on being northern american

 

 

i.

the bathroom line at temple bar united the americas. the two girls between us three, were from south america. when we north americans, finished belting tina turner we introduced ourselves, with the same drunken boldness that incited the sing along.

no, you can’t be from all of america — we’re also from the americas. you must be from the north america.
i smiled and nodded, you right – we’re so used to claiming the whole thing, it’s an american mindset.
north american, one chimed in.


well our teachers made sure to remind us that we were from the southern part, her friend added. there is southern, us. and northern you, and another one.
central – i chimed in. I’m sure my american teachers would be proud. our teachers made sure to remind us we were the only part that mattered. this is an observation in my head. i didn’t say it out loud.

instead, i smiled and laughed and welcomed the time with new friends as we talked and shared more about our countries and experiences while waiting for a bathroom stall in dublin. as we moved closer to our respective goal a woman comes from the sink and with a shriek enters our american conference —
wait you’re americans? i’m an american! I’m from Alabama.
I smile and laugh and make my alabama-self known to her. We share an alabama laugh and keep it moving. I think about the odds of how happy she’d be to see me, if we were at home. 

ii.
in armagh we are the americans. we are growing comfortable in the small country town. the shop keepers are happy to make conversation and help us sort through our pounds, slowly I feel a part of the community here.

preparing for dublin I walked into a New Look, a shop like Forever 21, with a fellow cohort to pick up odds and ends I knew I’d need in dublin, but neglected to bring from home. In our northern american home, we’d be italian american and black american. at the counter, my cohort and I, neither your standard waspy americans, were given the title – the americans. I stopped and blinked. I felt my mouth make the form of correction, and then I stopped. I snapped my lips shut and smiled, and then laughed

yes, we are the americans, aren’t we.

iii.

back home in the north american united states, we divide ourselves into so many boxes. my full division is working poor/southern/black/woman. by these divisions I am identified and treated, this is the way of my home. it’s difficult for me to remember i am american in any state of the nation. when my black means my life has no value and my safety is not guaranteed; when my southern means I am ignorant and uneducated; when my working poor mean I am working harder for less; when my woman mean i am an object to be owned and possessed it is difficult to remember the american. as a four time second class citizen, I find myself feeling hardly american on our northern united states soil. for the sake of brevity I won’t go into the web of circumstances or institutions that make up these feelings or how this contributes to my fight for worthiness back home.  here in armagh, in dublin, I can be treated (for better or worse) as a full American citizen, a luxury I am not given back home. no wonder so many black american creatives have moved over seas. I am seriously considering this as a means of self care and healing.

I think of daddy Baldwin and how he needed to free himself of the american pressure to write his black american story. I think about my own work turnover and how wonderful it has been to breathe without the politics of the country breathing and screaming for me. i often wonder, who could I be if I didn’t have to sacrifice so much of myself on the alter of fear; who could I be if I didn’t have to give so much of myself to the struggle to survive. who could I be, if I in my homeland, I was allowed to exist and really thrive?

in november I will be twenty-nine, and it is in ireland I have finally learned to thrive.

 

This is a creative draft, it's in no way the final form. This being said, feel free to leave your feedback concerning content or other. The original draft was published July 14, 2015 on the Armagh Project Blog

 

yes, we are the americans, aren’t we.