plant whose pods are eaten as a vegetable and are used in soups and stews

advance – v. to go forward; to make progress

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