My name is Uzoma Uwakah. While my parents are from Nigeria, I was born and raised in America.
Being born in America by parents who were born and raised in Nigeria, and who are very proud of this identity, has made me a bi-cultural, meaning I have to contend with being a Nigerian on the one hand and being an American, by virtue of birth on the other hand. It is interesting and sometimes challenging navigating the cultures, values, ways of life and opinions that become intertwined between two polar opposite cultures. In addition, schooling in the American system was difficult in the beginning because local kids will still see you as not being ‘one of them.’
Sometimes it is preposterous, and in other times it is presumptuous that when I am in America, I am considered a Nigerian but when I am in Nigeria, I am perceived as an American. My identity therefore, depending on the context is always in question but I have learned how to make adjustments as well.
My parents raised me in such a way that at home here in America, we would only speak the Nigerian native language-Igbo. In addition, my parents would prepare Nigerian food, and as the Nigerian identity became inculcated in me, I would attend Nigerian events over the weekend. This means I have considered myself a Nigerian throughout my lifetime.
My parents have always insisted on knowing the Nigerian culture and they would send my siblings and I to Nigeria for long vacations over the years. This has helped enhance an appreciation of Nigeria as my country, even though I was not born there.
Uzo with her parents
My love for Nigeria, the country of my parents was rewarded a few years ago when I got an opportunity to attend a 10 day medical missionary trip with an organization called Rise Global Health Initiative. This organization had built a huge clinic in rural Nigeria and they wanted to scale their work to 2 other established government-owned hospitals. As a result they created a private public partnership with the government. During this trip, I helped do an organizational assessment, community health education, and learned about the org more. They’re asking me to come on and lead their mobile midwives initiative. So there’s more to come hopefully!
My greatest inspiration so far has been from my father. He always reminds me that “anything good must be worked for” and that “nothing good ever comes from laziness”. The idea is that if you come across anything that is good, but which you did not work hard for, then that is not something good. It means in the end, good and hard work will result in great outcomes.