Par l’Oiseau.Rebelle

Having lived half my life in Africa & the other in America, I always see both cultures clash in my everyday activities. When I was growing up in Africa, I’d here “en Amerique…on fait ceci, cela…”; never would I have thought that I would have ended up here. Growing up in SoCal is every teenage American’s dream. To me it was just another page in my story. Amongst the new friends I made, I was always the awkward African gal. No matter how much I tried to assimilate myself deeper in American culture, there was always something that was a dead giveaway of my roots. The fact that my accent was neither American, nor African, made it hard for the peeps to guess where I was from. My French first name could have made me a Haitian immigrant…however, my long last name made me African at best.

After high school, I volunteered to work for Uncle Sam. I remember having to carefully talk people through on how to pronounce my (heavy) African last name. I used to take my name tag off because I was embarrassed. I was still African nonetheless, even when I took the oath of citizenship of the United States. I had concocted a story of being a proud Haitian gal. To the Africans that knew me in the service, they knew my real story. To the Haitians that knew me in the service, they knew I wasn’t really from Haiti.

I began delving deep into reggae music in the service and at one point, people thought I was from Jamaica or somewhere around the carribbeans. The mistake that made me a poser was the fact that when someone spoke to me in their Patois, I was unable to respond.

I have been living here in Aspen country for about a year now and my close friends here still don’t know where the hell I’m from. I told them once but they forgot so whatever pops into my mind at the time of their inquest is what they remember.

Two weeks ago, here in Aspen country, I participated in a race benefitting the building of a church in my birth nation. At the race, I met two American bros, who were born and raised in the Congo (Kinshasa). The only thing that makes those two Americans is their parents and names. I was so shocked at how their French was better than mine. They spoke English with a very foreign accent. They knew so much about African countries and it made me realize how much I miss living there. The high point of my conversation with the two brothers was the fact they knew about “insombe” (hmmm…there’s no kinyarwanda spellcheck on here). I was shocked and appalled.

The few African friends that I have here in Aspen country, often remind me that I am not African but American. So what does it mean to be American? I am a prolific reader and just because I read Charles Dickens’ novels, that makes me Americaine? Because I spent my teenage years in California, I am Americaine? Because I changed my last name, that makes me Americaine?

Well, je suis Africaine et je suis Americaine. Both halves of my lives having been spent on two different continents, I am a human being. I have knowledge of two cultures and live them both everyday. My children shall be the same and I am proud to say que je suis Africaine et Americaine!!!