I am talking about the Nigerian-Americans...those children who were born and raised in the US to one American parent and one Nigerian parent. They've never been to Nigeria. They know nothing about the culture. To them, "pidgin" and "dodo" are types of birds. (i thought that was a clever play on words. feel free to disagree lol).
Today, LadyNgo is here to tell you that it is a very tough road to travel. And its always made me somewhat despise the other Nigerian children (and adults as well) that come to the US and are so quick to adapt to American culture- from changing their mannerisms, their diet, even their names! When there are so many "lost Nigerian children" trying to find, learn about and identify with their roots, to see people casting it aside is both saddening and frustrating.
Just to put things in perspective, a lil bit about my background:
My mom, African American, my dad, an Igbo man. They met, fell in love, got married, eventually had me, and eventually divorced. Leaving a child who has not seen her father in almost 20 years. As a kid, I never really cared one way or the other about the fact that I was a Nigerian. Not because i thought it was stupid or a waste of time, but because there was no exposure. The few Nigerian friends i had growing up, the only reason i knew they were Nigerian was because of their names. (Kinda hard to down-play Ifeoma, Obinna, Temitope, Olawale and Oluwaseun- just to name a few.) But as i got older (and eventuallyI was inspired to write this piece by a post i stumbled upon in the the nigerians in america forum (albeit a quite old post). Basically its woman (i think) that was born in the US, knows nothing about Nigeria, doesn't know who her father is other than the fact that he is Igbo and really just wanted to know more about that part of her culture and familial heritage. I've seen soooooooooooooo many stories like this (including that the daddy is some Igbo man,
kidnappedadopted by the Nigerian community) I decided to take it upon myself to find that "missing piece" of who i am rather than passively sitting around listening to old Bright Chimezie records and looking at old pictures of long lost relatives in their ichafu and george wrappers.
Culturally speaking- OMG, do you know how difficult it is to learn about ANY African culture in the US? I know highly intelligent grown folks who don't even know who Nelson Mandela is or even that South Africa is a country rather than a region! Forget finding someone who knows anything about Umuekea lol. Not to mention the differences within the "subgroups" of Igboland (which i'll blog about at a later date because the entire thing is quite annoying).
Then there are your "friends" who insist on making the journey even more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. In my own personal travels, i have encountered several "kinds" of friendship roadblocks:
- The people that refuse to claim you as a Nigerian because you weren't born there.
- The people who say "Your father is Nigerian so you are Nigerian. Knock it off with the 'I'm American' talk because you are a Nigerian. Act like it!" (sometimes these are the same people who will not claim you as a Nigerian if it doesn't suit their needs)
- The people who don't understand why finding your roots is important to you. "You are an American so why are you trying to be something else" (usually the american friends or the Nigerians that are pretending to be american)
- People that forget that you are American and proceed to give you the side-eye when you don't know about/haven't experienced one thing or the other or look at you funny when they meet your parents and are wondering why there is no accent. I've even had people tell me they think im lying about being American because im "just so Naija" (thanks, i guess)
- People that forget that you are Nigerian/mesmerized by the fact that you know anything about Nigeria.
- For example, i was talking to my friend the other day and he was telling me how he had just finished eating Isi Ewu...to which i replied "eewww" and "where did you get that from". Mind you me and him have been friends for quite some time and have attended way too many Nigerian functions to count. Why does this man insist that I do not know what Isi Ewu is?!? First there's this thing called Google...it will seriously change your life! Second, i am Igbo afterall and even if i didn't know Isi Ewu as a food (which i obviously do), i know that Isi=head and Ewu=goat. Not a big leap lol
- My reply to these kinds of people are always the same: "Man, don't try and downplay my thirst for knowledge about my fatherland"
I say all this to make 3 important (or important to me at least) points:
To the Nigerians in America- the next time you come across that familiar surname (or anyone with a genuine interest in our country), before you shut them out take the time to try and educate them. You never know, that might be a relation of yours!
To the "lost" Nigerian-Americans (or any other child of an absentee immigrant parent)- I know its a tough road but if you really want to know about your history/heritage/culture, jump right on into it. It can be scary and intimidating...and there are gonna be plenty of times where you'll feel like the pink elephant in the room. It can also get extremely confusing especially if you don't know your familial background. But do not let that deter you!
To the men (and women too possibly) that are going about spreading their seed in the US/UK/where ever and leaving these lost souls to find themselves on their own- shame on you! I imagine that a lot of this is due to people marrying and playing house in search of a green card. But honestly have some decency and avoid the creation of another human life if you know good and well that you have no intention of being there for your child.