Introspecting on my Identity in light of Black history month



My identity is still something I find myself grappling as Black Muslim Nigerian Yoruba woman sometimes it can feel really overbearing. But I love the richness it brings to my life and I believe my life would be so boring otherwise.

As I settle into London life I reflect back on my experience up north. I see myself struggling to feel comfortable in a country I call my own. I find myself questioning my Britishness, I’m I really British if I’m only comfortable in particular parts of the country?
Parts of the country where I feel my experience is visible, acknowledged and even unapologetic. Being back in London I’m immediately overwhelmed with the amount of events catered to the multiple parts of my identity, the most recent being Black and Muslim in Britain. The fact that there are spaces that I and other likeminded individuals can talk about our experiences was like a homecoming for me. After spending so long feeling that the issues I faced were ignored in a predominately white community.

However I also find myself struggling with my Nigerian identity. As a second generation Nigerian at times I’m expected to forget my identity by other Nigerians but I’m also expected to cook Jollof rice and have good home training in order to be marriageable. Confusing right?
These are some of the comments I’ve received…

‘Why do you need to learn Yoruba it’s not like French or Spanish it has no use”

‘You’re British not Nigerian”.

It can at times feel that the very people you’re trying share your culture with are the ones that want to strip your culture away from you. I believe this is due to a desire for many immigrant communities to want their children to aspire to ‘whiteness’ almost like you are born and raised here YOU DONT HAVE TO BE BLACK ANYMORE YOURE FREE. A Nigerian even told me that I’m not an ethnic minority because I’m born here. I laughed at the nativity and simplicity, that I can attain Britishness just with a red passport and they seemed confused by my need to talk about the Black experience in Britain as surely it should be the same as the white experience.

Growing into myself I’ve learnt not to be confined by these labels that define me and I’m an individual free to choose what I want to do even if it goes against stereotypes. No one has the right to tell me what I’m and no one can take my identity away from me because my interests go against the norms of that particular group. After spending years believing I couldn’t be A or B because that’s not what Black people or Nigerian people do. I’ve learnt that I can be a Nigerian who obsessed with guacamole and loves a good English breakfast.

I’ve learnt that I can be a British and not have that calm, ‘polite’ English way of speaking and have a ‘stiff upper lip’. I’m the complete opposite too loud, blunt and overly honest. Growing up with my Nigerian extended family no one was afraid to tell you a few home truths and unless you were loud you wouldn’t be heard. My Britishness also has to deal with random moments were I start speaking in a Nigerian accent especially when I’m angry.
I guess my take home message is as Black people we often told what we can or can’t be otherwise you’re acting white or as Nigerian Yoruba’s would say ‘ewa oyinbo’ which translate to behaviour of whites which isn’t usually a compliment if said to you directly. Therefore it’s important this month to celebrate all the different types of Black people in world not just those that seem ‘Black enough’.

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