Kwame B. Osei is a senior criminal justice major at Temple who was born in Ghana, a country in Western Africa, where he lived for 16 years before coming to the United States.
The Temple News: How has your experience in the United States been? What has been the most drastic difference between Africans and Americans?
Kwame Osei: America has become a great country, and even though it is harder for some than others to be successful in America, it is a country where, with enough hard work, anyone can fulfill their dreams.
However, sometimes I am appalled by questions that have been asked to me about Africa by some Americans who are somewhat ignorant when it comes to African culture. Examples of some questions include: Are there cars in Africa? Are there houses in Africa?
My personal observation and opinion is that the majority of Africans tend to be more cultured, amicable and definitely more family-inclined than the average American.
TTN: Can you describe the African culture?
KO: African culture is rich and valued by Africans. African cultures can be similar and also different upon different locations and tribes. For example, a child is always expected to greet their elders and also offer help when needed such as carrying farm products. In the African communities, the majority of Africans look out for each other.
TTN: As an African who has lived in America for 16 years, do you feel the African Americans in the United States display African pride and appreciate the culture as much as they should?
KO: I do not think African Americans practice enough of any African culture, and I think Kwanzaa should be celebrated by more African families. I think African Americans are much more into the American culture, and this is one major reason as to why there is a wide gap between African Americans and Africans.
I would like to see African Americans celebrate and recognize more African traditions such as Akwasidae, which is a festival of the Ashantes that occurs once a year in Ghana. At this festival, they celebrate their history, heritage, victories and accomplishments.
TTN: Do you personally feel there is a disconnect between Africans and African Americans?
KO: Yes, I believe there is a disconnect between some black Americans and Africans. I think this is because African Americans can be totally lost to their culture and heritage. I think black Americans should practice their forefathers’ African culture and heritage, while still observing American traditions. This relationship can be strengthened by teaching young black Americans African culture studies at younger ages such as in elementary schools. While trips to Africa can be expensive, I think it will be helpful in bridging this disconnect between Africans and African Americans.
TTN: “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” is a speech that was given by Frederick Douglass during an Independence Day celebration July 5, 1852. This speech was to illustrate the shame of slavery, and it took aim at the pieties of the nation, the cherished memories of its revolution, its principles of liberty and its moral and religious foundation. While an African American can celebrate both American and African holidays, do you think one should take precedence over the other?
KO: Frederick Douglass is very inspiring, and I agree with his speech. Things are currently a lot better in America than when he delivered his speech. An African American should most definitely feel more comfortable celebrating American holidays. However, I do not think enough African Americans practice and know about African culture and holidays enough.
I think African-American holidays should take precedence over American holidays because for hundreds of years, neither America nor Americans considered African human beings citizens but merely property and slaves. This should never be forgotten or overlooked no matter how equal America gets. As mentioned, America has become an amazing country. However, it is true that for many years America did not recognize or claim blacks as human beings or citizens.
I think blacks will be more proud of who they are if exposed to African culture. African Americans are racially profiled and presented negatively through the media, and because of this, many associate all African Americans with negativity. Children grow up believing that blacks are a certain way. But if the accomplishments and history of Africans and African Americans are embedded in them as a child, they will have no choice but to be proud of where they came from.
Most of the time, all they see through the media regarding Africa is poverty, starvation and disease, and while this is present in Africa, there is a lot more going on in Africa than that. It seems to me that due to the way many schools are ran in Africa, a black youth will not know much about their history unless they do their own research, are taught it in their homes, or take African or African-American oriented classes.
I suggest every African American should visit Africa and become exposed to their heritage and culture as people of African descent and see that their culture is a culture that is rich, victorious and contains much to be proud of. Knowing this culture will build self-esteem, motivation and gives African Americans a better understanding of who they are.
TTN: How has Nelson Mandela, who fought for the elimination of apartheid in South Africa, inspired you?
KO: Nelson Mandela has inspired the whole African continent and even across the Americas. He is a true role model for Africans and African Americans. [He] fought for what is right and equal.
TTN: How do you and other Africans back home feel about the election of President Barack Obama?
KO: The election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States and also the first black president is a dream come true for Africans and Americans in general. The day Barack Obama got elected president of the United States was one of the happiest days of my life because it means that America is a place where all dreams can come true with hard work. Even though racism is still alive, it is possible for all races to see past color. This will inspire many kids of all races. Back home in Kenya, they see him as an African true to his African roots. We consider him an African son.
TTN: In Africa, would you say there is a lot of kin support among families and villages? Can you explain the way African villages are conducted?
KO: In Africa, there is a lot of family support, as family is taken seriously in Africa.
From my personal experience, very rarely have I heard of single-mother households in Africa. There is almost always a man in the house. If there is no father present, it is usually due to death but sometimes other marriage.
Also, if there is not a father in the household, almost always an uncle or grandfather will play the father role for the children. I by no means am saying that Africa is perfect or that single mothers are not present in Africa, but I think this is different in African-American households because in Africa, families and unity is a big part of our culture.
The role of the African king is to protect the citizens, as well as creating jobs, making decisions in time of crisis, protecting the tribal land, settling out of control family issues or disagreements and enforcing traditional order rules. Africans have high respect for their leaders and their elders ,therefore they are their brother’s keeper.
TTN: What are your future plans and goals?
KO: My educational goal is to go to law school within a year’s time. My parents, whom I respect greatly, reside in Ghana and visit me occasionally in America. Akwasi Osei, Nana Yaw, Dr. Osei Tutu and Edward Osei are my siblings who live in the United States.
Ahrin Gibbons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.