Most people don’t know that I am West African unless I tell them. My accent has long gone and when I make fun of my mother’s heavy accent I sound as bad as Will Smith did in Concussion. I was born in Benin, West African and migrated to the US 20 years ago. Although I fully identify with American Culture I am still very connected with my African culture as well.
One day I was minding my business just hanging out with a friend and he asked me what I was. I wanted to reply “Human, I’m human.” I didn’t respond at all so he asked again. “Are you African, American or French?” The question seemed so innocent but I didn’t know how to answer in a way that would be satisfactory. Just to clarify, I am not French but I speak it. My country may have been colonized by France but I don’t identify with the country, so we can surely take that off the table. When I have to choose between being African and American things get a little hazy. Why should I have to choose, can’t I be both? I was born in Benin and so was my whole family. I have spent the last 20 years in America and only been back to Benin once so far and I have my American citizenship so I am American.
I find that those who have been extensively exposed to a range of cultures can sometimes offer unique perspectives. The more time we spend on trying to place everyone within a specific box the less we learn. I recently did an interview for the Afrigen project which showcases people of African decent living in the United States and embracing both of their cultures and allowing them to influence their work and social lives. You can check out my interview here. What makes america great is the melting pot of cultures that have assembled here to pursue their dreams. Labels may often be required for certain things but there are nit limitations.
So to answer my friend who is so concern with what I am I say this; I am African. I am American. I can eat my fufu and okra soup with knife and fork. I can wear blue jeans and a tee shirt with an Ankara scarf tied like a traditional gele. I can dab and milli rock to any Olamide or Davido song. You can also catch these hands African or American style, doesn’t bother me. I’m not here to allow anyone to restrict my cultural identify.