One of the things that excited me most about choosing to study abroad was the fact that I would get to interact with a diverse body of people. But I couldn’t help but shamelessly wonder, what will the Black people be like there? I was curious to discover what similarities we would share and the things that differentiated us. Since being here for almost three months, I have found that they aren’t drastically different from African-Americans. I have seen people of all shades of brown and women with natural ‘dos and relaxed tresses. One of the only apparent differences is when they speak with a British accent like Idris Alba.
But aside from their accent, there is another major difference that I have found between Blacks in London and Blacks in America. I have had quite a few conversations with Black people in London that went like this:
Londoner: So where are you from?
Londoner: Yea but where is your family from? What part of Africa do you come from?
Me: *stares blankly and shrugs shoulders*
I rarely thought about what part of Africa my family was from before coming to London. Many of the Black people that I have met this far have a firm grasp on their family history. Even if they aren’t the first generation to leave Africa, they know which country they come from. I have met people from Morocco, Somalia, Ghana, South Africa – the list goes on. And I always get the same question, “But where are you from?” I know that my situation is different from theirs. Somewhere in time my ancestors were likely brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade. This story goes for a lot of other Black people in America – ones who don’t identify with a specific country besides America.
There is such a large disconnection between generations that I wouldn’t even know where to begin with trying to track my history. But the question that I keep getting asked makes me think about who I am. In the States, I know people who are aware of which part of Africa their family comes from or which island their ancestors resided. All I can say is that my family comes from Niagara Falls, New York because that’s as far back as I can track.
But somehow .. someway.. I plan to change that.