People have always claimed that I “don’t look African” so growing up I was never ridiculed or teased for my African roots. But my supposed deceiving appearance did not shield me from the insulting questions and reactions I received upon informing people of my Nigerian heritage and African background. Even today, whenever people find out that I’m African they expect me to be embarrassed. They expect me to feel ashamed because they assume that my cousins are running around in grass skirts living in huts, starving, and begging for crumbs from on-going strangers. These people are insulted by my pride, they want me to sheepishly grin and give a feeble laugh to their ignorant questions like “Why are you so light-skinned?” and “Is this how you speak African -click clat click clat-?” But their behavior does just the opposite. They encourage my pride to grow tremendously and motivate me to want to change this inaccurate perception because I’ve been exposed to the beauty of my land, I know the wealth and richness that overshadowed and often ignored.
I’m not special. I’m not unique. I’m not spectacular in any sense of the word. I’m just frustrated. Annoyed. I’m fed up with the injustices committed upon Africa time and time again. I’m mad that millions of people in the world still can’t decide whether Africa’s a country or a continent. I’m saddened by the fact that our beautiful weddings, tantalizing cuisines, and eye-catching fashion are overshadowed all the time by starving children, references to our depravity, mentions of corruption and an overall sense of hopelessness and ugliness. No one is denying the existence of struggle, but are Africans not worthy of good mention? Ever? When Africans help Africans, nobody cares. The hard work is ignored. The loss lives in hopes of peace and justice are overlooked. The only time Africa is in the spotlight is for negative attention or when foreigners have invaded to “save” and “help” our people. The African leaders who I look at and admire are from my own inquisition. My own curiosity led me to them. But all I have to do is flip a few channels to find a news story with the underlying message “Africa’s up to corruption again.” “Africa’s mess up again.” “Africans just can’t get it right.” “C’mon Afirca.” And this is supposed to embarrass me? The unjust portrayal of my land is supposed to extinguish my pride? Well it doesn’t.
It motivates me if anything. It reminds me that I can never be comfortable and there’s much more to take pride in than people want me to believe. It reminds me to urge fellow Africans to be proud in their roots and reminds me of the resilience that I come from and the strength I possess. It reminds me that I’ve been put in a position where I can assist family members back home, that I’ve been blessed in my situation and have a responsibility to my country, community, land and people. I’m not stupid. I know it’s going to be difficult to even make a dent of impact, but I’d be stupid in not trying to do anything at all. Even if my efforts are limited to simply encouraging discussion and conversation amongst Africans and members of the African diaspora, then that’s what I’m going to do. Because people need to know there’s nothing to be ashamed of and everything to take pride in. And that pride should be the basis of action, passion, and a desire to demand change. That pride is the catalyst for a movement that the world’s doing everything in its power to deter.
The problem with a proud African is that we’re everything the world is telling us not to be. We see survival in our struggle, and we have a heart for our homeland. Proud Africans are stubborn and display perseverance in our passion. Proud Africans go against the grain, we refuse to allow the world to diminish Africa to nothingness. Proud Africans protect Mama Africa with our words, actions, beliefs; with our lives. And people want us to be embarrassed of this inspiration? Hah.