What It’s Like Being an African Girl (Living in America)

It’s like having your mother wash your hair with bar soap that isn’t too kind to your kinky curls instead of shampoo

because according to her it all lathers just the same.

It’s like getting whippings for every bad report card you bring home, only to turn eighteen and be told that you can’t go away for college

because you’re expected to wed, produce kids and keep the cycle of depressed African house wives going.

It’s like trying to explaining to your father that you want to major in writing

But all we wants to know is how much money do poets make

It’s like being called an “African booty scratcher” in the schoolyard by little black kids that can’t understand that you might share the same ancestor

It’s like walking up to the stage on graduation day trying hard to ignore the lady in the third row

with the African wax dress and big head scarf that keeps shouting your name.

It’s like learning to say “no” with very little guilt when your fifth-grade friend asks you “Is that your mother?”

It’s like learning to remember your mother by her new name when she creates a new identity for herself

because Immigration has refused to grant her refugee status on American soil

It’s like pretending you’re asleep when your grandmother calls from back home because you don’t want her to notice that you’re forgetting your native language

It’s like fighting every day to find a part of yourself without losing the parts you barely have

It’s like constantly having nightmares about the day your aunt Mariam gave birth to a little girl on grandma’s kitchen floor because the village doctor was nowhere to be found

And all you remember is the silence that filled the room as everyone waited for the baby’s cry that never came

It’s learning how to unlove the light skin boy with gray eyes because you know your family will never accept your union

It’s like being sent to mosque every Saturday to find god because your father says the devil in you is showing

But all you find is a trial of boys that will never love you enough to erase your sins

It’s like learning how to fake an orgasm because you’re too embarrassed to admit that you’re circumcised

It’s like staying up all night reading romance books with a flash light under your sheets

then growing up and learning how to love with your eyes open and your heart closed

It’s like being told you will never marry because you keep messing up the recipe to the peanut butter sauce that your mother has taught you for thirteenth time

It’s like having your aunts waiting outside your door the morning after your wedding because they want to see the blood on your bed sheets

Like staring in the mirror wondering “Is my African showing?”

Like being able to hold down that feeling of triumph when someone says, “Oh you don’t even look African”

Like having to find a place to hide your pride when you finally lost your accent

Like being that one piece in the puzzle that fits but you know damn well it doesn’t belong

What’s it like being an African girl in America?

It’s like giving birth to little American babies

And constantly trying to teach them

no matter what their passports may say

Baby, you are my Africa

And if ever you need refuge

You may always seek asylum in bosom

Baby, I am your motherland

Kamadie Traore
Kamadie Traore was born in West Africa and raised in New York. She loves children and writing and hopes to write children’s books.

Photo detail of Kerry James Marshall‘s “Untitled (Blot)” (c) Jose Almonte 

Author photo courtesy of author

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