Nigerians have a long-established presence in the United States. Approximately 1.4 million slaves were taken from Nigeria and trafficked to Maryland and other states along the Eastern Seaboard. Many generations later, a new wave would migrate in search of greener pastures.
A teenage Zulu Sofola won a scholarship to study in America. She would later become the first African female playwright.
In “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lorraine Hansberry created the Nigerian character Joseph Asagai, using her classmates as inspiration.
In a 1959 interview with the oral historian Studs Terkel, she notes of the Africans populating the U.S in the 1950s: “They represent the emergence of an articulate, deeply conscious, colonial intelligentsia in the world” — a contrast to the stereotypes at the time, concerning dullards populating a dark continent with “shoes around their necks and bones in their noses.”
I represent one of many families who came to America in the 1980s and 1990s in search of opportunities.
There is a trade-off associated with migrating from one’s place of birth to a foreign land. What does the migrant give away in exchange for building a home in a new country? Perhaps, a sense of belonging — a constant reminder of your difference.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” the store clerk says, though my mother is speaking plain English.
Constantly having your abilities and intellect questioned despite your level of experience and training.
Constantly having your authenticity and allegiance and knowledge of your new home put on trial.
The Biden-Harris administration recently appointed Osaremen Okolo, a Nigerian American woman, as a COVID-19 policy advisor. This appointment represents what many struggled to achieve for posterity — to be seen, and to achieve mobility.
As more continue to make contributions to various industries such as entertainment, academia, healthcare, sports and the arts — the American dream has expanded beyond its limited confines. The pathway to success is not a narrowly constructed road.
The appointment also illustrates the importance of visibility and representation. The announcement came amid rapid skepticism surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, stemming from the Tuskegee experiments in which a group of Black men were inappropriately treated for Syphilis and experienced severe complications.
A video has circulated concerning Khalilah Mitchell, a nurse who received the vaccine and contracted Bell’s palsy.
Studies reveal that healthcare institutions believe Black women have higher pain thresholds and thus, they receive disproportionate medical care. Most recently, Susan Moore, a doctor who contracted the virus, lamented the inadequate treatment she received before her death.
In the early 19th century, Dr. James Marion Simms, known as the father of modern gynecology, used the bodies of enslaved women as medical test subjects for his surgical techniques.
A century later, Henrietta Lacks’ ovarian cancer cells were siphoned without her consent, and decades after her death, the cells continued to make contributions to cancer research.
Many forces have emerged to tear the nation apart, whether racial tensions or political affiliations, given the recent rampage against the U.S Capitol. In the fight against COVID-19 — an invisible grenade that has left life as we know it in disarray — it is imperative that we foster unity and collaboration.
Mr. Biden stated that his administration must “look like America.” America is not a melting pot that demands homogeneity. America is a cultural bouillabaisse, (a phrase coined by the essayist Ishmael Reed): a place where various cultures can co-exist without losing their individuality. The nation’s diversity is a critical part of its identity.
As the U.S motto states — “E-Pluribus Unum.” Out of many, one.