Afrika on My Sleeve is a multi-platform online social enterprise that combines digital storytelling and content with third culture narratives, self-care as a form of resistance and empowerment.
Reigning from the Akim tribe of Ghana, I am a resident of New Zealand and an Auckland local. My parents moved here in 1991 and I was born at [insert hospital name] in 1993.
Being born and raised in New Zealand has been an interesting experience, and for a period of time I did not realize that I wasn’t from here. I was very young then one day it just hit me that I came from a different place. Nothing major happened but I suppose people’s comments – why is your skin black like that – and those kinds of statements contributed to the transition in my mind happening.
Until I was 16, I visited Ghana every year and when I would go back home I wouldn’t be fully accepted because I was too “westernized” then I would come back here and I would be too “black” to be a Kiwi. I never beat myself up about it or struggled with it and it has a lot to do with the way my mum raised me. From a young age she taught me that I was who I was and that there was nothing wrong with it. Being myself was so heavily instilled in me that when other people would question who I was, I would question them. In addition to my mum’s teaching, it all came down to me coming to terms with myself and who I was as a person. Basically, just accepting the fact that I am of Ghanaian descent, that is just who I am and I am at peace with that.
When I was told you are too “white” for a black girl, I had to go back and check myself not because there is anything wrong with being “white” but what I discovered was parts of my being were Ghanaian, even those inside parts that were being referred to as “white”. The fire that I have inside of me is Ghanaian, my blood is Ghanaian and being referred to as anything else is probably based on my accent and the way I dress. I was often described as being too out there or too creative for an African girl. Everything I wanted to do went against that “culture”; I was outside of the box and it was too much. Till this day it baffles me how people are so comfortable with telling you what you are and what you are not. They seem so at ease without realizing that they are tearing at your soul. Why is it so hard for some people to allow others to be who they are?
I won’t lie, at one point it used to make me so angry, I would be deeply offended and wish I was born in Ghana so I wouldn’t be on the receiving end of such comments. It was really hard and painful and as a result of that I spent three years finding out who I am and while I have come into myself I am still on a journey, I am still unlearning. Nowadays I don’t react anymore, I have heard it so many times and I’m at a point where if you are saying that to me then you just don’t understand, your perspective isn’t broad enough and that’s just you.
Living in a world that punishes people for who they are – when I am down I let myself feel what I am feeling, in that lies my strength. People in this generation are so scared to feel, it’s the way we have been wired. You are not strong if you are crying but I feel true strength is when you can cry and feel what you need to feel. If I feel like shit, I let myself feel like shit and go through the motions. It is just knowing your self-worthy and knowing your values and being able to pick yourself up again.