I am Aïchatou and I am an African

A name is usually something a person owns and identifies to sum up every characteristic they hold. At least that is what I perceived my name as until I came to the United States of America. I was taught that having an African name was the lowest of my characteristics, when it was mispronounced by teachers all throughout grade school who had no intention of properly addressing me and when it was shamelessly shortened by classmates through mere mockery.

My parents gave up their white-collar careers for a better life in the States, so being African was a prideful joy. In Africa, it meant parents that made their own legacy had raised me. It meant having chauffeurs, maid and nannies. In America, it meant I came from the poorest continent, which actually held the largest wealth in terms of natural resources.

I was trained to hide my identity in order to fit in. To have lunch with the popular girl who turned the whole class' perspective on what it is to be dark skinned. I was pressured to take out my braids and straighten my curly hair to fit in with American standards. I was the new girl in the neighborhood and in the school hallways with the ethnic accent, and the cocoa brown skin.

I remembered hating my name, and miserably begging my mom to take us back where I was the popular kid at a prestige school. As an African, I wanted to do everything keeping in mind my family's extensive sacrifices, but was torn into defeating the purpose for insignificant camaraderies. 

It wasn't until after the years of my adolescence that I began to firmly contradict to "doing as the Romans do". There was nothing wrong with whom I was, and being bullied had made me think otherwise.

I learned to own my name, Aïchatou. It represents the pouring rain in the Fall, and the bright sun that beams in the Summer in Africa. It is very much conforming to be an African, because when Africa succeeds, my heart jumps with its rhythm. It is okay to be different. After all we don't have the same characteristics right?

It is an acrimonious behavior to be influenced into rejecting who we are as human beings. I am anchored to eternity to being an African, and there has not been a time, which I felt more prideful.

So this is for the teachers that belittled me when I asked for the bathroom pass.

And the girl that would pull me to the back of the line because I was an outsider.

This is for the guy that pulled my braids, and the girl that made me sit alone during lunch time.

But mostly, this is for my amazing family, who taught me to love who I am when I would feel my lowest because of the harsh actions of others.

 My hopes are that my story touches someone who is ashamed of who they are and makes them realize that they should be proud of wherever they come from.


I am Aïchatou, and I am an African.