Life when the majority of your family lives overseas

Being An Immigrant Can Isolate You From Family, But The Friends I Have Made In The US Are Family

The dream my parent's generation has of their kids marrying into the tribe often fades away, since all the eligible kids have grown up thinking we were all related.


My father immigrated from Cameroon to the United States in 1987. He came here with $18 and nothing to his name. He was fortunate enough to have been able to live with his two brothers. However, before he graduated, they had both died — his only immediate family here, gone. My mother came here for my father in 1997. She had been traveling internationally and working all over the world. The United States was her first long-term place of residence since leaving Cameroon to study in Germany.

Before last Monday, the closest blood family member from my mother's side was my uncle, Lionel, who is here for his Master's degree. On my dad's side, it was my cousin, Joseph, who was nowhere to be found.

Life is different when most of your family doesn't live anywhere near you. Familial relationships take on a completely different meaning. 'Aunt' and 'Uncle' doesn't mean your parents' siblings, it means anyone older than you. Parents' cousins, friends, classmates, and the African lady down the street.

The word 'cousin' takes on a different meaning as well. Any kid from the same ethnic group (in my case, the Bassa tribe) is your cousin. As we get older, playing the 'who is actually related to me' game is the norm. The dream my parent's generation has of their kids marrying into the tribe often fades away, since all the eligible kids have grown up thinking we were all related.

In actuality, I have 40 cousins, 23 aunts and uncles, and 13 nieces and nephews. I've only met a handful of them. When you can't pinpoint where your genes come from, your blood type, or your true medical history, your physical existence can be isolating.

Even worse, the emotional scaffolding that comes from having connections with your extended family fade. There's very little openness about our family. Information is held lock and key, and finding the truth about familial relationships is hard, if not impossible.

When you grow up so separated from other families, you become dependent on your own immediate family. Meeting cousins can always be contentious: how to let them break the seal and become a part of our world, having to drop hundreds of dollars just to visit family, whose names we may not remember in a year.

In a structure like this, the importance of friends skyrockets. None of my Cameroonian friends are of my tribe. They don't speak the language, and the parts of Cameroon their family live in are revolting against ours. If we were in Cameroon, we would be enemies. Luckily, we're here. We're representative of how we have more things pushing us together than pulling us apart. Not just other Cameroonians — friends from other African communities help to create a web and safety net of learning, comfort, and understanding. We don't have a choice.

While I don't get to see my blood family, America has given my an additional extended family to help fill in those gaps. People across my country, continent, and the world.

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Colonialism And Its Effect On Kenya

Colonialism affected Kenya politically, socially and economically.

Kenya underwent changes after being colonized by Europeans. The British would force their beliefs and ideas of a more “civilized” lifestyle on the native people of Africa. Imperialism also had many negative effects on the people of Kenya, because they were forced to follow the policies of the Europeans who controlled and regulated them. The indigenous people of Africa were continuously oppressed. Colonialism affected Kenya politically, socially and economically.

Colonialism changed politics for everyone living there.

The population of Kenya contained a large amount of different ethnic groups all living together under British rule, and only 3 percent of Kenya’s population was non-African. A policy of indirect rule was used in Africa by the British. The British ruled Kenya through a native authority. Imperialism forced the natives to change their way of government, as they took their land without granting them any say or choice. European influence affected Kenya even after they achieved their independence as Kenyatta became the first president of independent Kenya.

Kenya experienced economic growth throughout colonial rule.

The amount of post offices and railroads increased greatly over the years. This helped it to develop further. Though Kenya had some economic benefits, from the perspective of the indigenous people, they still faced negative consequences as the economic growth gained was at the expense of the native populations. Africans had to endure harsh labor systems, racism and oppression. The average earnings of Africans in both agriculture and public services were significantly lower than those of the Europeans and Asians. Colonial rule put Kenya through a lot of racism and oppression.

The influences of colonialism had many social effects.

From the perspective of westernized Africans, colonialism was a good thing because it eliminated slavery, human sacrifice and other traditions that they considered uncivilized. African traditions and practices, such as witchcraft, differed from that of Christianity. The religion and lifestyle of Africans was altered as native beliefs eventually faded, and the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions became widespread. The racist views of the Europeans influenced African society as it stripped them of many rights, such as unequal educational opportunities.

Education was not compulsory for Africans and Arabs, and their school systems were lacking compared to those of Europeans and Asians. There was not an adequate amount of information on how colonial rule influenced the people attending the schools personally, which brought in the need for an additional document from the perspective of a student or teacher in an African school compared to a teacher in the European schools.

The political, social and economic effects of colonialism vary. From the viewpoint of the indigenous peoples of Kenya, there were countless negative effects as they had their social traditions and cultures stripped away and had to undergo a lot of racism. British influences reshaped African society and changed the entire lifestyle of Kenya.

Cover Image Credit: CIA

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Introducing Miah Johnson

"It made me learn to love and live in every moment as if it were the last." -Miah Johnson


It was Daddy Donut day at Teasley Elementary School, but for Miah Johnson, it was just another day in which she had to pretend everything was okay. It had been a month since Miah's dad was deported and left her hopeless.

As Johnson took her last sip of coffee she laughs. She shares how hard it was for her to talk about her father. Many people do not know about the days she spent crying because she needed him, or how she was not sure if they would ever move past the hard times. How she went days without being able to eat a proper meal because they did not have enough money to make ends meet. Ashamed and embarrassed she shares her memories of going to church early in the morning for bread, canned soup, and powdered milk. She explains that there are times when she gets excited to share something with her father but strange darkness takes over and she loses hope that one day a real relationship with him will exist.

Johnson was born in Fort Lauderdale Florida in 1999. She is the only child of her small sheltered loving family. Her childhood was a fairy tale, her best friend was her stepfather, "I wasn't his biological daughter, but he raised me as one and I will always be grateful for the memories." Johnson's eyes flood with tears as she reminiscences on her past. School work was the best way she coped with her loss. She always made herself busy, if she didn't have any homework she would read, pick up a new hobby or dance. Going to bed was the hardest part of her day. All of the thoughts and feelings she fought so hard to keep away came pouring out in a way she does not know how to describe. Not having her father broke her in many ways, but the one she speaks about most often is not having a financially and emotionally stable home.

Johnson attended Elon University on a full ride her freshman year but decided to transfer to a school closer to home. Johnson was not ready to leave she admitted quietly. She describes that there was a shift in her during her first semester there, for the first time she failed classes, gained 20 pounds and lost her scholarship. Her failure comes from a lack of stability and support. The friendships she made there weren't enough to keep her there, she could no longer afford the prestigious college. Now she takes classes online at Kennesaw State University. She has to work two jobs in order to make ends meet for her and her family. Johnson laughs at the situation and explains how her father used to lecture her on how education is the best way out of their situation. Now she feels like she has disappointed him and that she has to make up for the broken promise.

There is never enough money. Johnson has made plans to visit her father multiple times but has never been able to visit him. There is always something that comes up. Her mother's car broken down the first time, they couldn't afford to pay the bills the other time, and the last time she needed a car of her own to help get to and from work. She shows a screenshot of her bank account. Negative eight dollars. She sighs and states that life has a funny way of getting in the way of the important things.

Johnson believes that if her father was still here, it would be different. She would have never known what it was like to go hungry, feel so hopeless, and do not have a stable home.

She explains that it was an experience she doesn't share because it is painful to talk about but, "It made me learn to love and live in every moment as if it were the last."

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