The grass is not greener on the western side

An African living in America, yet not an African American. I came here to chase the American dream, but soon realized I had a predetermined place at the end of the race. I was placed into a melting pot whose ingredients have suddenly gone frigid and ceased to blend. It seems to me the dream is simply an illusion to lure in the naïve and idealistic like myself. I learned your nationality introduces you before your character can speak, and the color of your skin defines you better than your actions. Contrary to my previous beliefs, I realized the grass is not greener on the western side.

Being black in America is hard to explain, but being an African immigrant is never talked about. As an African in America, I carry the burden of my skin color and my ethnicity. With a name like Ornella Uwase Baganizi, it becomes impossible to hide my roots. This is evident when a teacher attempts to pronounce my name on the first day of school, but fails, and asks where I am from because a name like Baganizi cannot possibly be American. Have my name mispronounced again at graduation because four years is not enough for someone who does not care. I worked twice as hard because I am black, and even harder because I am African. Failure is not an option because my family in Africa is dependent on my success. I was given the opportunity to come to the U.S. in order to make a difference.

Through it all, I cannot forget the resilience in my last name and the story in the middle. Uwase means “daddy’s little girl” and Baganizi means courageous. My name tells a story that I must fulfill, and I do so proudly because it gives my existence a purpose. My Dad is a living testimony of the American dream and likewise I will follow in the fantasy. As an African immigrant I do not know American racism, but I have grown accustomed to genocide. I have witnessed death in my family and friends more often then most. I know what it feels like to have people believe that your home is a disgrace and to be considered helpless while awaiting the arrival of a “white” savior. I know what it feels like to only have fragments of a family; my suffering is different, but nonetheless painful.

I must deal with the inferior complex that comes with being African. To most I am poor, uncivilized, and challenged. I am perceived as a spokesperson when nearly 300 of my Nigerian sisters go missing and America turns them into a hashtag, “Bring Back Our Girls.” African-Americans finally recognized them as “our,” finally as one of them only when an ocean separates them, but neglecting the other Africans that are neighbors. Neglecting the 50 school boys that were also attacked by Boko Haram, and forgetting Kony 2012 in their browser history. Forgetting the thousands of other Africans dying because of genocide, political oppression, poverty, and hunger. I must accept this as reality because I am still more privileged in America. The dream may be far fetched, but it is attainable. I must survive in America first in order to help my country later.

Through all the trials and tribulations, I still cannot forget the beauty of being black, woman and African. I come from the motherland and simultaneously I will become a mother. I am from the land that birthed the world and I continue to populate it. My accomplishments are more gratifying, seen as greater because I am a minority. My actions can become history. I am bold, outspoken and never cease to shock the world. To be black is to be defiant; I do not conform to the stereotypes given to me by the world, and will not become part of a statistic. I will exemplify excellence.  To be African is to be resilient, I am a survivor of war and genocide. I am stronger than most because I have been through more than most. I am engraved with a culture so deep I could never shake it. I know exactly where I am from which makes it easier for me to know where I am going. My presence is so loud I could never go unheard.