The Lost and Found Generation

September 11, 2011 2011- articles, Columns, Culture. Identity. Root

by Ezinne Adibe

In this so-called post-racial society and the era of the first “African-American” president Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, identity will continue to crop up even more, whether in coffee shop conversation, academia, online, and so forth. Additionally, race, ethnicity, and culture are not going to suddenly disappear from our realities. In fact, they will become even more salient.

This era is also one where many of the children of African immigrants are re-affirming their connections to the African continent, while embracing their multi-faceted realities as Afropolitans.

As a daughter of African parents, who like many came to the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world in the 1970s and 1980s with many aspirations, my experiences have been an amalgamation of cultures, new and old, unfamiliar and familiar. I, like many sons and daughters of those who came to unfamiliar lands bearing the names and blood in their veins of their foremothers and forefathers, have not had it particular easy, although according to some looking in we have.

Many of our parents have walls full of degrees. A testament to the emphasis placed on education, an emphasis that is generally drilled into the head of an African newborn even before their first tooth has grown in. Many of us can list the doctors, engineers, lawyers, and nurses in our families and our respective communities.  Many of us have not endured the difficult life experiences that some of our peers have…and many of us have.

Many of us have faced the challenges of having to explain our experiences and why our blackness should not and cannot be measured by the number of hardships we can count on both hands. Or where and how we grew up. The reality is that for many of us a good home cooked meal consisted of fufu and okra or egusi soup. Or rice and stew. Breakfast consisted of akara and custard or yam and eggs. In school, it was almost a certainty that our names would be butchered at roll call. Instead of summers down south with family we can recall when grandma got a temporary visa to come to the United States and stayed with us in the house.

At times in our upbringings our wishes have clashed with our parents’. Attempting to carve out our own identities while acknowledging, or  even dismissing our collective identities has caused some of us to reject our African names and others to embrace African names, casting aside names like John, David, Sandra, and Victoria. As adults many of us are still carving out our identities.

Some have written us off as a lost generation, because it seems we may not have lived up to expectations. Usually the criticism comes from an older generation, one that birthed us.

This era is critical for us as Africans, as we have some serious things to reflect on in order to move forward and progress. Are we ready to be unapologetically African and affirm who we are – varied experiences and all? Are we ready to be our own historians? The future awaits us.

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Ezinne Adibe is a writer, filmmaker, and marketing maven.  The NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate has written for such publications as AOL Black Voices, Jamati, & The Atlanta Post, just to name a few. She also serves as the Managing Director for Afropolitan Legacy Theatre, a film and theater production company and Acting Managing Editor for The Afropolitan Experience. Her interests include media, politics and anthropology.

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