Growing up, I never felt secure in my Nigerian(ness). I couldn’t speak Yoruba, but I understood when my mom disciplined me. For some reason, discipline seemed more official in my parents native tongue. I quickly learned the meaning of “ma gba oju é” at the tender young age of rebellion. I didn’t need any translation. Lol. All joking aside, even though I grasped what my parents spoke most times, read Yoruba, cooked Nigerian food, went to a predominantly Nigerian church, wore Iro and Buba on special occasions and travelled to Nigeria a few times, I still didn’t feel Nigerian enough. Why? Because I allowed the “Nigerian Experts” to dictate my cultural identity and authenticity.
You know who they are; they were the self-proclaimed authority to all things Nigerian. They would correct every misplaced accent in our attempt to speak our native tongue. Usually, the correction was followed by disappointment, because we hadn’t learned the language through osmosis. Every tomatoey jollof rice attempt would have resulted in them sucking their teeth and blaming our parents for spoiling us.
However, I’m here to say, it’s okay not to perfectly understand, do or know everything about our culture to still be recognized as apart of it.
1. Don’t Apologize For Who You Are
Don’t feel bad that you can’t speak pigeon like the best of them or that your Shoki looks more like an accident than an intentional dance move. It doesn’t make you less Nigerian. You probably grew up on a quiet street in the middle of Suburbia, USA not the hustle and bustle of Lagos, Nigeria. Being Nigerian-American doesn’t lessen our Nigerian authenticity. The fact that our parents were born and breed in Nigeria, gives us the defaulted right to be accepted into the Nigerian community. That’s how heritage works. The fact that our parents came to America to provide better opportunities for their families is nothing to apologize for or be ashamed. Our first-generational status is a badge of honor, so stop trying to imitate someone you are not. Go forth and eat your Iyan with a fork (…is that only me?) and don’t apologize for it.
2. Appreciate Yourself “As Is”
Sometimes, it’s hard to accept who we are as individuals. Especially, if we are surrounded by influential people that we admire. Sometimes you may feel you don’t measure up. I have been there. Many of us have. However, as hard as it may be, we should try not to envy other people’s talents or progress. It’s counter-productive. No two people have the exact same destiny, not even twins. I believe everyone has a God given purpose and talent and when they coincide with God’s timing amazing things happen. Our true unadulterated selves are actualized and the world is better because of it. Therefore, appreciate who you are today and realize that you are on your own individual journey. Not Folake’s or Temi’s or Bisi’s journey. We may not have perfected our Egusi soup to our mother’s dismay or learned how to tie our gele, so that it stands correctly. However, don’t fret, that doesn’t make us less Nigerian. If we focus on who we are and what makes us authentically special, we can become people others are influenced by too.
3. Develop At Your Own Pace
Everyone has to start from somewhere. However, not everyone begins and ends at the same point. A wise person once said, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” We should try not to compare ourselves to others. Everyone is a work in progress. Self-development takes time and patience. We have a lifetime to develop into the person we want to be and were created to be, so let’s stop hoping we were a decade ahead of where we should be now. Every season of our life is meant to help us learn and grow. There are seasons of planting and seasons of harvesting. We need to recognize which season we are in and develop from there. Take a cue from Nollywood. Personally, I couldn’t sit down for two minutes to watch a Nollywood film. The acting was a bit repulsive, the multiple parts on different DVDs was obnoxious and the overplayed instrumental for every scene was detrimental. However, year after year the industry continued to grow and improve, expanding globally and landing a section on Netflix. If we are consistent and persistent with developing at our own pace it will be rewarded.
4. Recognize You Have The Best of Both Worlds
As Nigerian-Americans, we have the unique ability to identify with two distinct and rich cultures. This is the beauty of being first-generation. We can experience the best of both worlds. I learned discipline, hard work and cultural pride amongst other things from my parents. I also learned how to appreciate diverse cultures and backgrounds by being American. Because America is such a melting pot, it helps me resist the prejudices of tribalism that is so prevalent in the Nigerian community. It’s much easier to internalize Nigerian unity and drop tribalistic prejudices when my co-workers force me to become Nigeria’s crisis manager after reading an article about another victim of the 4-1-9 scams. A cultural commonality is necessary during those sensitive times. Although, times like that are undesirable, it makes us much more interesting, because we have insider knowledge of two distinct cultures. Learning to effectively balance between the two grants us access to the best of both worlds.
Image via: Prepaganda
When I moved into my apartment, I was looking for a white and airy dresser with brass and lucite pulls. Let’s just say I knew exactly what I wanted. I actually fell in love with this Anthropologie version, but it was out of my budget. I looked high and low for an alternative option, but I couldn’t find the right fit. So, I decided to create my own version. My first step was to find a workable wood dresser.
Insert thrifted dresser below:
This certainly wasn’t the best looking dresser know to mankind, but it had potential and that was what I needed. I bought this dresser from The Salvation Army for a whooping $50. I purchased it on a sale day and the store manager was feeling extra nice, so he gave me an additional 30% off. I was golden. Once I got this dresser back to my apartment, it honestly stayed in that same position for months. I never painted furniture before, so I felt overwhelmed every time I wanted to tackle the project. Finally, Labor Day weekend came and I knew this was the time to take the plunge. After some research and a couple of trips to Home Depot, I finally completed the project. Here is how I did it.
Step 1: Sand
Sand the heck out of that potentially beautiful piece of furniture. It’s important to sand the furniture first to strip away the previous shiny finish, so that the primer and paint can adhere properly. This is where I used my elbow grease the most. You can use regular sand paper that is like 120 grit or go easy on yourself and use an electric sander. I bought this sander, because I wanted the sanding to be quick and easy. It did a good job, the only issue I had was that it came with 60 grit sand paper and I needed a higher grit, so I had to sand the dresser a couple of times to remove the previous finish.
Step 2: Prime
You may want to skip this step because the paint you’re using has primer in the paint, but don’t. Especially, if you are painting a light color over furniture that previously had darker stain. You don’t want the old stain peeking through your freshly painted furniture. I used a paint brush for this step instead of a roller, because I wasn’t too concern about how neat it was going to look since I was going to paint over it. Once you have primed the furniture once, lightly sand it down again to smooth out any bumps or dripping. Than you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Paint
After the primer has dried, you can paint the color of your choice. I chose this Behr color, because of how crisp the white appeared. I used a paint roller to apply the paint for a smooth and consistent application. I wanted to avoid brush strokes. It’s important to paint multiple light layers instead of one heavy layer. It will dry smoother. Remember to let the paint dry completely before painting another layer, so be patient. This step may take a whole day or two.
Step 4: Protect
After the paint has dried completely, apply the protectant of your choice. I used a spray on protectant, because it was easier for me to apply. However, another alternative is a rub-on protectant that works just as well and probably even better. Follow directions for whatever protectant you decide to use.
Step 5: Add Hardware
This was my favorite part. I love focusing on the details. The glass and brass pulls were the statement piece for my dresser inspiration, so I was on the search for a similar alternative. I found these gorge pulls, which were more delicate, so it reflected my style better. I love how the updated dresser turned out. It looks more modern.
I hope this step-by-step tutorial helped you tap into your creative genes. Below is a cheat sheet for added reference. Don’t procrastinate like I did, go out and paint some furniture that is waiting to be beautify.
I was perusing Instagram last week when I saw some promotions for the documentary screening AM I: Too African to be American or Too American to be African? I got very giddy when I saw this title. I love, love, love that people are having this conversation and this conversation is becoming more mainstream. As a Nigerian-American, I’ve had countless conversations like this with family and friends, but I wanted it to go beyond the kitchen table. Conversations like these were one of the reasons why I started Gidi & Pearls. I was inspired to create a digital space where Nigerian-American women could be inspired by both their Nigerian and American heritage.
The next screening is on Thursday, October 22, 2015 in DC. For more information, check out the AM I site.
I have a thing for swans. I’m so fascinated by them. I get giddy when I find brass swans at the thrift store or when I see them in art or decor. My friend gifted me with a swan vase from Anthropologie ( I’ve posted about my love for Anthropologie here, here and here) for my birthday one year and it’s the only vase I love putting fresh flowers in thus far. Swans represent a grace and elegance I try to emulate. They are such beautiful creatures.