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« Go back to Africa » April 2002, after the 1st results of the French Presidential election.
Weirdly enough, I never really thought about Africa until I was 18 years old. For me Africa was this distant concept, so far away, unsafe, always in war, where poor, uneducated and hungry people lived.
It was also the place where lived these e-mails scammers from Nigeria, or Congo. Or was it Cameroon? But it doesn’t really matter right? It’s Africa.
It was also the place where racist people told me to go back to.
However, I was born in Haiti, an island in the Caribbean sea, so far away from Africa.
I kept telling them that a bit hurt that they could think that I was an «African », but it didn’t matter. You are black. You come from Africa.
By this time I remember thinking how ignorant they were.
Never could imagine that I was the ignorant one.
I knew everything about Louis XIV and the Philosophes des Lumières, Charlemagne and Napoléon Bonaparte, the World War I and World War II, but they talked so little about Africa at school, that you could think that Africa was not a part of the mentioned « World ».
When I arrived in France, I lived with my mother, my brother and my sister.
And my mother was struggling so hard, to offer us a place to live and food on our plates, that she didn’t really have time to teach us a lot regarding my own birthplace. And she only spoke creole when she was angry.
And we were so absorbed as children by getting accepted and to adapt ourselves to this new country that we didn’t ask that much neither. We lived in a small town in South of France where my family and I were the only black people.
I remember this time when one of my friends laughed about my creole accent. I pronounced the world « mes » « mêê » instead of « mé » and I received the sheep treatment for weeks after that. « Neika mêêêê ». Yes, children can be cruel. That’s when I decided to speak with the french basic accent. Not even the southern accent. Just French, like in French TV.
So until my stepfather came into ours lives, we were for years not confronted to Haitian’ culture anymore.
My stepfather is Haitian born and raised. When we met him, he only has been in France for one year. And his arrival opened a whole new world of cousins, aunties, uncles, and I personally, started to ask myself more about Haiti and its culture.
My new cousins spoke creole, listened to Zouk and Kompa, ate griots, and plantains, and di ri soce pwa.
And the music, the dance. Dancehall was a revelation. Sean Paul was on the top on the charts and on every radio.
Ah Dutty yo!
It was the 1st best memories of my life. The 1st time I felt not like a stranger observing a scene which was imposed on her, but as an actual person enjoying fully the smells, language, and rhythms she used to know, but forgot for so long.
I come from Haiti, and even if I lost my culture in the process of integration into France, my heart and my soul could remember.
Click on the links if you want to read the other parts of my story :
- Introduction – Part I
- Discovery of Africa – Part III
- Search of Identity – Part IV
- Search of Happiness – Part V
- Africa is harder than expected – Part VI
- Sweet Cameroon – Part VII
Version française : Ici
The Return To Salone