3 years ago
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  Growing Up Kenyan in the US

#AmItheFilm Blog Series Q&A with Ivy Ochieng:

Question: When and where were your parents born? When and where were you born?  What was reasoning for your family/ you migrating? Where did you settle and why?

Ivy: My parents and I were born in Nairobi, Kenya. We moved to Bethlehem Pennsylvania with 3 of my siblings when I was about 10 years old. We moved to America because my whole family had won the green card lottery. My parents chose to settle in Bethlehem because my aunt lives there and there were a lot of employment opportunities in the area at the time. There is also a large Kenyan community in the area.

Question: How do you define yourself?  What languages do you speak? 

Ivy: I identify myself as Kenyan and I speak Swahili and my tribal language Luo. However, as the years move by I feel less and less Kenyan. I even notice that I speak Swahili less and less and when I do speak it I mix in so many English words I might as well be speaking English. Its definitely been a struggle because you feel like you are losing a part of you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Question: How has living in America affected you?

Ivy: When we first moved to America, holidays and cultural celebrations were definitely important to us but over time work and money became more important and we slowly stopped missing different celebrations. I am the youngest in my family so when everyone was working during holidays I was often left by myself. I never thought much about it when I was at home, it was only when I would go back to school after a holiday and everyone was talking about what they did, and the places they went with their families.

Question: How do you feel amongst those from your respective country? How do you feel amongst Americans, Black Americans?

Ivy: Although there’s a relatively large Kenyan community in my area I didn’t identify with the Kenyans in my age group so interacting with them is often awkward. I was in a totally different path in life than them and going through a struggle that I felt no one could understand. I’ve gone to private schools all my life so I had barely any interactions with people of color. As a result I had no one to relate to and nothing to conform to. My white friends and peers were in a completely different social class, one that I couldn’t even pretend to be in, so why bother trying.

Question: Do you want to live in America/ Africa having experienced both? Why or why not?

Do I want to live in America or Kenya? Hmm… that’s an interesting question and at the time I don’t know. America is a utopia filled lots of opportunities and dreams but theres a lot of ignorance and racism which I really struggled with. Africa on the other hand feels like home but there are very few opportunities to succeed there.

Question: Tell us about some of your accomplishments?  Where do you see yourself in the next ten years? Is it important that Africans/ both natives and generational reach back to their respective countries?

Ivy: I am currently a fourth year Architecture major. One day I hope to be a renowned real estate developer in Africa and hopefully I’ll be influential in helping Africa develop sustainably. I believe that all Africans should give back to their respective countries so that our people don’t have to leave their countries in search of better opportunities.

 Interview of Ivy Ochieng (Representing Kenya) by Nadia Marie 

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

  1. cecil

    4 years ago

    great article!

    Reply

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