From the East Coast to the Gold Coast – A Tale of Two Countries

“I’m more American than Nigerian, and I’m fine with that.”

This came after a hilarious conversation with one of my friends, and I was caught off -guard by her statement. My friend was raised in her culture (and is very proud of it), speaks her native language fluently, and engages in all the customs and traditions of her culture. I think that’s why her comment threw me off – for someone to be so deeply ingrained in their culture and yet identify as American before anything was a surprise.

This sentiment isn’t just limited to people who are first or second generation immigrants, either. I had a great conversation with an older Jewish woman, a social worker in the Army who was born and raised in my hometown of Newark. We talked about our experiences with urban versus suburban life (she lived in a upper-middle class suburb) and how we wouldn’t switch our upbringing for anything in the world. She talked about her struggle with breast cancer and how a local hospital in Newark helped her to recover, both from the illness and the cost of treatment. She goes to Newark pretty often, and her well-to-do friends often wonder why she still bothers with “that town”.  She simply said “That’s where I was born, and I have so many great memories – I will always have a love for Newark no matter where I go or how much money I have.”  Her experiences growing up were a big help to her  as a social worker, where she interacted with people from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds.  There was an ease about her that’s rare when you’re interacting with a person of a different race, and I think that it’s the same easygoing nature that made her really successful with her clients.

Growing up, I often felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Although I was born here, I lived in Ghana for a few years as a child. Being both African and American came with its own interesting experiences. I was never Ghanaian enough, and I was “different” to the Americans – it was that weird, gray space where you don’t fit in anywhere, a sense of isolation almost.

Both my years living in Ghana and America shaped me tremendously, and I doubt if I would be who I am today without those experiences – from my fascination of decoding the origin of accents to my love of hip-hop and soul food, it’s all me.  I’m just as African as jollof rice fresh off the stove, and as Newark as quarter icees on a blistering day. I’ve created my own space where I can embrace all aspects of my upbringing, and that’s fine with me.

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Comments
2 Responses to “From the East Coast to the Gold Coast – A Tale of Two Countries”
  1. YaaYaa says:

    Interesting article wifie!! Ultimately we can not fit into a neat box/category that sumizes all that we are. It is within those gray areas in between that we must carve a space where we can accept the experiences and heritage that makes us who we are. Personally I found a lot of happiness in embracing all aspects of my life. Had to laugh at the jollof rice reference. Soooo u. L8r!

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