Imagine. Navigating a sea of pale skinned humans with thick accents and foreign food for several days, only to FINALLY find a small glowing group of people that look. Just. Like. You. You introduce yourself and you guys build a budding platonic relationship. Then you stop to finally allow yourself to breathe again and think. Moving half way across the world may not be so bad after all.
I had always been on the receiving end of the African conversation. The mean jokes, the rude stares, bullying, you name it. And long story short, it wasn't until my latter years in high school that I became comfortable and confident in my Nigerian heritage, discovering that I in fact hail from royal Yoruba lineage (that's a whole other post guys, we'll revisit soon cause it's lit.) But before the discovery of the richness of my blood, I at least had a comeback for such harsh jokes. Or at the very least, skin thick enough to ignore the tasteless comments. But never, ever, have I felt so defenseless as I had when my new Black British friends were bug eyed, staring my Black American friends like they grew a second head when they uttered the words, "I don't know."
They responded "I don't know" to the dreaded question. Where are you really from. No, not America, or Chicago even. Where are you really from? It truly baffled me that they could not seem to wrap their minds around the fact that our ancestors were stripped from their sweet homelands and funneled into a place far far away, scattered between hundreds of regions and neighborhoods across the country. When former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass was ripped away from his family at a tender age, he yearned for even a small taste of his family history. Of what his mother smelled like, of whether or not his father's genetics rendered him his birth mark. Not one single birth certificate or documentation of him as a child. Outside of swollen bruises from a whip, or bloody cotton picking fingers, to the world of the white man, he didn't exist. Douglass's story like many others, is just a snippet of why many Americans cannot trace the lineage of their direct African roots.
Now days, it's extremely popular for Black Americans to make out parts of their paychecks to organizations such as "23 and Me" and "Ancestry.com" to try and finally remove the mountain of eagerness and yearning for a sense of belonging and trace their lineage. And I think it is beautiful. I think it is amazing. I think it is so encouraging to see that so many of my people thirst for forbidden knowledge, previously stripped from us so many years ago.
To those that continue the quest, keep on. Because you belong. And to those who are blessed enough to know the elegant meaning of their last names, and the recipes to their hometown soup dish. Take pride in that. But please, do not bash those that have yet to discover such richness.
Where am I from? Africa. Where the purest of oils flows through the soil. The darkest of skin drapes the fiercest laborers, Ankara sewing, hair braiding stallion strengthed women. Where colorful spices compete with the cheer in the loud conversational voices and dancing feet kick up dust as they tremble the land God has bestowed them. Africa. The greatest place on earth. And to those whose curious eyebrows raise in protest of my original answer "Chicago."
Africa. That's where I'm really from.
Until next time,
Be a Rebel.