Hello Again! My story is just beginning. If you recall from my last post, I had returned to the USA for the second time. I left the elementary school where I experienced some harsh discrimination and I attended a third elementary school in Boston. This was in Fall 2011, when my older brother and only sibling came over from Nigeria. He had completed his first year of high school. While he quickly made friends at this school, this was not the case for me. As I recall, I was the new girl in a 4th grade class of 21 girls and five boys. A group of the 4th grade girls in my homeroom began to bully me. I had a great teacher who will refer to as Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones always tried to advocate for me and look out for me until my mom came to get me after school. But she was not in every class. The bullies were led by one girl who was an orphan and living with her grandma, and she already had several problems with the law enforcement. When my mom thought of involving the cops, the school principal said it would be a waste of her time since grandma was as problematic. I never wanted to be in this school. It was a totally bad school year for me, and my learning was also affected. Many of the kids used to get into trouble and be kicked out of school.
My community of support in Boston was my Church. My friends were also in the Church, and most of them were Nigerians. Because we did not live in the same neighborhoods, we had a few play days but were in Sunday School class together, celebrated our birthdays and played together for a few hours every Sunday. I remember that we always delayed our parents from going home when Church was over. At Church, we were allowed to be kids. We were not judged but trained as children in a community. We were celebrated and also corrected if we did or said anything inappropriate. Once we arrived at Church, the children, up to age 18 had our own spaces upstairs. My age-group was boys and girls, 8 – 12 and we had two Sunday School teachers male and female. We were taken through age-appropriate praise and worship, we watched Bible stories and movies, had snacks and it was more fun if one of us was celebrating a birthday. They brought cakes, snacks, juice and sometimes food. I can never forget the Nigerian lunch day every first Sunday which was Thanksgiving Sunday at my Church. The Nigerian-style jollof rice, Egusi soup and fufu were never missing from the menu though we sometimes had Chinese rice and seafood. But when we misbehaved, depending on the situation, we were corrected either openly or pulled aside. Our parents might not even find out what happened, because as Nigerians, we believe that it takes a community to raise a child. I remember that my friends were always in the Church so I always looked forward to Sundays or if we had Saturday weddings or any other events that brought us together.
There were some members of the Church who were originally from other African countries including Ghana, Kenya and Cameroun. We also had a few Black Americans and 2 White American families, and we all interacted as the same people because we saw each other as children of God. For me, Church was where I found community and when I was with them, I did not even remember what happened Monday through Friday in school. If anything, I was lonely in school because I felt alone and feared that I would get into trouble or that somebody would hurt me or make me feel inadequate. I am looking forward to finding a community of support on-campus at UAlbany. Even though I began online, I was blessed to connect with a few people and it helped me to feel connected even though I was far away my first semester.
I am not surprised to still be connected to the friends that I made at the Church in Boston, especially with two girls from a particular family. Their mom always asked me and my brother over to their house for play dates when my mom was preparing for her examinations. Those times out with them also meant visits to the malls or pizza nights. When we moved to New York for a year, we traveled on the Greyhound bus to Boston for spring break. I loved the whole idea of traveling by road and the stops to de-stress or get food made road trips exciting too. With COVID, we got another chance to connect for an online Church service. Although several people have moved, they join occasionally too, and we even had two of our Sunday School teachers speak. They were happy to see us all grown and in college. The Pastor’s children are older and have both graduated from college now. Things were different of course being all grown but we could still connect because we have always been in contact with each other. Several of us are friends on snapchat and Instagram. I really loved Church, and my friends in Boston and had hoped to go to college in Boston or New York. I have been trying to connect with the Church on campus. I see that they do a lot together, and I truly hope I will find it to be a wonderful community.