Alter Ego: Growing Up in America in a Nigerian Home

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey

Estimated time to read: 8 minutes

Growing up in America as a first generation child in the 90s and early 2000s looked completely different back then than what it does for children of today – completely different.

We had the option to at least play outside with our friends. Nowadays, children play virtually with various games thanks to cell phones, tablets and laptops.

Sleepovers were an extremely rare privilege back then, whereas today it is practically the norm.

Punishments and spankings were the methods used to discipline children. Today, it is questioned whether parents are fit to be [good] parents if they remotely raise their hand to their children, talk less of abuse.

The music. Let’s just say Brittney Spears was considered to be provocative for us back in the day. Now, “sex sells” is the theme and underlying connotation of every song our children listen to.

Children were some of the meanest people – while I never had it said to me directly, “African booty scratcher, go back to Africa,” was one of the staple phrases back then.

Our parents [of the big migration generation] struggled to understand the American culture, and to some extent to get along with black Americans, given the misunderstanding of black Americans thinking they are better than Africans/African-Americans and vice versa. On the other hand, today, people can simply get on the computer and watch parodies and memes of how to imitate and interact with people of different cultures. And while what’s depicted is not the whole truth, there is some truth behind every joke – right?

My parents were super strict, and even with me being the youngest of three girls, as my eldest sister loves to remind me, they were not as strict with me as they were with her – she was the guinea pig for everything. She’s the best <3 … even though she technically did not have a choice lol.

Apart from school, my parents kept us close around the Nigerian community through church, their clubs and associations they were a part of, and celebrations. They honed in respect and honor to elders – talking back was never an option, let alone a thought.

Alter Ego: Growing Up in America in a Nigerian Home | Adebisi Adebowale

While they did not teach my sisters and me their language (Yoruba), it was very evident my parents were different than a lot of my friends’ parents in how they raised my sisters and me. Sleepovers were a no go pretty much every time, hanging out with our friends was limited and very detailed oriented when it did happen, and out books and sisters were our best friends at all times.

Alter Ego: Growing Up in America in a Nigerian Home | Adebisi Adebowale

Whenever we were around other Nigerians or Africans in general, we were very American to the audience. In the same vein, whenever we were around other Americans, we were very Nigerian to that audience. In other words, we were not good enough of anything to be where we were.

But as God would have it, times have changed and people accept others as they are more and more, and embrace cultures as if they are their own. People’s desires to travel internationally has risen, as well as the number of intercultural and interracial marriages in recent years.

While it is beautiful to see the tolerance and acceptance levels of others rise, does it mean down the road we will lose our individuality and cultural identities if we seek to be more inclusive?

I am wearing Kente print material here, a pattern that is attributed to Ghanaian people. The suit was so beautifully crafted by the great Ms. Kate in Maryland. She’s IG-less, but feel free to visit my page here to see what other wonderful creations she has tailored for me.

Crystale would not let me leave the set without giving her Wakanda forever pose. =D

Alter Ego: Growing Up in America in a Nigerian Home | Adebisi Adebowale

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