“”Welcome home! You look happy to be back.” The White Immigration officer said to me, beaming. “I am. I’ve been gone for a while!” And I really was at that moment. The new “scan your passport and adjust your weave for a picture” system was impressive to me. No more long lines. I was digging…
I could “talk proper” and “articulate so well.” And by year three I got compliments for having no accent: “no one would be able to tell you weren’t from here!” I was ecstatic. I even let them touch my hair. After all, they were “just curious.” And I relished in the fact that I “wasn’t like them” because being the kind of Black I was made me acceptable. I was the “safe” African/Black woman.
The “safe Black” aka the African immigrant does not have the history of slavery imprinted on his/her DNA; this NAB is not “angry” because really, what do they have to be angry about? They are being offered a piece of the American Dream, they need only work hard. Which they do, supposedly in contrast to the American Blacks, who though failed by the system, are meant to bear the brunt of this failure.
Americanah is a story of love, culture shock, transition and transformation, discovery and adaptation, and finally race and hair. The latter two fascinate me because they also seem to be what Adichie really wants to talk about, subtly touches on but often does not return to.
I walk down the street in my flowing Ghanaian print dress. I am on my way to my favorite Ethiopian café to journal about my swearing-in ceremony. I am sentimental. I want to shout out, and then grin broadly while I tell everyone I meet, “I am a US citizen now.” I smile broadly at…
So I write this blog entry for KT who is making her first trip to Ghana and to the continent of Africa, fifteen years from that first hello and handshake. I want to say Akwaaba and re-introduce myself: Akwaaba, wo fr3m Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe. Mi y3 Ghana nyi. These are my people; these are where my roots lie. If you are ready, we can wander the back-roads of Melody-Ann and the new tracks of Kuukua. This is for you my friend.
Where am I? I’m sure you are dying to know! For Christmas, I gave myself the gift of a second pilgrimage to Haiti, Ayiti, the beautiful land of beautiful people where the great economic divide is as visible as the night and day that marks the passing of time and where suffering, as widespread as it is, never keeps the people from smiling back when you make eye contact. I had to return to Ayiti. It had wrapped its arms around me in May 2002 when I made my first pilgrimage and it had refused to let go. So I honored it, and all who were in it, by returning.