Abby Schreck/ TMD.
“You’re Not Black”
They would tell me
At dinner time
With tired sighs
With murmured voice
And angry eyes
While they’re drinking tea
And eating jollof rice
And nothing else was said.
And even when I showed my skin
They put my words to bed
Or otherwise they’d raised their voice
As the sky’d turn red

“You’re Not Black”
I’d repeat what they say
“And they said it’s because
You’re good at math
Your knees are ash
You talk too much, your hair is flat
And no one would believe you”

Because to be myself I have to
Be a character first

“‘African American,’ you’re
Nigerian American
And there’s a difference”
Well what is it
Other than drawing lines to spread disdain
And hating who you’re taught to hate
Making everyone happy because we’re
“Not like them”

I’m not like “them”
But I’m not much different than
Anyone else I’ve met
No one’s like each other and
I didn’t have to fret for
So many years about
If I was allowed to be

“Obviously you’re not Black—
If you were, you wouldn’t ask”
I’m not Black because you tried to convince me
That I had to ask if I was in the first place?
Saying that if I was you’d think me a disgrace?
That “no African in their right mind
would stand next to me”?
Don’t tell me I have to be different
After all, this isn’t
A life of your dictionary definitions
Or paradigms with a single visions–
Of people who can’t be anything but
What you think they are.

“Forgive and forget”
I’ve forgotten why I cared
Other than every single eye I see that continues to stare
If I would dare to step away
From being perfect, being small,
Being quiet, being tall,
Being loud, having it all,
Being the picture perfect African child
You’ve always dreamed of
Or else I’d lose everything all over again.

Shut up already.

I am a different Black person
And so is everyone else
You can’t say I’m not Black but I’m too American
You can’t say I’m not Black but I’m too dark
You don’t get to choose what you call me

I am Black
And I am African
And I am Nigerian
I will wear my Afro because it isn’t unkempt
It is part of who I am, and what I love being
I will gel my edges because I like dressing up
And I will not be ashamed of looking like others who are like me
Because I know who I am.
And I am Nigerian
And I am African
And I am Black.

Michigan in Color columnist Avery Adaeze Uzoije can be reached at