This insight is based on this article
By Oluwatobi Lanre-Amos on
on SwaliAfrica Magazine
I had decided to take a walk because the morning was good: sunny, warm and the air was fresh. Definitely an opportunity that couldn’t be wasted. The street I live on is on a hill in Carlifonia, and the walk down to the main part of town is easy and most times, enjoyable. So of course, I was feeling social and generous with my time when a man stopped to ask for directions. As we spoke, I noticed the French-African accent in his voice which made me guess he was from Cameroon. Happily I inquired, but was wrong – he was actually from the Ivory Coast.
“And what about you?” he asked me in French. “Are you also from Africa?” I answered in kind that I’m from Nigeria, but I was born here. He laughed in response, which was then followed with, “But if you were born here, how can you be from Nigeria?
“My parents came here from Nigeria.”
“But you did not grow up there.”
“No, I grew up here.”
“Eh-heh! So you are American?
” With a pained smile, I simply said yes. It made it easier to end the conversation that I no longer felt so generous to have.
It’s an exchange that is not uncommon, and I’ve since learned the appropriate response based on who I’m talking to. For most Americans, it’s “California, but my parents are from Nigeria.” For some Africans, it’s “Nigeria, but I was born here.” For others, it’s one or the other – for them, I can’t be both. Of course, it’s not just me; the struggle of the diaspora is in dealing with this question of cultural identity, and no one can agree as to where we stand. It’s easy if you’ve grown up with a culture and know the language to be justified in that part of your identity. But for those who are first generation or a generation removed, who don’t know the language or have only visited “home
’ a couple of summers, or once or twice, or maybe never: do we have the right to keep our inheritance as part of our identity, or put it aside if we so choose?
For the good of Africa, I do hope that answer is yes.
We all have a role to play, both African and Diasporan born, in improving our native countries for the generations beyond us. Because to me, in the end, being African is not about simply being able to speak a language or be born in a certain city.
It’s about having the connection and the drive to improve and innovate within the place we call home.
What does being African mean to you ?