When Angela Okafor moved to Bangor after earning a law degree in her home country of Nigeria, she was immediately met with the myriad of obstacles that black women and immigrants face both in Maine and throughout the country. After waiting five years to secure her work permit, she could not find a job in her profession despite her advanced qualifications. Law firms and private companies doubted her experience, questioned her abilities, and pried into her personal life during interviews. It seemed no matter what she did, someone would find a reason to turn her away.
Everywhere I turned there was a door waiting to slam in my face
Okafor remembers the frustration and emotional toll this process had on her and her family of five.
Thankfully, she found family away from family in her church community in Bangor. When she grew tired of the application process and decided to open her own law practice, the church lent her an extra room in their building. When she suffered from health complications, friends and neighbors brought her home cooked meals. The love and support she felt encouraged her to keep fighting.
Through practicing immigration law, Okafor connected with Maine’s diverse immigrant community, meeting clients from countries like the Philippines and Jamaica. She realized that they share common struggles when settling in Maine, including the lack of culturally appropriate food, clothing, and beauty products. A multi-passionate entrepreneur, Okafor opened Tropical Tastes and Styles in 2017 to serve the immigrant community in Bangor. The store is not just about the products she sells, it’s also a safe haven for women, mothers, and immigrants like Okafor who are in need of a support network.
I really look forward to helping every woman see that you don’t have to be just one person,” she described her passion for helping women. “You can be anything and everything that makes you happy and who you are.
In the ten years since moving to Maine, Angela Okafor has realized many of her dreams with no plans of slowing down. She is currently writing a book and organizing a group of young women to practice African hair braiding. While she’s frequently on the go, Okafor can be found at public speaking engagements across the state, and practicing law in the mornings while running her store in the afternoons.
Please visit Tropical Tastes and Styles International Market at 347 Harlow Street in Bangor.