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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

What 4th of July Means To Me

My intentions were to post Durban Fashion Week, part II. But, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge a very important day in my life interpersonally and socially—4TH OF JULY! Below is what today means to me.

It was an afternoon when my mother summoned my siblings and me to her room. She pulled out our birth certificates and what appeared to be blue little booklets with “PASSPORT” and "United States of America" inscribed on them and informed us we were returning to America. “America?” I asked in disbelief. “Yes,” replied my mother. She proceeded to explain that I was born in the USA and the history of how we relocated back to Nigeria. Fueling her move to the USA was the article she clipped from one of Nigeria’s national newspapers. The article spoke about the downward spiral of Nigeria’s educational systems and how difficult it was to obtain admission into Nigerian universities. The number of applicants far outweighed the number of spots available. The situation was expected to worsen.

For me, so many things happened on that day. My identity was displaced. The feelings and emotions that ran through me felt like those I felt when I realized I was not a “Yoruba girl.” I was flabbergasted, shocked and overwhelmed. The Yoruba’s are located in the Southern part of Nigeria. My family’s heritage is actually from Akwa-Ibom state. A state located in the eastern part of the country. I never questioned how I got into Yoruba land. We spoke English at home, 24/7. When I played with my friends or navigated Yoruba society, I spoke Yoruba. I understood the culture, mannerisms, spoke, read and wrote the language--better than even some Yoruba people. Indeed, I was truly shocked when I was told I was not a Yoruba girl.

Here we were, and yet another identity shocker. I was American with no Nigerian green passport or birth certificate in sight to contradict the overwhelming evidence. I started dreaming about this America. My dreams were full of faceless white people. Anxiety, stress and leaving my friends behind to this strange land became the order of the day. What was this America like? A country I could not relate to and really had no idea about except what I saw on TV. I grew up on a healthy dose of Sesame Street, Bill Cosby, A Different World, Moonlighting, The Love Boat, The Jeffersons, Different Strokes and many other American programs. At the time I was preparing to return, MC Hammer was dancing up a storm with “Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” Some of my friends even had the MC Hammer dolls.

Anyway, I will spare you the details of the events that unfolded before my arrival to the USA. You’ll just have to buy the book. Lol! But, suffice it to say, when I returned to the USA, despite what appeared to be a sea of white people and black persons that looked liked me but spoke with very funny accents, I, for the first time in my life, felt like I belonged.

I loved living in Nigeria and learned so much from the country. Indeed, I feel an intense desire to give back because I received a lot from “him” and “he” formed part of my identity. But, I never felt I belonged. It had nothing to do with people teasing or taunting me, that hardly ever happened. I have just always had a nature where people did not mess with me; and if they tried, it never happened again. Although popular on my grade and high school campuses, I prided myself with also being the defenders of the geeks and nerds ready to go Mohammed Ali style if that was what it took.

I never felt I belonged because I was the daughter of a single mom and I was a girl. Nigeria can be quite harsh especially to single women with children and especially to young girls. I always felt oppressed and that I did not have a voice as a child and particularly a girl. We would be here all day if I was to count the numerous times I was reminded not to speak, especially in the presence of adults. I violated every rule. lol! Thankfully, arriving back home, the USA, I finally fit in. The USA had tons of single women with children, sadly it was the norm. Raising children can be extremely difficult and doing it alone, wow!
America provided me a lot of independence, as a girl, to dream big. I always wanted to be a lawyer, a litigator to be exact. The euphoria I get when I walk into a courtroom is just indescribable. I have been able to achieve my dreams. I have also been able to give back in so many ways to my local communities, including to inner-city youths. Sometimes, we rush overseas to help but “charity does begin at home” in America’s ghettos and barrios as well as among our elderly. While I continue to help and hope I give young people, especially girls, the inspiration to dream big and strive for independence, another project rolls out which is Ladybrille.
A project aimed at hopefully giving Africa’s young girls and mothers the opportunity to dream big and obtain their independence. For many young girls and women across the African continent, home sweet home is, for example, Nigeria, Tanzania, Gambia, Congo, Senegal and Ghana. They fit in where they are. But, they want the opportunity to be a successful fashion model, designer, photographer and so forth.
My plan is simple. If Ladybrille can provide the platform for African and non-African women to access African fashion brands, then we can speak through our monies, via our purchases, encouraging and requiring those we support to create job opportunities for young African women in the villages who choose to be weavers, or those in the market selling fabrics or the many tailors, seamstresses and more that it takes to get a design together and ultimately shipped to the West, among others. I ultimately intend to get into the legislative realm. Sitting at the table with lawmakers drafting trade laws, among other legislative bills, that make it easy to do trade, especially textile trade, with Africa.
Fourth of July, for and to me, means independence and an opportunity to keep dreaming big and giving back as I achieve each goal. Happy 4th of July! What does it mean to you? Tell me! BTW, since I am an ex-fan of MC Hammer, check out this video 2 legit 2 quit. I had to go there. Lol!

4 comments:

Don Thieme said...

Those are wonderful sentiments expressed eloquently, the kind of sentiments upon which true patriotism is founded. If only all of the patriotism in the United States ran so deep. We need to take pride in the great things about our country and stop living in fear of the world around us.

Happy Independence Day!

pamelastitch said...

wow!!!

:)

Will T. said...

Hey UO,
Man, that was so uplifting and inspiring to read. Sometimes I wonder if those American ideals get diluted generation to generation, as I increasingly encounter those in my age group (who's families have been here a while) that seem governed by their greed, selfishness, and complacency. Most sit back as corporations launch us into fits of buying frenzy and ill-fated oil wars - both of which are completely denigrating our American world standing.
The 4th of July fireworks rang hollow this year as I equated them to the sound of mortars going off over our troops in Iraq, and I was drawn near tears, wondering what happened to my country to allow such atrocities to be occurring. We, the citizens of the US, have been given' this republic by those who fought hard and even died for it, and it's only a democracy as long as we the people continue to fight for it...

Ladybrille said...

@Don Thieme-thanks!
@Pamela--hey na so o!
@Will T-- I'm blushing! You stopped by. Thanks. I hear you on your comments.

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