I remember being eighteen years old in Lagos State, Nigeria and dreaming of attending Howard University, Washington D.C. because it is a historically Black university and popularly known to have gorgeous Black Brothers (YASSSS!!!). I was clueless about racism or the history of slavery in America until I attended Howard University and I am grateful for the education, awareness and experiences I shared with my fellow HU - Bisons.
My journey from Nigeria to Howard University began as an exciting adolescent adventure to a western country but it evolved into a reality of Black awareness. I became conscious of my Blackness as a Black woman living in a country that historically enslaved people of color, specifically Blacks. Does this bother me? Yes, it bothers me immensely because I am a Black woman living in America. Sometimes I wish I can move back to Washington D.C. because the years I spent at Howard University were the best years of my life in America. At Howard University I was surrounded by supportive people of color who taught me the importance of having a Black consciousness in America. Embracing my Black consciousness prepared me for the next chapter of my journey because when I moved to Texas, I experienced a cruel and rude awakening that racism still exists in America. In Texas my eyes opened and I realized that I was living a sheltered life in Washington D.C. I am officially ‘WOKE’ to racism in America.
My experiences as a Black woman in Texas differ from my experiences in Nigeria. In Nigeria I did not feel excluded or racialized based on my accent or the color of my skin. However, in Texas I have met racism, I have conversed with racism, I have interrogated racism, I have confronted racism, I have tried to negotiate reasoning with racism, f*ck it, I have b*tch slapped racism because it is very repulsive and dehumanizing. Unfortunately, I cannot change the nature or history of racism in America but I am determined to be successful in America and I will not allow ignorance, bigotry, hate, prejudice or their grand-father racism to deter me from reaping the benefits of my hard work in the United States of America. I am not afraid because I am ‘WOKE’ to racism in America.
My goal is to build a better life for my children in America. Unfortunately, I am worried that my Black children I brought into this world will have to tolerate racism and navigate their lives in a racially hostile America. It is only natural to worry about the future of my son and daughter because how many of our Black Brothers and Sisters have lost their lives recently in America due to senseless shootings? How many of our Black children are racialized and bullied in the American school system? How many of our Black men and women are oppressed and racialized professionally and academically in American institutions? How many of us have experienced racism at one point in our lives as Blacks living in America? I am not blind because I am ‘WOKE’ to racism in America.
I often ask myself this question – ‘Ngoma, based on your experiences with racism in America, if you are given a second chance will you migrate from Nigeria to America again’? Honestly, yes I will do it all over again because not all of America is plagued with racism. I have truly enjoyed the beauty of the American culture and I have met awesome Americans in Washington D.C. and Texas who have showed me love and taught me amazing life lessons personally, professionally, academically and spiritually. They taught me how to use my pain to change my circumstances so I can help others who share my experiences in the fight to end racism. The deliberate ignorance that is devoted to racism must end and I will no longer tolerate racism in my presence. So it is important that I use my voice, knowledge, education and experience to speak out against racism. I can equally lend my voice to people of color who are oppressed and unable to speak against racism. I am an advocate for my Black son, my Black daughter, my Black husband, my future Black grandchildren and my Black self! I am an advocate and I am ‘WOKE’ to racism in America.
My journey from Nigeria to America began in excitement and somewhere along the line the journey got real, confusing, vexing, overwhelming and challenging but I found a way to love myself, enjoy my life and emancipate myself from the psychological torture of racism. So how did I emancipate myself? I acknowledged and embraced my Blackness with love and pride. I learned how to defend myself and speak out verbally against racism by addressing issues that distress me personally, professionally and academically. I learned how to advocate for my children when they are excluded and marginalized in the school system. I learned how to defend my Blackness and pride against ignorant people who judge Blacks based on popular perpetuated stereotypes of the Black culture. I learned not to stoop to the same level of ignorance that racism exudes. I learned to look at the bigger picture of eliminating racism from our minds, our schools, our jobs, our homes, our communities and our country. I learned how to rise above racism by being successful in all my accomplishments. I am still winning because I am ‘WOKE’ to racism in America.
#StayWOKE #SpeakOutAgainstRacism #BlackPride #BlackConsciousness