Being African in the West

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This has been in my mind recently. It’s amazing how things have changed of late.

I moved to England when I was 7 years old. My mom lived here and so it was a reunion type thing she’d been working on for a while. England was meant to be a better life and I guess in some ways it was. I got a lot of opportunities that I may not have gotten if I had stayed in Rwanda.

The thing is I didn’t want to move. I loved living in Africa. And I say Africa and not Rwanda because I lived all over the place in Africa. I lived in South Africa, Swaziland and Rwanda. I loved living there, I especially loved Rwanda. It was my home. I was surrounded by my family, people who looked like me and spoke my language. I shared culture with them and I fit in effortlessly. I was not an other I was just me.

Moving to England was an experience. I didn’t like the weather, I had to deal with winter for the first time that I could remember (I don’t really remember much of SA). I didn’t like the food either, it was totally different. But I got over these things. The more time I spent in England the more I adapted. I still love Rwandese food above all else and I still love my country’s climate BUT I am more open to other foods and other climates now.

Surprisingly the thing I had the most trouble with was other black people. Yes.

I remember having an easier time making friends in my white primary school than I did in my black church.

I remember the kids in my school accepting me and my name and my heritage easier than the kids at church did. I remember how they used to laugh at us African kids with our traditional clothes and our accents (back when we had them) and our culture in general.

Some people, like my Aunt, used to be so confused about it like why? We’re both black shouldn’t we get along? Shouldn’t you accept us? What have I done to you?

But I remember at 7 years old I did not care. I was like “You don’t like me? Fine. I will stick with my Africans, my people, I don’t need you.” Yeah I was like that from a young age.

I stayed where I was accepted.

But times have changed. Nowadays we all get along in my church (us young people do I mean). The more of us that immigrated over the more they got used to us, the more we got accepted. Plus me and my friends didn’t stand for any of their bull. If they were ignorant about Africa we weren’t shy about correcting them.

It seems our efforts payed off because African kids now don’t have the problems we had. In fact you’ll find Afro-Caribbeans wearing dashikis now. The same clothes they used to mock us for wearing they wear themselves.

At first I was mad like “Why?” “How can you go from mocking us to wearing our attire?” but then I thought hmm… whatever. At least they’re embracing our culture and at least kids won’t get teased for wearing their traditional clothes… at least not as much.

I hope things continue to change and that we support each other more as black people. Even though things have improved our relationship is far from perfect and I still have to deal with ignorant comments to this day and don’t even get me started on America.

But what about you? What do you think? Did you have similar experiences growing up? Or did you have no problems as an African growing up in the West.

That is all

Murabeho

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