“I’m Black Too!”

Bangui, Central African Republic, June 11, 2014; unidentified kids at streets of Bangui. Shutterstock photo

An African-Born Student’s Perspective on Black History Month

By Syriene Djakata, Grade 9, Aiken New Tech H.S.

Black people in America come from diverse backgrounds and have different experiences, but we all feel the impact of racism, being part of a minority population. The celebration of Black History Month should be expanded to include the voices of Africans who have recently arrived, as well as African-Americans whose families have been here for generations. 

Shutterstock map illustration of the Central African Republic and flag

The wars in the Central African Republic made my parents leave to search for a better life. When I was just a baby, we moved to Cameroon, but we were never really welcomed because the community there did not want immigrants. They often said we were the cause of region’s conflicts, so they did not want us to live there. I was always afraid, because people were being shot very often. My dad decided to emigrate and bring us to America, to escape the wars and get an education. 

When we first came here, I felt all the happiness when I thought about the new life we were going to start. I wanted to feel safe from the wars in Africa, and I was excited to meet new people and make friends. However, my happiness was short-lived. On my first day of school, I got on the bus with my brothers and sisters for the first time. The Black American kids pointed and laughed at me because of my darker skin and how I was dressed. They made faces and plugged their noses, and even though I did not understand their words, I knew what they were saying, and it hurt me deeply. All I really wanted was a place I could call home–but I never really felt at home, because of all the rejection I got from members of my own race.

Too many immigrants know the experience of being put down, made fun of, bullied, called names because of their accents… How do we change that situation? Most immigrants went through a lot in their home countries. They often come with nothing, seeking only a safe home in this strange new place. We Black people should welcome and help those who are from Africa, no matter the language they speak or the accents they have. If we take some time and think about how African-American ancestors were treated as less than human, and forced to work as slaves, maybe we could have more empathy and stop treating new African immigrants like they are nobody.

Student essayist Syriene Djakata

Is it possible that one reason we are not respected is because we do not respect one another? How do we expect members of other races to respect and treat us equally if we do not do the same for the members of our own race? If we, as Black people, really want freedom, respect, and fairness, we need to humble ourselves with each other. Let’s become better versions of ourselves.

Learn More:

The documentary film Black N Black examines the sometimes fraught relationships between African Americans and African immigrants.

The graphic novel When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, one of our Freedom Friends Book Club’s “Bonus Stack” picks for 2022, tells the story of two young Somali brothers who grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Here’s a link to an audio sample; here’s a link to access the book from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

4 Comments

  1. This is a sad world we live in. I think hate is so much deeper than the color of our skin. We bread hate in so many different ways. If it was not the color of her skin or the way she spoke, it would have been her weight, height, or the classes she wore. We all have been in situations where we were on the outside of the “in-group.” It does not feel good. We do not take the time to get to know the person, we only see that difference. When in reality the person is a beautiful person who is different looking to make a change that is right for them. I see this all the time in schools. The new kid is from a different state and talks different or dresses different. They did not choose to move or change schools but here they are living the life they were given. They are picked on or hated because they are different. I try so hard to be a light for these students and help them be understood in the classroom. This article is well written and again a way to open the eyes of others actions so that we don’t make the same choices.

  2. After reading this article, it made me feel sad that this behavior happens in our world. I can only imagine how they feel as immigrants, and I also think about how their parents have to feel that their children have to endure this pain and judgement from people who cannot see past their differences and accept them for who they are. This would be difficult for me to cope with as an individual going through it, and as a parent.

  3. She said the truth the first time I came to America I got bully I they’ll get bullied by now people make fun just because I’m African but I keep my head up I we all need to come together as a big family they made us black people work we was treated like slave.

  4. Yes it’s true what you said and I really like it because it’s reminds me alot of stuff and God bless you my sister, I thought there’s No kill each other here I thought it’s a self place yes there food, work, and everything we want, but there No love or caring for others here in America I thought we will have a better life. Here they kill my nephew he didn’t do anything but still they kill him and he is black the prison that killed him he is black. I am not a good on typing but I hope you understand

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