What does being African mean to you ?

+2 votes
148 views
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 ?
 

asked in Culture & Society by Tracy Melisizwe
South Africa
(540 points)  

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3 Answers

0 votes
I laughed a lot at this. I always wonder why the line between Africans in Africa & Africans out of the continent is so significant. Maybe its a culture thing.
For me being African is identity. Having core African traits. We are who we are and even though Africa has its issues, I am proudly Nigerian & I'm proudly African. No one can take it away from me. Not even me.
The dance,  the Nigerian music, my Igbo heritage are all elements that have shaped in ways I cant fully understand.
answered by Oluchi Nwanneka
Nigeria
(180 points)  
+1 vote
Trust me...this is a never ending discussion/battle.  At the end of the day, I realize that when you are born outside, you essentially have to take the following approach:  
  1. Deal mostly with those in your similar demographic, other Africans born and raised in the West.  Sounds separatist but this saves quite a bit of conflict.
  2. Quietly develop whatever knowledge you need to do whatever you plan to do back on the continent.  Whether it is opening a bank account, registering a business, buying a property or setting up some sort of vacation project; just start doing it in a clandestine fashion.  Having something real there allows you to properly assess who is important to know and what is important to know.  This prevents you from wasting time with people who simply want to challenge your "Africaness".   Project based interactions are what is important.  The meaningful acquaintances will come via business.  
  3. Take joy in being the outsider.   When you take that approach, people start wanting to reach out to you.   When you seem like you are reaching out to them they will make the mistake of thinking that you are "desperate to fit in".  
In sum, those who grew up back home will always have difficulty understanding those who grew up in the West.  At the end of the day, as long as your agenda is legitimate you will find that those that you need to know will gravitate towards you.   
answered by anokwale
Outside Africa
(220 points)  
I completely agree with point 2.
Project/business based interactions purely based on necessity helps me weed out communication that attempts to make me feel less African.
Im from Uganda but lived in most of my adult life in Houston where I studied.

Everytime i come home, the teasing and talks are undending. Luckily, the business of the day keeps me busy.
0 votes
I wish our people back home understand one of the points of the article.
:- Africans from the diaspora have a lot to give the continent. Infact, are a major resource.
Sometimes I feel deep down the teasing is an admiration in disguise
answered by Wasswa Gwandoya
Uganda
(150 points)  
the motivation is good. am not only a proud to be from Africa, but am proud to be from Cameroon, a unique bilingual country, its desert and forestry reserves, and a not more. coming back to our focus,
1. Africa still has most of the natural environment, appropriate for living. we may be a developing country, but critically, the advantage is ours. they will come a time when the western countries will reach a maximum, and will start depreciating, and at that same moment, Africa will be a natural progress, that is if we don't sell our habitat to the west for selfish exploitation.
2. born of Africa, means am well structured to live there, biological, physically, economically, and other wise spiritually