VOLDA APPIA-KUSI, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY Growing up in America as the first-generation daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, I knew I was different from a young age. My parents always made sure to let me know that I “was not like these American kids.” Anytime I wanted to do something it was always “that’s not in the family tradition” or “that’s not how we do it back home.” Meanwhile I had never even been to Ghana, so for me those words had no real meaning. As a kid it just felt like being Ghanaian was stopping me from fitting in with all the other kids. So, like a lot of first-generation kids I began to distance myself from my culture. I stopped correcting people when they mispronounced my last name, I stopped watching African movies with my dad, and worst of all I stopped eating African food. Instead of waakye and stew, I would ask for McDonald’s and KFC.
Of course as I got older I began to come back into my culture, one of the biggest reasons being my first ever visit to Ghana. Finally being able to go back home and being surrounded by so many people who were so proud in their culture made me realize just how lucky I am to have such a direct line to my culture. As a first-generation African, sometimes it can feel like you’re too American for Africa, but simultaneously too African for America. When you try to connect to your family they may laugh at your pronunciation and call you “obroni,” but your American friends also laugh when they see you sucking the cartilage out of chicken bones.
As first-generation Africans we shouldn’t forget that we have also forged our own path and created our own culture. We’ll have our turkey on Thanksgiving, but not without a side of rice and stew while drinking Malta Goya. We’ve taken the traditional cultural wear of our parents, and made it popular all over the world. It hasn’t always been easy, and yes we’ve been the subject of many punchlines and bad headlines, but still we always come out on top. What more could you expect from the children of immigrants who worked so hard just to secure a better future for themselves and their future generations?