My struggles with being a First Generation American
I am the child of Nigerian parents who came to America which made me an American citizen, thus making me a Nigerian American. I have basically lived in "two worlds" my whole life. Living in a home with traditional African parents and attending American schools was different to say the least but honestly that ish was just hard.
I was born in America and at 6months of life we returned back to Nigeria for 7 years. I spent the formative years of my life in what the western world calls a third world nation. I was lucky though, my mother worked for African Continental Bank so we weren't struggling. I went to private schools, had a nanny, my mother had two cars. We got to go on trips and I can say I truly got to enjoy being the child of an executive. Nigeria was the best thing my mother could have done for me. I got to be immersed in my culture, our food, our land. My Mother and Father land!
In 1997 my mom made a decision that I had no say in. What I thought was a Christmas holiday trip to England and America would change my world forever. Our visit to America became a relocation. So at 7 years old I was in a new country, a new city and a new school. At 7 the new school was the biggest change for me. I went from being one of the most popular kids in school to being bullied and hating school.
Disconnected from being "Black"
Imagine having your whole life change, being in a new country and trying to understand how things worked. At 7 that was hard, not just living some where new but watching your mother who was a Career driven executive in another country to now having to wash Old people's butts. That wasn't easy for me in fact it shook my world. Throw that on top of going to school and assuming that the kids that looked like you would be the ones you connected with, nope! In fact they were the ones that tortured me. I was picked on for having an accent, called African Booty scratcher (Why I truly dislike Eddy Murphy and will never use my money to support anything he does), picked on for the lunches I brought from home, bullied for the darkness of my skin. I went from getting great grades to honestly hating school. One day my mother had enough and told me to defend myself. She told me to beat them up, and guess what I did! That was the first and last time I didn't get in trouble for fighting at school! Yet that experience as a kid formulated how I viewed my fellow black Americans.
Disconnected from being "African"
As I further assimilated into American culture in the attempts to "fit in" I seemed to distance from being African. No longer living in an African Nation, and no longer having an accent, no longer only wanting Nigerian dishes, people no longer knew I was Nigerian until I stated my name. I would hear the snide remarks from other Africans who didn't know me saying look at the American girl. I intentionally didn't have African friends (my African American friend population wasn't big either) . Living in California I had more Latino and Philippine friends. I think my fear of being bullied caused me to push away from my culture. This is honestly the time I just knew my name needed to be Ashley or Brittany. I asked my mom several times could I get my name changed but she refused. She said if they could say Russian names, German names, even Indian names, so my Igbo and Kalabari names should not be a tongue twister for them! She instilled in me a sense of pride, I think this conversation that sparked the Kelechi the world now knows.
I won't lie for years i stayed away from the Nigerian community because I felt that I wasn't " Nigerian enough" same as with the black community. I stayed even further away from the Igbo community because of the way they treated me. Yes I am Igbo but igbo women were some of the rudest women I ever came across. They always assume you can't be igbo so they talk about you in their language and then when they realize you are one of them they assume that they are entitled to knowing your business and judging it.
Crazy enough attending an HBCU is what gave me the balance I needed. I had the chance to serve as the president of the African Student Organization while on a campus with African American Students who didn't see me as different (if they did they didn't treat me as such) . In 2019 we are seeing a large uptick in Immigrants and their children being villianized in the media, we see this uptick more and more in the black community at that. We have to learn to come to a balance and learn from each other. Unless hate will continue to brew and we will remain divided. Despite my struggles I am extremly proud of who I am and where I come from. As a Nigerian and an American I have the drive of the Nigerian Immigrant and the strength and will power of my stole ancestors who were brought to America.