I believe God puts people in your life for a reason. Everyone serves a purpose, some may be there to lift you up and others may be there to tear you down. Yes, you even need the ones that tear you down because they teach you lessons as well. I am beyond thankful that God chose to put my dad (step dad aka papa bear) in my life. He is a proud man from Imo State Nigeria that treats my mom like a queen and will fight for his family. I have fond memories of him from childhood. He never hesitated to call me his daughter NEVER! I was not his step child or his wife’s daughter, I was his; even when I was bad, disrespectful, stubborn, sick, made bad grades, or made irrational decisions, I was his! That never changed. I saw the sacrifices he and my mother made for my brothers and I. He even tried to adopt me but my absentee father refused to allow that to happen.
I remember being 4 and having my first mango. He sat down with me , cut up the mango for me, and showed me the proper way to eat a mango. The first time he introduced me to egusi soup I wasn’t feeling the way it looked. What is this weird stuff? I want some mac and cheese! He explained this is what he grew up eating showed me how to eat fufu and encouraged me to try it. At first taste I was in love! Even the way he am my mom met was cute. My mother needed a car and went into a dealership that he was working at. I think he used me to get to my mom by offering me a five dollar bill and a one dollar bill, well I picked the one dollar bill (how was like 3 how was I suppose to know). From then on they were inseparable. Oh yes he ended up giving me the five by the way. My trip to Nigeria when I was a teenager opened my eyes and my mind up. Seeing a whole nation of black people, the customs, and the traditions seemed so rich to me. I wanted that, I wanted all of that, from that trip on all I saw was green white green!
My upbringing I think was like many first generations or maybe someone who has one parent who is foreign and the other is American. There is a blend of the two cultures food, clothes, music, teachings, parenting styles ect was all a blend for me. When my mom met my dad he did not have that blend of American culture and his Nigerian heritage. As a matter of fact he didn’t have any traditional clothes and rarely associated with Nigerians. It wasn’t until I was about 14 when he really started getting reconnected with his culture by heading different Igbo organizations, the people he associated with, even clothes ect. My childhood was a good one and I had a strong male figure in my life thanks to my dad. I am thankful for him every day!
Unless you grew up with me in Houston you would probably think I am Nigerian based on my dad, friends, church I go to, functions I attend with my family and friends. The lines start to blur. Do I say I am not Nigerian when asked while out and endure all the questions that will follow “Oh you aren’t Nigerian? “ “How do you know this song” “Have you ever had pepper soup” “Who gave it to you” “Do you understand pidgin” “How” blah blah blah! So then I would say “My dad is Nigerian” that would be followed by “Oh! So you’re Nigerian then!” now comes the explaining part “No he isn’t my biological father” at this point the person will want to continue to associate with you and accept that or they will judge and look down. Do you see how much of a process it is to have to explain myself EVERYTIME. So yes I have said to some people before I am Nigerian just to save time and if I feel like this person is going to become a close friend or more then I will tell them the story. Besides is it everyone that I have to explain my story to while I am out at an event?
In a particular relationship I was involved in me not being Nigerian actually cause a problem. He knew my whole story because I told him of course, but during a heated argument he said something to the effect of “You aren’t even Nigerian” and I thought to myself what does that have to do with anything? Even though what he said was true, somehow I was offended. It wasn’t the first time he brought it up infact. In situations like that I don’t know what I am suppose to do. I can’t change who I am. I can’t change the way I think. I can’t change how I was brought up. I just can’t THIS IS ME. His argument was my views on Nigeria and the Nigerian community was misguided. He never explained how so, but I did wonder if he said that merely because I am not Nigerian. Had I been first generation or someone that came to American at a young age would he have made that comment?
Some of my friends will ask me why even say anything about my past. The reason is I don’t want to deny who I am but I also cannot deny my upbringing. I think because of my biological father and some unpleasant experiences in my life I just never clicked with my own people. Its like they have a secret language they are speaking and no one taught me.
I have thought about the fact that I don’t have many African American friends a lot lately and I am not sure if its because I have self hate because of who my biological father is ( and his poor example of what a father is) or is there something more deeply rooted. No one is perfect and I am no exception. At my age I am still wondering exactly where I fit in and life is a journey and I’m still on. I do think this post has helped me realize many things that maybe I buried and struggled with. I don’t know if I will ever speak to or have a relationship with my biological father and I don’t know if I care to. Whatever he is doing I wish him the best. I will continue to embrace both parts of who I am and reconnect with one of the parts that I feel I have almost lost, continue to live, and be me!