October 22, 2018

Dear Diary,

Being a first generation Canadian is hard! 

What does being ‘Canadian’ mean anyway for an individual like myself who was born here, but whose parents weren’t?

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Me!

Growing up, I enjoyed traditional Ghanaian cuisine at home, but I do remember my mother telling me that when I’m older and working in the corporate world, these are not the kinds of meals I would be served at business meetings. 

And growing up, I would go out with my parents to a lot of different events where the adults would dress in traditional attire. I never thought of it as “weird” or “different” until one day I overheard my dad say someone asked him why he was wearing a bedsheet outside. He laughed it off but that is something that resonates with me until this day. 

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Traditional male Ghanaian attire for events

I didn’t have an accent or any tribal markings on my face so my background was not apparent at first glance, but even to this very day, people are shocked when I tell them my parents are from Ghana.

“You’re too pretty to be…”

“You’re not dark enough to be…”

“Both parents?”

“Are you sure?”

I’m not even gonna jump into that because that’s a whole complete diary entry on its own. 

It made trying to figure out my identity difficult. I wasn’t “Canadian” enough to be Canadian, but (as I was actually told by a staff member in high school) I wasn’t acting Ghanaian enough to be Ghanaian. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I still haven’t figured it out. What I do know is my ancestry is something to be very proud of, so I will continue to indulge in traditions without shame, and educate those who are willing to listen. 

Being born and raised in a diverse city like Toronto has also introduced me to other cultures as well. I enjoy eating foods like shawarma and listening to soca music; things that aren’t native to my background. I’ve learned about other traditions, customs and religions as well. 

And, as the number of first and second generations are growing, so is the appreciation for other cultures. Even though I still encounter some ignorance, for the most part, people are wanting to learn more. They realize that there is a rich history behind the way we dress and the foods we eat (just like with any other culture) and are curious about it. 

And my mother is happy to know that anytime there is a potluck at work, they are requesting she cooks up a pot of jollof rice. 

-Justina

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