#AmItheFilm Blog Post Guest Cristina Sacco:
I have never really thought of how I define myself. I have always felt that labeling myself would limit me. Ethnically, I may be of Italian and Ethiopian decent but culturally I feel American and Kenyan. I spent a majority of my childhood in Kenya and moved to the United States when I was thirteen years old. I have lived in the US ever since but, my heritage and cultural roots still ring strong.
Moving to the United States, has undoubtedly affected my identity because I began to embody what one would term the American ethos. By this I mean my thinking has very much absorbed various American ideals. In many ways, I found myself struggling to converge the ideals of my Italian/Ethiopian heritage with my American upbringing.
A good example of this was during high school when I asked my parents if I could stay late afterschool to participate in certain extracurricular activities. My Ethiopian mother would say that it is not good for a “girl” to be out late and of course my father could co-sign though I knew he did not agree. I struggled with this because my American ideals would encourage me to be a strong, independent and vocal woman.
This internal conflict that I was experiencing did not become clear to me until about high school. I noticed I was changing. I was becoming very American and was also trying to hold onto my Italian/Ethiopian culture. As a result, many times I clashed with my parents. For instance, in my parent’s household there is one thing that was and is not tolerated and that is when a child talks back to their parents. I should rephrase, tolerate is an understatement. It is an abomination to talk. I remember being very vocal and active at school but, silent and careful at home. The American part of me wanted to say what was exactly on my mind but the other half of me could not disrespect the parents I dearly loved. Finding a balance of this struggle was hard because I was only a teenager and had not idea how to deal with it and the hormonal changes I was experiencing was no help at all. It was all a whirlwind.
Additionally, not only was there a struggle at home on preserve culture and tradition but there was a struggle at school to “fit-in.” By this I mean, I knew I was different and to other Americans I was not one of them. I did not talk, dress or think like them and they all knew it. However, some how I managed to overcome this feeling of not “fitting-in.” It may have been due to the fact that I excelled academically, and advanced into leadership positions at the school but, subconsciously, I was becoming to look, speak and act more American. I notice my Kenyan/British accent was dwindling away and I began to dress more American. Out went my capris and shirts and in came the fitted jeans, t-shirts and chucks.
However, despite these challenges I have found ways to embrace my cultural background and celebrate the ideals of my current home with my family. As a family, we celebrate all our cultural holidays, speak our native languages to each other, often dress in traditional clothing and eat our cultural foods in order to maintain our cultural roots. Simultaneously, we have welcomed many American cultural traditions such as Thanksgiving, Fourth of July Celebrations, Halloween, eating fast food, calling before arriving at someone’s home and each have become workaholics. I was beginning to become and American so, were my parents.
Despite this change, the culture clash with family has not disappeared nor will it disappear. As I mentioned earlier, my identity is multifaceted. I am Italian. I am Ethiopian, I am Kenyan and I am American. My identity is not ground in one culture. As a result, I foresee my life enveloped in a tug to retain a connection to them all. It is funny how a simple migration to another continent can spark such a ruckus to one’s cultural identity. If I had more time, I would talk more about how proximity has a big role in cultural connection, but that is a topic for another blog. The reality is that as an immigrant, I come with a culture and as a new resident I am infused with a new culture. A clash is almost inevitable.
Post by Cristina Sacco (Representing Italy, Ethiopia, Kenya, and America)
Note from the Editor (Nadia Sasso): In my research and documentation I plan to explore the preservation efforts made by generational immigrants in order to unveil some of the tensions made accessible via the stories of those participants interviewed in/for the film and this blog post series. One anticipated outcome of the film and blog posts would be to generate qualitative insights into the fusion of US and African experiences as well as new identity formations for those immigrants beyond the first generation. Support the Film: Am I The Film IndieGoGo