I Am an AfriGen

I’ve talked a bit before about my African identity here on the blog, so when Amma Appiah (former blog writer!) reached out to me to participate in an Afrigens @ Work series, I got really excited!

AfriGens @Work is a passion project created by Janet Asante, Clarissa Bannor, and Bessie Akuba where they seek, ask, and document life and career stories from next gen Africans adulting in the West. The series introduces people to first- and second-generation Africans from all over the country who are thriving in their chosen careers to show how they’re defining success and living their own interpretations of their parents’ dreams.

With Janet Asante, Creator of Afrigens @Work

Though I don’t quite know if I’m properly adulting (I really struggle with keeping the house clean ?), I was honored to be one of the AfriGens chosen to speak on their life experience. I was able to share a little bit of my immigration story, go into my dissertation research and why I think I’m qualified to do research on black health as an African immigrant, and talk about how the perception of natural hair is changing on the African continent. Here’s the video of snippets from my interview!

The only thing I didn’t have a chance to touch on that I feel is important to my African identity is how I feel as a Nigerian marrying a Kenyan. I’ve actually been thinking lately about whether my identity will evolve from being Nigerian first to being African first – since I’ll be both Kenyan and Nigerian. Anyway, I didn’t have enough time to process these thoughts in the interview (and still haven’t processed them), plus Jonathan was there supporting me so I was a bit nervous!

Wearing Corey Red Kendra Shift via Rent the Runway

Check out the catalogue of all the other AfriGen stories at www.afrigens.com and watch the interviews as they debut every Sunday on the AfriGens YouTube channel. Feel free to share your own AfriGen story in the comments as well!

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  1. Good interview, thank you for sharing your experience. You look a strong and smart , you made me want to go to school and accomplish my dreams. I am from Tanzania. Your hair look real good

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your interview with us, Ijeoma! I loved hearing your story- especially as a first generation Jamaican-American. I wanted to ask you what you meant in terms of you becoming Kenyan and Nigerian once you marry Jonathan? I’ve never really thought of taking on your partner’s nationality/heritage upon marriage and wondered what your thoughts were on the topic. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. I’m gonna have to expound separately but the way I was raised, when a woman gets married she becomes a daughter of her husband’s land. So if you ask my mom where she’s from she’ll say Umudere, which is my dad’s village, rather than Umuntu, where she grew up. Jonathan’s people do it too, assume the culture and traditions of the land they marry into, and become Luo, even if you’re originally from somewhere else. So though my blood heritage is Nigerian, I’ll assume the culture and traditions of the Luo people in Kenya, making me Kenyan. Does that kind of make sense? At least that’s how I’m thinking about it for myself.

      1. This is really interesting — just out of curiosity, is this the case for both men and women? So does Jonathan become Ibo because that’s your blood heritage? Or is it just that you, as a woman, become Luo because you are marrying a Luo man?

        Looking forward to hearing more about this! Thanks for sharing!

        1. In both our cultures, this is just the case for women – the woman becomes a daughter of the land she marries into. Does that mean I’ll stop cooking Igbo foods or speaking my language? No, of course not! I’m still working through how to answer when someone asks me where I’m from, but for now I think I’m going to say I am from Nigeria and I married in Kenya.