When I was about 7 years old, I realized I was black. No, I did not go through some random skin metamorphosis that surprisingly resulted in dark skin at that point in my life.
I simply moved countries.
In Nigeria, I am the majority. I blend into the crowd of those around me, having nothing to make me distinct from others other than the unique features that make me who I am among a sea of sub-Saharan African people.
In Canada, I am the daughter in an African Immigrant family in Victoria, British Columbia, a city of mostly white people. As a child, my innocence was held in tact with regards being oblivious to the existence of racism.
In South Central Kentucky, I am black.
It was odd sitting in history classes as a child learning of a history that was so foreign to me, dealing with the side eyes of my white classmates as lectures of slavery and segregation were taught. It was (and continues to be) weird being both the insider and the outsider simultaneously. It was strange yet eye-opening seeing the KKK with my own eyes, coming face-to-face with the reality that my black, African features could spark so much hatred in another human being. So much hatred in fact, that it was capable of assassinating an iconic voice in the Civil Rights Movement decades earlier, a man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s 2015 now and the day set apart to honor his life has come once again. And of all of the years that have past, this is the year I have been the most contemplative of how he has impacted my world and the world that surrounds me. As I have grown in understanding of American history, African history, black American history, and as I continue to struggle with how I fit into all of those narratives, I have made strides in being able articulate my confusions and epiphanies surrounding what it means to be black and African in America. While I have been discouraged at times sharing my stories and amplifying the stories of my black brothers and sisters, it is the words of Dr. King that tell me that I cannot afford to stay silent:
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.
Though I may be a minority, though there are people who find that word synonymous with “subhuman”, I am encouraged by him to foster my need to express through music and writing as well as honing my craft in the sciences:
Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
It pains me that people have used his words to perpetuate the erasure of black people and the replacement of #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter, all under the guise of colorblindness. It’s these same people who take his stance on non-violence and use as a means to dismiss the idea of even investigating why people are angry. Dr. King said it best:
A riot is the language of the unheard.
And just when I thought I couldn’t feel more inspired and encouraged by him, I found out that he has traveled to several African countries, including Nigeria, and feels a great connection with the continent and with the leaders there. Interestingly enough, bridging the gap between black Americans and Africans has been and continues to be a passion of mine. By doing so, we’re rewriting history.
Dr. King is a dime a dozen to say the least. His life and death have catapulted the movement of reconciliation and as set it in motion. He has left his mark in American lives. He has left his mark in African lives. He has left his mark in my life. And I pray that whoever we are and wherever we are, we can bring his dream to fulfillment. It’s the least we can do for him. And it’s the least we can to for our fellow man.
What has Dr. King meant to you?