“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 Black “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 firstname.lastname@example.org.