threads of our fabric

Reflections on navigating between two cultures and understanding the self-awareness process

Values and ideals: I am… December 5, 2011

Can one really complete this sentence?…I feel that it’s one of the sweet puzzling mysteries of life. To be honest, who I am is quite fluid and dynamic. It seems like every new life stage often brings new transitions and definitions of who I am. I remember when I graduated college, oh wow…I was such an optimistic then, believing that anything is possible, life had finally just begun! My personality then or the “Who I am…” reflected this train of thought, extremely bubbly, lively, and fun. One thing was unquestionably sure I was still naïve with navigating the new challenges of this transition period. Especially having to work and attend graduate school full time, while trying to somehow have a social life. Such is life, you live and learn but having an internal compass of values and identity definitely helps with orienting one towards making right the choices in life.

This week’s discussion topic on our Facebook page – African Girl Development in the U.S. (hyperlink) – was:

How do you think our African values can be used as a means of nurturing and prodding one another towards fulfilling our dreams/passions?…What are your thoughts?

As usual, the reflections were thought-full and thought-provoking. I do enjoy reading particularly from our African brothers. You cannot have complete and informative gender development conversations without having both sides represented at the discussion table. Overall the main themes that emerged throughout this past week included:

  • Culture equips an individual with the values that enables s/he to function and contribute in society
  • Identity or self-knowledge is crucial to succeed in unfamiliar surroundings
  • Values such as respect, hardwork, and determination will always transcend cultural boundaries and enable one to thrive in new environments

My take on this week’s topic is that when we (African sisters) recognize and encourage the strengths and positive traits in each other, that simple act can be a strong boost towards success. We can truly be our sister’s keeper because we share commonalities of a cultural heritage with very strong long-established traditions, beliefs, and values. When we choose to see the beautiful qualities that make each African sister unique, I believe therein lies the secret of complete Self acceptance. Additionally, I feel it is for our best interest to embrace our unique cultural values because when we reject them, we reject a fundamental part of who we are.

When I am fully me and you are fully you, together WE ARE…

Mirrored reflections of perfection, for I recognize that I cannot be unless YOU ARE…

Completely consumed and present in being, So therefore I AM…

Oh what a vision, unstoppable, strong, but above all full of potential being realized.

 

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Me?!?!…Proud to be African?!?!…Abeg!! June 22, 2011

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Pride – Dictionary definition: “A feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”

I always wonder where this deep affinity and sense of connectedness with anything African developed. Quite a puzzle… I cannot pinpoint the date, time, month, season, or event that was the catalyst for my African Pride. 

During my early immigrant years, I tried extremely hard to be not-African. The wardrobe change was the first effort to assimilate and become identified as an American. Matching was a big faux-pas. This was followed by working on rolling my R’s by watching all-American TV shows to absorb the culture, thought processes, and lifestyle. Over the course of high school, parts of me slowly faded into shadows, hidden from my peers not out of shame, but because it was much easier than having to explain me. Transitioning from a society and culture where I did not have to explain who I was or how we as a people do what we do, was very hard. The norms were drastically different. I found myself constantly answering many trivial questions such as “No, we do not live on trees” or “Africa is a continent and not a country” or “Yes, I learned english in Africa”…It was easier to develop a whole new persona and live a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy when interacting with the outside world. Ajong was kept for the home and family.

But once I arrived the university, I found myself living with a mini-UN. Women with varied ethnic and racial heritages – Albanian, Native American, Lebanese, Trinidad, Italian, Cameroonian – all in two-neigboring rooms. That was an amazing college experience and we are all still good friends today, celebrating marriages and births. Maybe it takes encountering others who are different to appreciate and value one’s cultural inheritance. It certainly did for me.

I continuously find myself in the mix of diverse cultures. Perhaps the pull and appeal to connect stems from the mutual understanding and similarities of our immigrant’s experience. Learning to create a home in a new world by integrating African origins with present surroundings. I entered the United States through D.C., as a scared, homesick, quiet little girl and have now cycled back to D.C. as a purposeful, driven, and confident woman. Just thinking about my social connection to many different parts of the world always brings a smile to my heart. Life truly is evolution and change. I feel very international with a strong tie to a global community, which is why I am thrilled to be part of the DC Mayor’s 2nd Annual African Festival…”One City: Many Voices” on July 16th (Takoma Recreation Center, 300 Van Buren Street, NW, Washington, DC)…if you are around…stop by, I would love to connect!

There’s a blogger’s village too for fellow insightful thought-provoking word junkies comme moi! So to close, I love my African heritage. Cameroon gave me values, family, and a foundation upon which to grow as a person. America dared me to explore and soar.

 

Enjoy one of my favorite clips about Africa

 

What is on my mind today?… Women + Girls + Africa June 5, 2011

Blooming AfricaIs change truly change when it is the product of an organic growth process? When progressing through a transition is necessary, I am always puzzled by people who resist it. Is not part of life growth and change?  If one refuses to be part of the process, then I believe life becomes passive living. I think life would be quite boring. Life can be an evolution towards a greater self. We learn and integrate new experiences into our perceptions and understanding. My view of Africa’s potential parallels this same thought structure – a tabula rasa or blank slate – endless immense opportunities.

 Every time I have conversations with amazing African kinfolk I redouble my efforts on the Threads of Our Fabric Project. The TOF Project enables and empowers African women and girls to share their culture, identity, and unique selves through media. There has been an increase in the use of multimedia to present realistic solutions and raise awareness about various societal issues. USAID, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with an infographic on “Why invest in women?” a topic that is forever near and dear to my heart.  I really enjoyed the graphic representation of some of the hard truths in women and girl’s lives. It saddens my heart when I see others in more developed countries unconcerned about some of these issues affecting their peers worldwide.

Please take a moment, not more than 5-10mins to go through this infographic and may it stir you within to pick a cause greater than you that you can champion. There are many lives dependent on you to support them and ensure their future. Time, money, and skills…pick one and invest in a woman or girl. Bring a welcomed positive change in the lives of women and girls who are desperately in need of something different, something other than the status quo.

USAID 50th Anniversary: Why Invest in Women?

 

Status update: It’s complicated… March 28, 2011

Filed under: Community,Education — Sharon Asonganyi @ 1:35 pm
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Race and Ethnicity in America – By educating others about who we are and our cultural heritage, we are able to dismantle some commonly held stereotypes about us…The blending of racial and ethnic identities continues to challenge existing race classification systems used by the federal government of America: Asian, American Indian, Black, and White.

I have Cameroonian, Nigerian, and American cultural influences and ancestries. Now I really do wish that my parents had taken advantage of the opportunity to give birth to me in Scotland. Now that would have made for some great discussions! Regardless, I embrace all of me and how my heritage allows me more cultural sensitivity towards others. Enjoy a clip from Voices of America – Tackling this topic!!!

 

EXTRA! EXTRA! Camer Spotlight… March 17, 2011

This sums up why I created the Threads of Our Fabric project…Enjoy!! (Click here).

Note: Stay tuned for very exciting news! The Threads of Our Fabric Project is going international 🙂

 

Why CARE For Women and Girls? March 12, 2011

CARE 2011 National Conference - Washington, DC

“Over the past century, women have broken through barriers to achieve political, economic and social advances never before imagined. Yet, there are still many places where gender defines a person’s ability to reach their full potential. The fact that more than a thousand people have gathered here in Washington to speak out on behalf of girls and women in poor communities is a testament to the compassion of the American people” – With these words, Dr. Helene Gayle opened CARE 2011 National conference, exhorting all in attendance and defined our purpose for this important meeting. Over a thousand activists gathered in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day and CARE’s 65th anniversary. The energy was exciting, hopeful, and purposeful. These activists will celebrate CARE’s many achievements from investing in women, and prepare to storm Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 10th, 2011 to meet with legislative representatives and advocate on three main issues – the importance of foreign aid, providing financial opportunities for women, and empowerment through education.

CARE - Defending Dignity & Fighting Poverty

CARE is one of the largest private humanitarian organizations that has evolved to continue meeting the pressing needs of society. It was founded in 1945 when 22 American organizations came together to coordinate and rapidly provide relief packages to survivors of World War II.

Original CARE packages have been replaced with Digital CARE packages

It has since evolved to become a leader in fighting global poverty by providing resources to women and using them as leverage to change communities globally. CARE unveiled its virtual CARE package initiative as its anniversary gift to the world. An individual or a group can build a personalized CARE box online that can be sent to women and girls anywhere in the world! “Women are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education, health, and economic opportunity” (www.CARE.org). The CARE 2011 conference emphasized this focus of women and girls by providing tickets to a number of young girls 10-14yrs to attend this wonderful event. This is quite powerful, educating the future change makers by bringing them to experience solutions that have been proven to be effective globally in addressing social injustices against women.

When I arrived at the hotel, I eagerly descended a flight of stairs unto the international terrace. After making my way to the International Ballroom with a new found friend, we located a couple of seats a few feet from the stage. The kick-off session was invigorating and a wonderful energizer. It set the tone for the upcoming conference’s jam-packed panel and advocacy training sessions. This opening night’s atmosphere was relaxed, playful, yet focused. Despite the technical difficulties and the energy of the room blowing out some speakers, the liveliness was infectious, enduring and unstoppable.

Performing artists and fellow activists featured Michael Franti, Crystal Bowersox (2010 American Idol runner-up), Sarah Darling (representing Join my village initiative), and India Arie.

These artists helped us remember that we have a commitment and an obligation to the world to fight for peace and social injustices. Our actions as activists are essential as humans, for every life has equal value. The night closed with these words sung by India Arie “This is my prayer for humanity that we respect our women and protect our girls”. The first day of CARE 2011 closed leaving me radiating with optimism and hope that it only takes the power of ONE to change the future!!!

2010 Voices of Our Future Correspondent – World Pulse

 

Original Poem submitted honoring Mothers March 9, 2011

Filed under: Community,Inspiration — Sharon Asonganyi @ 11:26 pm
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From our Week 3 “Celebrating the inspiring women in our lives” discussion series, most of you shared the strong impressions your mothers have had on your lives. You identified key character traits that you aspire to develop within you over time. I too echo in the impact my mother (Rosaline) continues to have on my life. Her strength, faith, generous, selfless, and lively spirit inspires me to always give wholeheartedly in all that I do. This is why you will always see a smile from ear-to-ear as I continue work on the New AGE (African Girl Evolution) Project.  My mother is and will always be my inspiration to nurture beauty everywhere I go.

Rather than share a summary of the discussion threads, I would like to share with you the beautiful writings from an African Mother with a beautiful and passionate spirit…Enjoy!

             Happy Women’s Day

 

A day to look within you, and realize your beauty.
Woman, the force of the Home.
Your God-given strength is so amazing.
 
You can handle trouble and carry heavy burdens.
You hold happiness, love, and opinions.
You still find a place in your heart to smile to make problems look easier! You sing when you feel like crying.
 
Woman the stronghold of the family, Church, and society.
Your cry should not be ignored, because
you laugh when you are afraid just to find peace.
Your love is unconditional: Motherly – Yes.
 
Strive to be you; no matter the ups and downs of life.
Your God sees; and His beloved son Jesus is always there.
Feel Him and Trust Him with your prayers; all will be well.
 
If you have no courage to approach Christ, His mother
(Mama Mary) is always ready to Intercede for you… Amen.
~~~~~ 
Happy Women’s Day:
To all my beautiful sisters / friends of the world!

~~~~~
Love, Peace and Hope
 Elizabeth Emeka Ngwa

One of my many mothers and inspiration - Ma Eli Ngwa

One of my many mothers and inspiration - Ma Eli Ngwa