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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#NigeriansinDiaspora- Memkoh's Story

If you missed Doyin's story last week, please click HERE to read.

Growing up in Nigeria didn’t prepare me for the rest of the world. I had no bearing, asides from the school, church, home life. I had no moral compass that needed to be turned on an at alert at all times, consciously juggling between good and evil. I was just me, a girl in a small town, in my country. I had no idea what our land mass was, how many ethnic groups there were and how many languages we spoke outside my state. I hadn’t even peered out to see the rest of Africa just yet. It was one for one, me for myself and maybe my parents, not me for the whole of Africa. Coming to America quickly changed that.

First, I was African or sometimes, Jamaican, depending on the person on the receiving end of my “accent”. Many times, I responded,


 “You have an accent too, you know?”
 My new kinsmen had accents to me and spoke at incredibly rapid speeds than my Nigerian ears could translate but I was the one who had the accent, who spoke fast. I was always consciously reminded that I was the odd one here, the visitor. I intentionally held on to my accent, regardless; sometimes frustrating people as they tried to listen to me. “You will learn”.

Now, I have adjusted to living here. My accent isn’t as raw but it is still there. Plus, I now look like I’ve lived here for a while so without opening my mouth, I am judged. “You are black!” Telling people I am completely African is sometimes a waste of my breath. They see my skin, therefore I am “black”. I hate that word and all the connotations behind it so I fought it for the longest time; I still do when I have the energy. But you see, coming to America has taught me to choose my battles. You find yourself fighting one thing or the other every day that if you give in to that way of life, that’s all that there will be to you. It is draining, so like many Africans who migrated for school like I did, I have chosen to select my battles and ignore the rest, riding the wave to my advantage oftentimes. 
All this spewed a new found love for home in me. I was tired of the lent identities – queen of Africa, then queen of the ghetto. It was like my little village in Nigeria, Mbiabam, didn’t matter anymore. I had been uprooted and given new kinsmen, a new tribe, a new tongue. I refused them all.

Coming to America has taught me resilience. I take that back. Coming to America has uncovered the resilience my fore-fathers left in me. That line in our Nigerian National Anthem “…the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain” has been so accurate in my life because those inbred traits I have had to be enormously strong for myself than I thought I could be. When you pack your bags and wave goodbye as you journey to a place you’ve never stayed in longer than a short vacation, only one of two things could happen. My faith obviously kept me on the right track because America will frustrate you so much till you learn to yell out G-O-D as loudly as you possibly can. 

If I had to do that via smoke signals, you would know every time I am crying or every time I am lonely but being able to just whisper to Him in the midst of the craziness has made life all the better. It’s funny because when you are a child, church is just that thing mummy and daddy make you do on Sundays. Adulthood and Am’rika will quickly reverse that. 

I don’t want to talk about school at length because who doesn’t know that struggle? But when you remember how much your flight ticket was and how many people at home toiled to make that possible, you quickly straighten up and do what you have to do to earn that diploma. This doesn’t mean I didn’t fail. I failed multiple times while living “in the overseas” but not having the comfort of mummy’s dress to rub my tears on made me wear those big girl pants sooner. I have learned to fight for opportunities I want and I am still learning to slightly reverse that Nigerian “humility” ingrained in us to not speak up and brag about your abilities. It has honestly been a yin and yang experience and I’m not sure I would have made it this far if I was not Nigerian. 
She raised a warrior, like she always does.

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