Why I Joined MiC: Ayomide Okunade
I did not understand what it means to be Black in America until I arrived at the University of Michigan. I will never forget attending Campus Day and watching droves of white people walking to the stadium for a football game. I was terrified, not because I did not see any Black people, but because I could only see a handful of POC. My mom saw my fear and merely laughed because I was the one who chose to leave the Nigerian hub, which is Texas, for somewhere “too far away.”
As the first American-born child in my Nigerian family, the “American” in Nigerian-American was often muted because of the depth of community we have in Texas. On the weekends, I would accompany my mom to Southwest Farmer’s Market, a Nigerian-run foodcenter for all things Nigerian. Most days, I would attend my African church which was over ninety percent Yoruba (the best tribe in Nigeria). If I attended a birthday party, wedding, graduation, there was a nearly hundred percent chance that the person was Nigerian. When I would hear the term “Black people,” it was referring to what seemed like an entirely separate ethnicity. It meant descendant of slaves, and as a Nigerian-American I did not identify as such.
And then I stepped on campus and longed for nothing more than to see someone with my complexion. I quickly integrated myself within the Black community here and found a family which has supported me through my most difficult times. I grew to understand that “Black” was a race, and more specifically that race was a social construct meant to oppress people who looked like me. I realized that I am Black and I am still grappling with what that means for me and my Nigerian background. MiC has served as the perfect place for me to write through the complexities and challenges of my identity. I am supported by other POC trying to figure out what their identity means to them in a country which is constantly trying to mute their culture. Through our writing and art, however, the depths and richness of our diverse cultures will be acknowledged.