The Pains of Growing Up Disconnected from your Culture

Will all the real African Diaspora kids please stand up? A room fill of me’s get up in a hurried commotion such as when the pastor tells the congregation to rise for worship. 

I was born in a small country in East Africa. Eritrea, a fairly unknown nation, is the backbone of who I now am. But, catch me a couple years prior and I couldn’t even recognize the name of it’s president had it been told to me (which happened once).

I was always proud to be born in Africa, I always pulled this birth right of mine out of my arsenal for get-to-know you activities where we were asked “What is one interesting fact about you?” It was nice to have this bit of identity from such a young age, but I couldn’t tell you much past the fact that I was born there, it’s located in East Africa, and I left when I was a baby (about 18 months).

Eritreans like to stay together. DMV area, Seattle, Houston, etc. Where you find one Eritrean, you’re likely to find another. I spent my first couple years in America in Seattle where we would regularly be around other Eritreans in our area whether they were family or not. However, I was too young to grasp much of the cultural norms or how to speak our language. We then moved to Minnesota and, at those critical young adult-adult transition years, I found myself in another state feeling isolated from my cultural community and in turn my culture. During the time, I did not think much of it, but as an adult (I guess), I now look back wondering how much more easily it would have all been if I was connected to my identity as an Eritrean.

For a little clarification, the book definition of the African Diaspora can be found below:

“The African diaspora refers to the communities throughout the world that have resulted by descent from the movement in historic times of peoples from Africa, predominantly to the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, among other areas around the globe.” – Thank you Wikipedia

Basically, African diaspora is a term used to describe those who come from any one of the countries in Africa and now reside somewhere other than “the motherland” as I like to call it. By being apart of this group, I found that I was always lost on my identity as an Eritrean and an American.

I have never been confident in my identity as an Eritrea but as I’ve become older I have had this determination to become more connected to my culture. I am learning the native tongue, the young feminist in me has quieted and I now want to learn how to cook for the family, and I want to know all the history of the land. Most of all, I have a plan to stay in Eritrea for an extended period of time where I would get to be immersed in all things Eritrean. This will of course have to wait until I can speak the language better (or at all).

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To my other African Diaspora kids who are growing up with the pain of being disconnected with your culture:

It is a wonderful feeling to fall in love with your culture. I recommend it for us all. Your culture and history is one of those things that will always be yours. The more you’re connected to your culture, the better. I’ve learned this from personal experience.

A plug: Go ahead and read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. This book was a blessing for me and I believe it contributed to a turning point in my life.

americanah