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I breathe in the air that seems to smell rich. I ride in car without ever having the thought to brace myself for pot holes. I look around without ever seeing anyone suffer or begging for food. I see kids dancing around and laughing with another at the playground. And with all I take in I see opportunity ready to be grasped. Coming from a third world country, where not a lot of opportunity is seen throughout the country, my family was given a chance.
My family and I left the comfort of Ghana and became residents of Kirkland Washington, months before my first birthday. I instantly realized the difference between myself and many of the other kids at school. As I was growing up, I instantly knew I was different or an outcast. In school children had known each other for years and being African was not “cool”. I, however, was proud of my culture and fully embraced it. Almost every day throughout elementary school, my mother sat me down and tell me “never to forget your roots and who you are, because every other role to play someone is taken so be you. ” In retrospect, I have come to appreciate that conversations.
In the years of me going to school, young mulinanes of this era had placed me within stereotypical bounds. Being African meant I was not black or African American, and whilst I understood some of the reasons why, I was shocked when a dark skinned boy who shared many of the same traits as me declared us different. He was Black/African-American. I was African. He did not run with animals in the wild but I supposedly had. If I wanted to be identified as an African-American then I must proclaim my love for fried chicken and watermelon because that’s what people like. These students with their young ignorant minds unknowingly made it lucid to me the struggle to remain an American African in an environment that put much pressure on me to become African-American. At eleven years old I was forced to realize that my actions will continue to be compared to these stereotypes. From this self-awareness I began to create my own bounds and station within this judgmental society that I found myself in. I made the conscious effort to conduct myself in a comportment that challenged customary perceptions of African American. I continued to prove to myself and those around me that not only are we capable of dismantling these negative connotations about our culture, but we are capable of elevating our cultural significance.
Throughout the years I have placed myself within multiple arenas such as talking to a large crowd and creating my own business that embraces my culture and the spectacular, life stunning things, people are not seeing. Many African children who relocate to the states at a young age often lose the fight in retaining their African identity and culture. This failure to adapt without full assimilation has become a barrier between families and friends. Today, as I mature and navigate through this world I draw from my experiences to ensure that I understand the significance of willingly embracing the traditions of my culture without shame.
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