Academic journal article Educational Foundations

(Im)migrations, Relations, and Identities of African Peoples: Toward an Endarkened Transnational Feminist Praxis in Education

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

(Im)migrations, Relations, and Identities of African Peoples: Toward an Endarkened Transnational Feminist Praxis in Education

Article excerpt

I'll see some Black people, I'll think they are Africans and they can understand you, but they're really prejudiced and racists, like [when you] come from Nigeria, they'll be like, "Oh, you're African!" [in a derogatory tone] and I'll say, "What are you? You are African, because your ancestors are." But I don't think they understand the reason, like they don't appreciate their culture and they're really prejudiced against us. (Ekene, personal interview, March 2008)

Because that's just the way they are ... They always go and be prejudiced. Even at this school, they look at you "Oh, you areAfrican," and I say, "Yeah so are you." (Ekene, personal interview, March 2008)

Thank you so much for letting me take part in your study. It has made me begin to ask myself, "Who am I? An African-American or Ghanaian?" But like I told you sometimes I consider myselfa Ghanaian, because I am happy to have a background, to actually be from somewhere ... (Abena, participant journal entry, March 2008)

As seen in the above quotes from Okpalaoka (2009a), in order to answer the question of who we are as African ascendant people, we need to take a closer look at the role that history, time, displacement, and geographical location have played in our migrations and the dynamism to the nature of the identities we adopt within and across national contexts. The notion of ascendancy, as it relates to African people, is attributed to Kohain Hahlevi, a Hebrew Israelite rabbi, who coined the term African "ascendant" as opposed to African "descendant" to describe people of African heritage and their forward-moving nature. According to him, the term "descendant" may imply a downward or backward moving process. In the same vein, ascendancy implies a progressive movement that calls us to consider a different language or discourse for the ways we talk about people of African origin.

Looking within ourselves and our common history to (re)member who we are is critical to confronting dominant discourses that seek to define us. But remembering who we are means that we have to address the dearth of knowledge about Africa and Africans and the African (im)migration experience in our society and in our schools. While research and the literature have kept pace with the experiences of major immigrant groups such as Asians (Takaki, 1998; Zhou 1999), Latino/as (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 1995; Suarez-Orozco & Todorova, 2003), and Black Caribbeans (Waters, 1991, 1994), there is still a noticeable dearth of research about Black African immigrant children (Rong & Preissle, 1998). Rong and Brown (2002a) argued that "the lack of research on Black immigrants denies the American public and policy makers opportunities to explore the many urgent and intriguing issues concerning Black immigrants, therefore denying the public insight into the special needs of these immigrants which have been neglected" (p. 249).

The focus of this article will be on the sense of what an African (American) (1) identity could mean when viewed through the processes of migrations and fluid identities of contemporary African immigrant children as they interact with their African (Americans) peers in our schools. The purpose of this article is to use data (2) from a study of West African immigrant girls and their process of ethnic identity construction to support our position for new discourses and methodologies that challenge the dominant discourses surrounding the Black educational experience in our schools. This purpose can be articulated in two central questions that guide this article. First, how do we develop a new understanding of the variations of the term African and American by placing it in a global context (and the "American" in parentheses to designate those who were born of African people brought to the U.S. during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade)? Considering that the demographics of American schools continue to reflect the changing faces of immigration due to the increase in Black African immigration, this article will trouble our rather taken-for-granted notions of the term/name African (American). …

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