Africa /ˈa-fri-kə/ word. – continent of the eastern hemisphere straddling the Equator, separated from Europe by the Strait of Gibraltar, and adjoining Asia at the Sinai Peninsula area 11,677,239 square miles. Known as the cradle or birthplace of humankind. Additionally, Black culture and history typically have a direct link back to Africa. See also. Motherland, Atlantic slave trade, the Back-to-Africa movement.
My name is Mary and I am Kenyan. Born and raised until 11 years ago. I am currently a nursing student at UMKC. I also take care of old people, which I really love. I love to read, I love to dance, and I love to talk. I own a cat. Right now, I’m just really busy with school and work. That’s pretty much it right now for me.
From Africa, I love that we have so many different tribes… And, there are so many different aspects of all those tribes…. Having to experience that, firsthand, is just amazing. That’s what I love… just how we live together. Even though we all speak different dialects, but have one language that we all understand each other. That is what I really, really love. And then here in America, I like the music, the attitude of Black people here in America. You know, for most people (in America) they want to know more… they have that thirst to learn and that also makes me feel very good. I love that. I love that about (America). And the fact that you can go to Uptown or Leawood, and then go to the Troost area… Even though all the people are Black, they all act differently and think differently. That also interests me.
So, I am a Kikuyu. We have 42 or 44 tribes in Kenya and I am from the largest tribe in Kenya, which is the Kikuyu tribe. Some of the traditions that I’ve grown up with… Although, I must say that, you know, we’ve colonization and as time goes by, a lot of traditions have kinda just been put aside or completely done away with. Some of the most prominent things that I grew up with was you cannot, for example, greet your elder with your left hand or give anything with left hand.
Oh, the fact that my tribe was actually originally matriarchal. A lot of people think it wasn’t,, but it really was a tribe that was ran by women until the chief, you know, until all the women were made pregnant. But that’s the story for another day. But, yeah, we still hold some of those traditions, but not so many (anymore) because things are constantly changing. As we move further and further away, people are kind of leaving all that behind, which to me, is bad. But again, it’s not everything that used to be done that has to be embraced. That’s the whole point of growing and changing is for us to do better or learn more and change things towards the right direction.
It was long and expensive and tiresome, but I guess I can say it was worth it. It took me about two, or three years (two and a half years). It costs me a lot. It wasn’t as cumbersome at first, but as time went by and the change of (presidential) power, it became just a little bit too sensitive compared to how it used to be. It felt good to become an American citizen because then it meant that I gained access to some privileges that I otherwise wouldn’t have previously as an immigrant, who is not a citizen. So, that’s definitely a good thing. You know, holding the American passport is like holding a key to the world, basically.
You can go pretty much anywhere without a lot of problems. So, it was tiresome and it was gruesome and it cost a lot, but it feels good. However… I don’t know. I have the book that says I’m an American citizen and I have the certificates, but sometimes I still don’t feel like I am a hundred percent American, you know?
I think it’s more about fitting in. Basically, you know, a lot of people said Americans don’t have a culture, but really and truly everyone has a culture, you know? But my (culture) seems to be very conflicting because like I said, early on, I still hold dear to my heart some aspects of who I am is a Kenyan. You know, I’m Kenyan first… and then anything else that I’ve become like American.I still feel the conflict. For example, I am “assimilated” but not 100% because there’s things I don’t believe in and things that I don’t participate in, like sports and football. And even when I opened my mouth to talk, sometimes you feel like you’re still treated differently because of the way you sound. But it’s like, yeah, I’m an American citizen… But sometimes I don’t feel like I really am because I’m not completely immersed in the American culture.
Beauty is subjective. To me, beauty is how confident you are… your self-concept… Because we don’t all look alike. We all don’t see beauty to be the same thing. So for me, beauty is when you’re well aware of yourself and your self-concept… Yeah, like how you feel about yourself overall on the outside and the inside.
There’s so many different shades of Black, That’s the color of our skin… The melanin… But there’s more to it in terms of the way, Black people represent themselves. We are all Black, but we would present ourselves differently. In terms of fashion, how we talk, how we are, just the variety in black people show how we are different and how we are the same.
Oh yeah! Absolutely! So, being a Black and not from here… First of all, again, the whole accent thing. I think I’ve kind of learned how to differentiate when people are just being mean and saying, what did you say? I don’t understand what you’re saying. And others, just genuinely not understanding accent clash… I call it accent clash or a barrier.
And then being Black person and being a woman, there’s so much pressure. I’m expected to be a certain way… because really and truly until I opened my mouth, you can’t quite know that I’m not from America. People who expect certain stereotypes. And the biggest pressure…Preface: we don’t have to prove ourselves… but the way society views us, if we’re being completely honest, there’s a pressure to prove that you’re as good as the next person. They say you can be anything that you want to be and that you have what it takes, even though the roads are not paved the same way.
We have more barriers as Black people in general than other people when it comes to success and achieving things. And being a woman, you’re treated differently in terms of pay scale. People might not even talk to you the same with that they might talk to a man, They might diminish you, make you feel smaller, and not even necessarily even respect you… So there’s that pressure and not even. And let’s not even start with health disparities that women face…. (Example) Black women in terms of losing babies and dying when they’re given birth. There’s all that pressure on top of that. So there are a lot of pressures, but those are just some of them.
Yeah… Actually one most recently with my complex. My car got towed and I was not very happy because we don’t have enough parking spots. Long story short… I went back to the office to talk to the manager, you know, like, so where are we supposed to park? Because I always come home late from work and I’m never going to find anywhere to park even on the street. And I refuse to park like five blocks away. Being a female walking by myself at 1:00 AM in the morning in Midtown is not necessarily very safe.
And so when the manager saw me, he basically changed his demeanor and the way he was talking to me… he was talking down at me. Um, and I couldn’t quite tell whether it’s because I’m female or because I’m Black. But the reason why I say this is because I confronted him and said, well, why are you talking to me? You’re not being very empathetic and not very understanding to me and you’re not really trying to work with me. And was being very arrogant and smug. And I told him the last time I came here, I was with a man… a White man. I noticed a lot of things. It was my issue from my apartment, but instead of addressing me (the person who brought the issue forward to him), he was addressing the guy. He was being very respectful and meek and just, you know, it wasn’t the same conversation that he had with me.
I did not yell at him, nothing.I just walked up to him like a manager, the same way the first time. But I couldn’t tell if it’s because I’m female or because I’m Black or both. But I have heard now and then that is not very nice to people who don’t look like him.
Also at my previous job, I’ve had clients say, Oh, I don’t want her to touch me. You know, I want that other person to touch me who’s obviously of a different color than me. So does it affect me? It’s easy to say, Oh, you just look away and walk away. But these are things that can keep you up at night sometimes because you think my children, this is what you’re having to deal with and it’s so prominent right now. It’s just out there. Um, so yeah, I have been discriminated against as a female, as a woman, and as a Black person, I would say that.
I’m proud that I have gotten this far. 11 years down (in America). This is going to be my second degree. I’m proud that I have been able to survive and take care of myself. I’m proud that I started a small business. It kind of went to sleep a little bit because of going back to school, but it worked for awhile. I’m proud that I worked for one of Kansas City’s biggest companies, Cerner, as a software analyst for them. Above all that, I’m proud that I have maintained who I am and as I continue to grow. It’s not easy, but I’m very proud of how far I’ve come and things that I’ve done by myself.
So, independence to me is freeing… if that makes any sense. You don’t owe anyone anything and you don’t have to rely on anyone… Not that relying on someone is a bad thing…. What I’m saying is that that person you’re relying on was to be taken away for whatever reason, you are still able to stand on your own. And being independent comes with a lot of discipline… which is something I don’t play around with.
Once you’re independent and you’ve learned the art, you grow so much. You learn so much about yourself and nothing can really shake you. Honestly, even when you’re shook and you fall, you’re still able to stand up and you’re pretty much able to pick up from where you left. That’s why independence to me is so, so, so important. And it’s not about, Oh, I don’t need anyone. No. We all need people because you’re not Island. But when you’re independent, regardless of what happens, you can still stand on your two feet. And that, that’s very important to me. It keeps you going… gives you a drive. it gives you purpose and reason. I would tell anyone if you can learn the arts of independence and discipline and really, yeah, you’re untouchable. And then, you know, also for me, it comes from the fact that I went to boarding school and I was 10 years old and I didn’t leave until I was 18. So, pretty much all my life have been by myself.
There’s so many! Right now… I’m very passionate about health and healthcare. And I’m not talking in terms of let’s all just lose weight. No. Just health, whatever health is to everyone. So, some of the things I want to do is make a difference in healthcare. I want to pay it forward and make that difference in underserved communities… minority areas…. that are underserved. I would love to close the disparity gaps, especially in health care between Black people and White people, because it’s a huge gap. And the way that I would love to do that is through health education… even if it means that I have to do it pro bono. What I’m learning right now as a nurse and I intend to go further is for the collective good. It’s not just for me, it’s not just for money. It’s not just for my direct, um, my direct benefit. It’s not financially motivated but it’s for the collective good. If I change the lives of two, three people who hopefully will pass it down to their families, I have done my job. So that is one of the biggest things (dreams).
Again, I would say health. I would really advocate for health… Like mental, physical, emotional, spiritual health.
So the biggest thing, the hardest thing to break is culture, right? And what causes a good thing, can also be a bad thing. A lot of Black people still host the whole Sunday dinner, with fried food and whatever. A lot of Black people have the highest incidences of heart attacks or strokes, breast cancer and all that stuff. So with that being said, it would be health. I’m not telling you not to do these things. But we have to do things differently because we’ve been doing the same thing for so many years… decades and decades. And we’re not seeing any results.
But once we are well aware of ourselves, our bodies, then we are able to take a stand and start bringing about change. We think clearer because our brains are not fogged out by TV and sugar and unhealthy food. Then, we’re able to really tap into our potential. Black people are so creative and there’s so much potential, but it starts with health.
First of all, to make it clear, I’m not perfect and I’m not 100% balanced. Like I said, early on, my life is crazy right now. But again, I need clarity. Mental health is very important. It’s remembering that if my mental state of being is not aligned… it’s not where it’s supposed to be… then I won’t be able to do anything else. I’m just gonna sit on the couch depressed and not even feel motivated. So I have to be aligned… And that’s where discipline comes in. That’s where prioritizing comes in. It’s realizing that, yes, you have 5,000 things to do, but you only have 24 hours…
The first thing that you do, don’t even get out of bed yet. Just sitting up and take a deep breath. Say thank you to whatever person, thing, object, power that you pray to. Then telling yourself that you’ve got this… you’re capable… You’re able. Again, knowing your priorities, what takes precedence over what. You know….You don’t have to be a Yogi. It’s just sitting by yourself. So literally like five minutes. Taking deep breaths and it clears your mind. And a lot of people think that’s nonsense, but you really isn’t nonsense because the system (our bodies) is built in such a way that we’re just going and going and going and going and going and then we break down.
Then when we break down, we are completely useless. The discipline of knowing that if I’m not okay as a person, mentally especially, nothing else is going to go right and nothing I come in contact with will go right. You know? So you come first above all else.
Uh, Oh my gosh. Um, I don’t know. I have a teacher that says blame society, but we’re part of that same society. My dream for society would be that everyone lives in peace and harmony and blah, but we know realistically that’s not possible. Like really realistically, you know… So, What I would dream about is making whatever small difference you can in someone’s life which makes a difference in someone else’s life. Basically, just kinda creating a small ripple effect. Um, I don’t even know if that answers your question, but I, I really don’t have the concern for society with all this one love (philosophy). No. It’s starts with me not being a shitty person *excuse my french* and, hopefully, then that creates a ripple effect and society figures itself out and people choose to be good people and not be bad people just because they can.
Again, it goes back to waking up in the morning and being thankful. Taking a deep breath and then making sure that once you walk out of that door in the morning, you’re trying to be a good person. You know, we don’t have to be perfect. It’s just do something nice to someone, smile at someone, and do the best that you can to play your part and in this universe. Pass it on. Because my thing is that if I come to you and you’re mad and you’re angry at me and you ruin my day… There’s a chance that the energy I take to the next person. So the way we can create that ripple effect is knowing that you hold so much power to how your day goes. And other people too. So basically being the best person that you can possibly be.
I would say know yourself. And by knowing yourself, I mean know your history, Read. Read. Read. Oh my gosh, let me tell you, if you want to hide anything from people, put it in a book… And it’s not just black people. But really there’s so much information in books. You’d be surprised. Put that remote down. Turn off the TV once in a while and pick up a book. You’ll be amazed at the things that you learn.
Also, we shouldn’t let the stereotype that the world has put on us weigh us down. Tap into your potential. You’re capable of being great. Remember generational value and above all support Black businesses.
Um, I would say first of all, advocate for them. Use your privilege for them. If you claim to love Black people and you have Black friends and Black girlfriends/boyfriends use your privilege for them. And be willing to learn to be self-aware of your own prejudices and your own biases towards people. Try to learn their culture but don’t capsulize off of it shamelessly. You know, just try to support them, you know, that’s all I would say. And support Black businesses.
Take a chill pill. Let me tell you something about Kenyans and a lot of Africa, to be honest.. We are not in a rush. Have you ever heard of a herd there’s no hurry in Africa because there’s literally hurry. Yes, people have bills to pay. Yes, people have things to do, but we create time for family. Family’s very important. It’s a big thing. We don’t kill ourselves at work. We put family first. There’s a sense of community, although unfortunately because of capitalism, that sense of togetherness is dying down, which is not a good thing. But most people really put families first and make time for them.
We went to Kauffman stadium (Kansas City Royals Baseball Stadium). There were so many people from so many different countries. We stood in one single line and then we went to the gate. They take away your green card. They give you a certificate and they give you a number. Then, you enter a second gate. You give back the certificate but keep number and you go sit down (in the stadium). And I think the mayor and a judge and some other people, I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention… I was studying… but they make a speech and then they call the countries that are being naturalize. So for example, they say Ghana and then the show a list of the people who are being naturalized (on the jumbotron). People stand up, cheer and whatnot. Then, they make us sing the National Anthem and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Um, and then they pretty much dismissed us. So the ceremony is literally like 20 minutes. It’s short.
It was good. I’m not going to downplay the whole process and the idea that I’m not American (see earlier answer). I have opportunities, more opportunities open for me now because I can work for the government if I wanted to, but I’m not sure. I can vote… Especially being a Black woman, I get to vote for who represents me. So there’s power that I’ve been given… But again, it’s a time where Black people are being persecuted in the open now. So I wasn’t quite sure where I was… It felt good. But the way the world views America right now, I was like, okay, no, I’m one of them. Basically. Even though I’m a dual citizen… I am one of them. I’m American and it means I’m associated with all the crap that’s going on here now. So I was happy and grateful, but I was 100% proud… if that makes any sense.
And also had an exam that day. So I was also in a rush.
Interview Date: December 3, 2019
Day 8 — Story posted on February 7, 2020