Senegalese have immigrated to Washington DC Metro region since the 1970s as students, wage laborers, and itinerant traders, often inhabiting the trader role during transition to the other two occupations. They have driven taxis and worked in hotels and retail establishments. The DMV (Washington DC - Maryland – Virginia) also boasts a sizable population of Senegalese engaged in professional occupations such as engineering, finance, and accounting. The number of Senegalese immigrants moving through the DMV increased dramatically following the implementation of structural adjustment programs in the 1980s and devaluation of the CFA currency in Senegal in the 1990s. The majority of Senegalese in the DMV had been young men, until the late 1990s, when women also began immigrating to open hair-braiding salons (in the District, Silver Spring (MD), etc.); operating restaurants out of their homes catering to male traders, and attending universities.
Most Senegalese first moved to Washington not from Senegal but from New York. These immigrants sought to expand their trade networks to more profitable markets less saturated with other West African immigrants. Although these Senegalese traders have specialized in African art, they have also obtained designer goods such as tee shirts, sunglasses, and purses from Korean and Indian wholesalers. These traders sold goods in Washington or they may send wholesale shipments for sale in other parts of the trade circuit in Maryland, Virginia, New York, Atlanta, and/or Senegal. They sent their remittances overseas to their households in Senegal and to religious organizations there.
The primary community association established by Senegalese immigrants is a Muslim religious foundation called Foundation Khadimou Rassoul North America registered in Washington DC. Members of this organization are disciples of the Muridiyya tariqa (Arabic: a Muslim Sufi order). The Foundation found its origin from an evolution of the Dahira Touba Washington. Original members of that Dahira were traders, businessmen, and students who immigrated to Washington DC. However, the majority of current Dahira members are a mix of newcomers from all over the United States and Senegal in search of better job and trade markets and better educational opportunities. The Dahira, in its traditional form, organizes numerous religious activities in Washington DC. Generally, the Murids gather weekly to chant the incantations of their saintly leader Cheikh Amadou Bamba (Khadimou Rassoul). The disciples also collect contributions for the organization's development projects in its sacred capital, Touba, Senegal.
Per recommendation of Sheikh Mourtada Mbacke, son of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Rassoul, the traditional Dahira was moved under the umbrella of a foundation in order to expand the scope of the numerous contributions that Islam, through Mouridiyya, has to offer to the communities in America. Hence, was born the Foundation Khadimou Rassoul North America (FKRNA) in September 18, 1996. With this new posture, FKRNA extends the objectives of the Al Azar Institute in the propagation of Islamic culture through education by creating Islamic Institutes, organizing cultural events, and publishing magazines and periodicals. The Foundation Khadimou Rassoul North America's main goal is to provide logistic, financial and technical assistance to Al Azar Institute in carrying its noble mission.
The overall mission is to strengthen authentic faith in Muslims and provide them with a good education, emphasizing Islamic Culture, so that they withstand devastating currents of thoughts; to effectively contribute to the fight against illiteracy, juvenile crime, and unemployment. These noble objectives can be achieved only through good education programs and the propagation of Islamic culture. Sheik Mourtada Mbacke in the early 1950s founded Al Azar Institute to carry forward the wish of the venerated Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke who showed tremendous interest in instruction and education of the Muslims. He quoted to youngsters in his versification entitled “Tazawudu-c-Cighar” (Provisions for the Youth): “O young people! Never concern yourselves with anything but righteousness and seeking knowledge. Endeavour to evenly learn and revise your lessons; steer clear of [the] dens of vice. Link up closely with someone who never ceases to worship his LORD, so that he should lead you in His Straight Path…”
Today, the foundation sponsors a Quranic Sunday School program with more than 60 students issued from the African and African-American communities in the DMV region. Additionally, the foundation celebrates Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba Day, a day official proclaimed by the City Hall of the District of Columbia to commemorate the life and oeuvre of Khadimou Rassoul every july 26th. The C. A. Bamba Day event is always an occasion for interfaith conference with the African, African-American, Arab, and other communities living in the DMV region. Moreover, the foundation sponsors visits of Murid marabouts (spiritual leader) and a number of Islamic scholars from Senegal. Finally, the foundation assists in religious family affairs such as weddings, naming ceremony, funeral, conflict resolutions, prayers sessions during Muslim holidays, etc