Hyphen

Traci Badu ‘21,

Ghana

A black women put in a black body raised in a black family. Yes that’s me. Empowered is

used to define my experience but it doesn’t seem to fit all the way. To be empowered feels like I

need to be brought up. As if I am being attacked in some way. I don’t always feel attacked.

When someone comes up to me trying to touch my curls I don’t feel attacked. Uncomfortable is

what I feel. Why do you need to touch my hair? Curiosity gleams in their eyes. Now I am an

item on display. Left to be gawked at. There I am in a glass case, contained, but told I am

protected. Told that this is how they will come to understand me. This reminds me of my mom.

She too grew up a black women in a black body, but in a black nation. When she went to school

she was surrounded by a sea of black. Waves flowed down the hallway and flooded into

classrooms. It was so black that the each person stopped being black. What’s the point? When

everyone is the same there is no need to state with your chest out “I am black.” It was not until

she came to the U.S. that the sea of black became a pond. Its ripples crash against the soil border

containing it. But what really are its options? It could pretend to not have borders containing it.

Or it could dream of just getting one drop over to that sea.

As her daughter I was never accepted into that pond. I haven’t struggled enough. I have

accomplished too much to be a part of it. Some of that is true. I grew up in a culture where black

is as common as water, where black excellence is the bare minimum. From the eyes of any

African I am average. In one ear, I am told of how oppressed I am because of my race and

gender. In the other, I hear my mother say “ You need to accomplish more regardless of racism.”

There is nothing harder than trying to explain to a black mother that you being black like her

holds you back from being viewed as more than a black body. The “I” that sits in that glass case

is simply a black shell.

So do you think I am in the sea of black? That I ride comfortable on the waves that it

creates, no barriers? No. There is pride in that sea, each drop is someone fighting to protect their

culture and language. I am not allowed there as well. I am told that I haven’t fought for my

culture. I can speak the language, but my tone isn’t the same as the ones that grew up there. Their

O’s are stronger, mine are rolled. They call it the abrufo way of speaking. The word means

white, trickster, liar. I speak my language loudly. Because to not speak it is the same as saying all

I crave is acceptance. I search for the rawest form of my culture not outstretched hands.

So where is my home? Wherever I want to make it. I am not American, although I was

born in America. I am almost Ashanti Ghanaian and proud. I wasn’t handed one culture at birth.

I reached for it. I almost have it. Do I hate being the hyphen between African - American? No. I

love watching how each water gets agitated when I place a foot on it.

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