“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. ” – Bell Hooks
And I started to read. As much as I could, every book I could find : about my roots, about Haiti, about Africa, about slavery.
And I noticed, while it is so easy to find African-American slaves narratives books films or documentations such as “Incidents in the life of a slave girls” by Hariett Jacobs or “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas” it is much more complicated to find such documentations with a Caribbean point of view and particularly a Haitian one. I must admit I haven’t read a lot of Haitian writers, not because there isn’t any, but because I often couldn’t find their books at this time. It is something to note on my to-do-list : read more Haitian literature, in creole if possible.
So living in France I have been, and I still am, influenced by the African-American culture, history and literature.
The more I read, the more I started to feel an anger inside me, an anger that never really left. Anger against myself who was (and still is somehow) so ignorant, anger about this scholar system I was told I was good at, but which didn’t teach me anything about me, anger against my friends, family, and this France I loved, but couldn’t understand me anymore.
The truth is: I changed.
And the world around me? Not that much.
I became more conscious about my past, and the things I once didn’t care about were now unacceptable.
Wearing weaves? Unimaginable. My sister, who couldn’t and still can’t go outside with her own natural hair? So sad and unbearable. Relaxing my hair? Insufferable. So, I just stopped and let them in a beautiful mess of relaxed and natural hair even if working in a big Parisian office, it was perceived as unprofessional. Accepting the racist remarks of friends? Impossible. Being the only black at work and being the caution of racism every day: intolerable.
I needed to leave. To escape Paris and the buildings, the stress, the arrogance and the hypocrisy. And to flee from France altogether and its ignorance of its own history. I had no idea who I really was, and I just know that I needed to leave to discover it. I didn’t know where. Anywhere would do. And this why I ended up in Germany, three years ago.
Why? you should ask, it was really pure random. I quit a well-paid job I didn’t really like for a three-month unpaid internship in Munich. My family thought I was becoming crazy. I thought I just needed a break. But, after the three months, I didn’t take the plane back. I just stayed. And I didn’t go to France until last summer for a two-week holidays.
Meanwhile, I lived eight months in Munich before moving to Berlin. Also, with no plans. I thought I would stay there two weeks maybe one month top before moving to Ireland where I had an interesting job offer. For the 1st time of my life, I was all alone, in a city I didn’t know, with no real plans, obligations, responsibilities except myself. And it was freaking liberating.
The first thing I did in Berlin, in my Hotel room is I took a pair of scissors and I cut my relaxed hair. I did the “big chop“. I didn’t know why I did that. But, as my hair fell down into the bathroom sink, I felt like becoming the real me finally.
However, I have to say when I looked in the mirror I almost cried because I found my new head ugly.
But, I stopped the tears, and went outside. And the first person I’ve met in Berlin was this drummer player in the front of the Berlin Wall who told me: « hey you look beautiful, come play with me ». Just like that. I spent the evening with him, dancing on the street why he played drum and I tried to follow the rhythms with 2 maracas. I think it was at this very moment I started to fall in love with Berlin.
And secondly because very fast, I have met a second family here. 2 weeks after my arrival in Berlin, I had already planned to stay longer and moved into a small apartment that I rented two months, to give me the time to find a job.
I was on the bus going home, after a job interview, when I saw this black girl with braids.
I really wanted to make cornrows, but I am so bad with hair and Berlin is not Paris. You don’t see that many black people in the streets, and the only Afro salon I asked to was way too expensive. So, while I was just staring at this girl for the whole bus trip, trying to find the courage to talk to her in my approximate German, we arrived at the bus station to which I had to go but it was apparently my luck because she went down at the same station.
« Hallo, Ich bin Neika », I said with my most beautiful accent.
And this how I met Brinda. She let me talk 30 minutes in German before she said, in French « I noticed your French accent, you are French right? We can speak French » Really girl?
Brinda is from Cameroon, she was in Berlin for her studies. 4 years younger than me, she is the same age as my sister, but she has the wisdom of a mother. And she became one of my favorite people in the world.
And when I met her this day, I couldn’t imagine that six months later I would fly to Africa for the first time of my life. To Cameroon.
Click here if you want to read the other parts of my story :
- Introduction – Part I
- So where do I come from?- Part II
- Discovery of Africa – Part III
- Search of Happiness – Part V
- Africa is harder than expected – Part VI
- Sweet Cameroon – Part VII
The Return To Salone