by Farhiya Iman
Monday, June 18, 2012
Through out my lifetime, I was continuously asked where I am originally from. This question possesses a unique answer from me. This question is asked by various people trying to understand where you originate from. When individuals see our beautiful headscarves, our unique clothing, our intriguing culture, or our foreign language, they automatically become curious about our ancestors. When I am asked where I am from, one answer comes to mind, which is Somalia. One might think since my name, culture, tradition, and language is Somali I would be Somali. That’s exactly how I personally feel, However, to the rest of the world it is perceived differently.
I wanted to give a little background facts about my life to assist you in understanding my life story. My father and mother met in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in the late 70’s. Like many other girls her age, my mother wanted to go to Italy to start a new life. However, Allah had other plans for her, which was meeting my father and getting married. My father owned several semi trucks, which operated in the region of East Africa. Due to my father’s occupation, my family had to relocate several times throughout East Africa. Some of my siblings were born in Somalia, Kenya, Congo, and Uganda. In 1991, a riot broke out in Kinshasa, which was the city we resided in. At that point my mother decided it was unsafe for our family to stay in Congo. Due to the uprising in Somali, going to Somalia was not an option so my family fled to Uganda. After some time in Uganda, We finally came to the U.S in 2001.
In the U.S. a common understanding is that a person birthplace determines where they are from. For example, a parent who migrates from Italy would consider himself or herself as Italian, however, their children who were born in U. S soil are considered as Americans. Majority of Americans believe this particular way of thinking apply to the rest of the world.
This is how I came to the conclusion regarding my origin. I was born in Congo however left there when I was 2 years old. I cannot state I am from Congo because I have no memories of Congo nor can I speak the local language. I spent my early childhood in Uganda, however I cannot say I am from Uganda either. Although I somewhat know the culture and language, the fact is that I was born elsewhere and not in Uganda. The Next country is United States of America. I came to the U.S when I was 11 years old and lived here since. Although I speak the English language fluently and know the American culture thoroughly, I cannot confidently say I am American. The closest I have come to referring to myself as American is when I say I am Somali-American. Majority of time I state my origin as being from Somalia. I question how strongly I could be connected to a land where I have no memories of nor have I been in my life. This is where the Somali pride comes to play. My parents encouraged us to speak Somali as well as living in places that have large Somali population. My parents also encouraged us to be involved in Somali related activities so we have the opportunity to learn our culture, tradition, and enhance our language skills. This explains why I have a Somali flag in my room. This explains why I am involved in activities that assist Somalia after I finished college. Lastly, this explains my enormous Somali pride.
I personally wanted to write about this because majority of the Somali diaspora share this common story. I have been asked how I came to conclusion about my origin numerous times so I figured I should write about it to shed some light on this particular story of mine. I hope this piece of writing is able to help other Somalis around the world.