Years to Citizenship
Arrived in the US
What do you remember about your journey to the U.S.?
I remember my parents were speaking our regional Nigerian language when my friends came over and I was teased. My siblings and I told my parents to only speak English when our friends come over. My mom refused and was not happy. I remember at the time we got citizenship, my parents allowed us to choose a new middle name. It’s a tradition from my part of Nigeria to take your father’s first name as your middle name no matter your gender. I was excited to change my middle name to Anna. In middle school, being from Africa wasn’t cool. The accent. The dark complexion. Anything African was not cool. My mom was very committed to maintaining culture and felt pride about being Nigerian. She still speaks the dialect from the village where she grew up. Many people in Nigeria cannot speak their native dialect. I respect her for that. The focus was for me and my siblings to learn English. I did not see the importance of the culture when I was younger. I’m sad about that. When I’m around family, I feel inadequate that I cannot speak the language.
What do you think your life would be like if you were still in Nigeria?
I would have been able to speak the language. However, I would be struggling like my cousins to find jobs, pay school fees, pay for college, and support their families.
What have you given up?
Connection with our extended family in Nigeria. I have been here for 30 plus years and been back to Nigeria four times. I can count on one hand how many times I have spoken to my cousins on the phone. Being immersed in the culture.
What have you gained?
A sense of confidence and independence. Wealth. The ability to make something of myself. To have a career. My Nigerian community here. We’re a very tight knit community. We come out, show up, and give.
What message would you share with a newly arriving immigrant?
Continue to stay true to yourself and your culture. First and foremost.