© 2017 by The Black Narrative, London, UK

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“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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PAUL, 20 - Nigerian

 

I’m from Nigeria, I’m a naija boy! I came from Nigeria at the age of four, started my education here in year three, and I had a bit of an accent which wasn’t really something I could hide. Back in the early 2000s, there weren’t many black people encouraging each other to be themselves, and be self-sufficient. I tried to fit in a lot; talk like everyone, act like everyone but I think that played a part in who I am today, being happy with who I am and what I can give to the world.

 

I’m not gonna, lie the best thing about being Nigerian is the food. That sweet J rice! Religion is a key part of being Nigerian, like whether you’re Muslim or Christian, it’s something that has definitely been integrated into our culture. Music, really the main parts of any other culture, but of course, Nigeria has it’s perks. Weather, food, music and religion; I think that’s pretty much it!

Number one is that there are a lot of us, man, like in Africa we are the most populated country, everyone’s always saying Nigerians are everywhere; it’s like being Jamaican in the 70s in the UK, you know they were everywhere. People constantly make you conscious of that, that you guys are around. The huge presence of Nigerians made it feel like home away from home. It made me more comfortable, in saying certain things. Out of the 20 people we used to hang around at school, 18 were Nigerian, you know, just having people around made everything a lot easier. You couldn’t hide speaking your native tongue, couldn’t hide speaking about certain things, like movies or food, and having that culture integrating with modern day English culture, really helped in creating a unique vibe for me.

 

It makes me proud that we’ve come so far, like not just Nigerians but Africans in general. I remember when Azonto was just the thing, like they had David Cameron doing it in Number 10, you know? It just shows that black people are a force, but something that really worries me about the black community is that we have problems inside our community as well as outside. And I feel like we’ve seen the power of having black people move together as one through several marches and protests, historical events in the past and I don’t know why it’s a problem for us to get along inside, as Isabelle said, even though she’s black, in the black community, some people don’t see her as black, they see her as “oh she’s mixed’, and then we have problems with white people seeing us like, ‘Oh, they’re black, they’re a problem”. Having these milestones of people wanting to be black, wanting to talk like us, dress like us, do their hair like us, just shows that we’re a force to be reckoned with.

 

Going to uni has made a massive impact on how I think people see us. The first few week of uni I got the same questions like “Oh do you listen to grime? Do you know what jollof rice is?”, and I’m like “Yes, I know what jollof rice is”, you know, obviously in ends, everyone just sees you as you, but when you go to more diverse and culturally mixed areas, you’re seen as “He’s black, so he must be tough, he must know how to fight”, and I think those stereotypes are very much prevalent in the society we like in. Uni has made me see that black people can be different. They can style their hair differently, some black people don’t like grime, some don’t like spicy food, but regardless youre still African, you don’t have to be branded by the black stereotypes.

 

In terms of personal aspirations, currently I’m studying Civil Engineering at first I wanted to study Medicine, and I think that was mainly parent driven, you know with Nigerian parents, its lawyer, doctor or engineer. It’s like, “You must get those three or you’re gonna be jobless for the rest of your life”. I kind of made a decision last minute, obviously my grades played a part, but I decided that I wanted to do something that would make me money. And I don’t feel like you should be in the medical profession for money, you should be there to genuinely save lives. I would like to go into the renewable energy sector via oil and gas in order to improve the atmosphere of not only our world, but Africa, especially Nigeria. Being educated here, we have the resources, and we need to think about what we are doing to walk towards making Nigeria a superpower. Let’s take skills from here and apply them back home as well!

 

I enjoy drawing and drawing has taken me into my own business which I’m launching in October, so that’s COZYVERT, which is a clothing brand. COZYVERT means “Comfortable Introvert”, someone who takes pride in being themselves, who enjoys being by themselves and I feel like coming from Nigeria to here to going to Uni has made me…like I’m used to being on my own, especially with my parents being quite strict, I was used to staying at home and thinking by myself. It’s not that sad, it’s more of a joyful thing, that’s why the slogan is “Self-Sufficient”, being happy doing things by yourself. My degree is playing a part in my self-owned small business. The designs I’m trying to bring out try to empower people to speak without speaking. Like some of the designs, one of them says “Fresh off the Boat” and has a little logo that says “Noah” which shows like, my background from Nigeria being incorporated into religion. “Fresh off the boat” is something people used to say to someone with an accent like “He’s fresh man, he swam over here”, but now it’s like “He’s fresh man, he’s cool”. It’s a bit of everything really, and civil engineering is there to fund that business, so I can do something that I enjoy and that can actually make a difference in society.

 

I aspire to aspire, that’s mainly it, because black kids, coloured kids, kids who aren’t born here, need to see other people doing things. You can do education and do something on the side, you can do education and design your own clothes. You can always balance your dreams with necessities.

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August 11, 2017

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