Before I set foot in US, I already mentally migrated. I had said to myself and God, “Before I die, I must come through America.”
My migration to America had nothing to do being deprived of life in Nigeria. My family was involved in the politics and business of Nigeria and I could do whatever I wanted. Somehow as I read Time, Newsweek, Ebony magazines and the Journal of Economic Geography – no longer in circulation – it became obvious I had opted for America and nowhere else. I applied for the American visa and was denied twice. On the third attempt, I got it.
When I arrived at the DFW International Airport, I got picked up by my maternal uncle. He allowed me to drive as we left the airport on I-635 headed east. I started driving in Nigeria at age 13. The Okpa family has owned automobile since 1949.
Once we got out of the airport, I felt good about the Dallas open sky. “This is home,” I said to myself. “I will never leave Dallas but will learn America from Dallas.”
Lo and behold, I have lived and remained in the same zip code since.
Kwanza Celebration and Fest
As I committed myself to discover America and never allow anyone’s experiences to pre-determine my journey, I set out to understand the lives and ways of people who look like me - African-Americans. I plunged into the community, struck conversations with anyone who I could come across and visited Black neighborhoods of Dallas.
As I did so, I read books and became a frequent visitor to out of business - Black Images Bookstore in Wynewood Village in Oak Cliff. I visited churches (even though as a Catholic, I wanted to see how folks related to God and worship Him. Am not a church goer nor miss church).
As my quest increased, I was asked one day if I knew about Kwanza celebration. When I said no and that I had never heard of Kwanza, this offended some. They either explained or simply walked away. I was unperturbed because it made no difference to me. What I believe does not have to be validated by anyone in order for me to accept it.
Later on I read about Kwanza. It was at this point I started to see America as a segregated and segmented country. Everyone wants to hoist their ways and if it means creating whatever appeases them, so be it. I see that. I have decided that I will not be celebrating any holidays because who I am is not made better because of these events which often does not improve the content of the human.
You will be surprised that I never knew about Valentne’s Day. When someone asked me what I would do on that day, I asked him who, in the first place, Valentine was.
“My name is Edward,” I told him. “I am better than Valentine.”
America is a country where we commercialize everything and attach often incoherent stories behind such non-collateral events. When I love, I love constant and consistent, and will not measure my love based on some stuff like Valentine. And thus far, it has worked for me.
Whether Kwanza, Christmas, Easter, Valentine, etc., I do not miss a beat as they do nothing for me. I rather develop effective relationships with those I know and commit to working with them than get caught up on stuff made up by others to make us feel certain way.
Black History Month
In a never-ending quest to appease us Americans, especially the classified ethnic groups, the god fathers came up with History for anyone who is not White – Black History, to make Black folks feel good, even when they do not have good feelings.
How one’s history is reduced to a month and many subscribe to it beats me. Let’s do the math – February is the shortest month in a year and a month easily forgotten because it is such a time the weather is cold and many are looking to Spring in order to sprint to life. Using the number of days in February which can be 28 or 29 depending on a Leap year, the amount of time devoted to Black History Month is mere 7.94% - Out of 100%. That is insignificant.
Why a History Month? What actually is derived from such? The Black situation remains virtually depressing and deplorable when one walks through the neighborhoods. What does reminding us about the contributions of Blacks do to enhance and uplift a people whose spirits from jump street have been demeaned by all means possible? Have Black folks stopped killing each other? Are they investing in themselves? If Black folks are aware of their history, is there need to set aside a month for its celebration?
There are some things America does that do not advance the cause for Common Good for Greater Good. As we seek to appease and not appeal to ourselves, a segment of us falls deep into the trap.
Emancipate your mental slavery using History to bolster one’s knowledge not to chip in so one feels they too matter. One cannot matter to the whole if in their limiting thinking they look to others to acknowledge them. Your History is constant and does not need set aside time. Just like love, love constant and consistent, and shun Valentine. I do and am loving It.
By Ejike E. Okpa II
A Nigerian-American, Real Estate Practitioner, Member EXIM Bank of US Subsaharan Africa Advisory Committee (SAAC), Member, Dallas Community Police Oversight Board.