Though I am of Indian descent, I'm also a 4th generation Kenyan. I was born in Nairobi, and have lived there my entire life. I never questioned being both Indian and Kenyan—simultaneously, constantly, and indivisibly—before coming to the US. For people here it is truly shocking; when I tell them I am from Kenya, they usually say something like, "But you're Indian right?" For me, it has always felt natural to be both.
It is hard to explain because I don't know anything that is not a combination of the two identities at the same time, because I have never had to separate them. I grew up speaking Swahili and understanding Gujarati at the same time. I have been exposed to African music and traditions from music to being surrounded by and interacting with local Kenyan people in my daily life. But at the same time at home I was exposed to watching Bollywood movies and going through traditional Indian rites. In the US, as much as I can articulate how merged it is for me, I have more trouble getting people to understand that. There is a much greater need to categorize and deconstruct.
This is my story and a part of my identity, but there are countless people living in Congo, Uganda, South Africa, Morocco and so many other African countries who have diverse backgrounds that transcend skin color, ethnicity and borders which I find empowering. Though people try to narrow identity down to one place, and trace their roots to fit into a category it is much more profound to belong to so many places at one time. To me Africa is home, a place that I have always felt a close bond to and love and defend deeply despite all its flaws. Coming to the US means I have the opportunity to help tell my own story and help to tell the stories of others because for the longest time stories have been told about and for us. It is time we do that for ourselves.