To be Nigerian-American is to be inherently unique. It’s a little extra volume in your voice, some extra peppa in your soup.
Nigerian-Americans make up a large number of African immigrant population in the United States. If you are one of them, and were raised like me, your suburban home was transformed into a small Igbo village with four Toyotas in the driveway. The smell of stock fish wafts from the kitchen while your dad sings Flavour’s Greatest Hits, and your mom scolds you for not yet having all of your times tables memorized.
As a child, I just wanted to be ‘regular Black,’ Frankie Beverly and Maze Black. Now I understand that Blackness is rich with different experiences, so there is no such thing. Like the textured variances of cultures within Africa, to be Nigerian-American is to be inherently unique. It’s a little extra volume in your voice, some extra peppa in your soup.
I have collected 5 things you should know about Nigerian-Americans:
Jollof Rice Is Life: Jollof Rice, which is a tomato based rice pilaf dishes with traditional spices is the culinary staple of every Nigerian experience. You learn to make Jollof before riding a bike, braiding hair, counting money. Most west African nations have their own signature jollof recipe, but Nigeria reigns supreme. I am not biased. They won the Jollof Wars.
We Do the bridesmaids things a bit different: Bridesmaids are cute, but the Asoebi is everything. Asoebi, is a Yoruba (a Nigerian tribe) word for “clothing of kin.” It is a uniform worn by women at special formal events to signify who is really with you. Before a thanksgiving, wedding, or a funeral, the celebrants will select friends and family to be in their asoebi groups. For my wedding, there were three Asoebi groups: One of my friends and family, and my mom had her crew, and then one for my in laws.
Throwing money has nothing to do with strippers: Wale caught some flack around his daughters the first birthday about spraying her with money. To someone unfamiliar with the culture, this may trigger strip club memories. Everybody needs to STAHHHHHP!
To “spray’ or “dash” is a measure of good fortune in Nigerian cultures. Birthdays, graduation, weddings and even funerals celebrants will be sprayed with money. If you are invited to a Nigerian party, please stop at a local ATM and get some cash. No need to get small bills someone on site will be present for the exchange.
On the other hand, if you are ever the focus of a Nigerian gathering, understand we as a people, get it. No one wants a bunch of toys that will break in a year. If it is a funeral, people need the money to bury the dead, because we attempt to bury our dead in the land of their birth. We don’t need a sympathy card, we need money because shipping a body across the Atlantic is not cheap. The act of giving money is seen as a wish for good fortune, and every little bit of fortune helps.
Nigerians were enslaved on their own lands: There tale that white people landed in West Africa, traded entire villages for some beans and sailed off to the Americas with their human cargo, and those left behind did nothing about it is a bold face lie. Africa has been a playground for white imperialism the moment they found it. But no one wants to talk about it. That is because there is not much published history from the African side of slavery.
That is right, white people set up slavery in Africa. They monopolized the palm oil industry and have been extorting everything from the land they could to this very day. It’s deeper than blood diamonds. That is all before formal colonization and religious missionaries showed up. In fact, the British did not pull out of Nigeria until 1960.
We are black people, too: There has been some misinformed talk with the intention of schooling Black Americans. Most of the conversation has been about Black Americans wearing traditional African clothing. This is not a problem. While Africa has maintained its steady flow of human rights issues, the ability to trade the African struggle for the Black American struggle has only been helped by Black Americans.
African Americans have always been very interested in African cultures as a right to their disconnect to the homeland. Alvin Ailey spent a large amount of time studying West African dance to only celebrate it through his dance company and make it famous. Black publications such as Blavity, Huffington Post Black Voices, continue to celebrate the successes of Nigerian immigrants and writings. We support actresses like Uzo Abuda, without questioning if her Black is different. Colleges and universities allow the children of African immigrants to benefit in their minority scholarship programs and whatever is left of affirmative action.
So with that said, let it be known that Black people are diverse, but they are Black. When the police pull you over, it does not matter if you have been in America for 30 days, or 300 years, it is the Black skin which unites us and strikes fear into the heart of white supremacists. That is our only enemy. Black Americans and Black Africans are like long-lost cousins. When Africans come to this country, they need to change their attitude, and pick up with their family where we were left off – fighting against white supremacy.