A New African

Ugandan Model Ramona Fouziah Nanyombi
Being African has changed dramatically within the last 20 years. I remember arriving in the United States not knowing how I would be perceived or even how much I would be let down in my expectations of America. I expected a world where opportunities patiently awaited, where I would learn, land a great job and live happily ever after. The color of my skin or the color of my passport never appeared in my day dreams to be of any importance. It was going to be okay. I was going to a better place.

I was always proud of being African. It was who I was. It often puzzled me when people would ask such absurd questions about being from africa like if we wore shoes or lived in huts. I was proud to inform them that my being in America resulted in a big downgrade in terms of the size and status of my living situation. "Apartments? Oh please, houses in Africa take up close to entire blocks...& shoes?? lets not even go there." I understood this perception though. Feed the Children commercials and the few documentaries shown of Africa (which by the way is a very big place) did us no justice. What shocked me the most however, was that in a land as educated as America (hence my being here) people of all ages and backgrounds seemed to lack basic knowledge about the continent. It was constantly being referred to as a country, I got comments ranging from "you're pretty for an African" or "you don't smell african"to questions like "do you speak african?" and "do you play with lions and tigers?" Even when it came to insults, things like "african booty-scratcher" or people making clicking sounds used to outright annoy me. Now I just look back and laugh.

I laugh because my generation had turned the table. We are now the representatives of Africa and its many countries. I love when people have pride in their home country because it re teaches the fact that Africa is a continent that houses many different countries, cultures, tribes, and languages. I love that we are the most educated immigrants because it continues to show the world that we are here for America's opportunities not for shoes and clothes. I admire the fact that we are able to wear Gap jeans with ankara tops because it shows that unlike many cultures that come to America, we are not here to emulate or camouflage into this society but to borrow and continue to wear africa on our sleeves...even if it means literally. It gives me great pride to walk through places like Harlem where there are a plethora of African restaurants and business because it reminds me so much of our commerce driven entrepreneurship attitudes that originated back home. The "African booty scratcher" joke turned into an "I need to find me an African," and the clicking sounds turned into "can you teach me something in your language?" We are no longer letting the victors or tell our stories. We are the story. We are as educated, stylish, and economically driven as ever before and I am proud to be apart of the New African Narrative.