Growing up without my parents due to their deportation was a hardship.A harrowing and traumatic experience. I still deal with PTSD to this day because of it. I often have nightmares about being left in a country without my documents and no way of getting back “home”, which are probably leftover fears of my parents being deported. Growing up without parents due to deportation completely robs children of their sense of home. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs get thrown out of the window. And a lot of times, transient kids such as me are subject to unspeakable abuses without their parents to serve as protectors, advocates, and champions of their well-being. Like how my relatives would threaten to ship me back to Nigeria as a disciplinary measure in their household. The very connotation of deportation holds such a negative influence that people often assume that the country they go back to is a “shithole”. I’m amazed at how I have compelled myself to travel like I do with such a negative connotation of travel held for me while growing up. However, I am thankful that I have transmuted that fear into bravery to explore and live abroad just like my daddy did.
I Traveled Despite Being Affected By DeportationI actually did not start traveling internationally until 2008 out of necessity. My dad was an English teacher in Quito, Ecuador and that is where he passed away. He literally died saving money to get back to the US or Canada so he could see his kids. I saw him alive in person for the last time when I was 6 and the next time I saw him was in a casket. I hadn’t seen my mom in over 20 years because she simply could not afford to come back to the U.S. on her own due to the lack of economic and job infrastructure in Lagos, Nigeria. But even after I had started traveling, I postponed going back to Nigeria because of all the negative childhood stories I heard growing up from my relatives. They were especially superstitious in not wanting me to travel to Lagos by myself. Well in 2013 I was tired of waiting on folks to get their money together and I feared my mom would pass away on me before I got to see her as my dad did. So when I first traveled to sub Saharan Africa, it was to visit my mom. I loved how days went by slowly there and contrary to popular belief, I didn’t feel anxious. I felt at peace. That was also my first time traveling solo internationally. In Nigeria, I witnessed a stark contrast between the rich and the poor. But I was more in shock at the rich areas like Victoria Island or Lekki than the poor. I was in shock because of all the miseducation I had to unlearn stateside to what Africa and its many countries really consist of. Wonder, beauty, magic, and majesty.
Traveling Through Africa Felt Like HomeI continued my journey through Africa after realizing how amazing Africa really is. When I went to Johannesburg, South Africa for the Afropunk festival, I immediately resonated. The sun felt like a big warm hug and my energy felt at home there. In Ghana, I was empowered to break through my depression solely because of that home frequency I tapped into while there. The sun just hits different in Africa. I grew to realize this feeling recurred anytime I traveled to Africa. Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and counting. I advise those wondering how to go about traveling in Africa to be aware of your surroundings but also be prepared to feel a welcome that you will find hard to put into words. Be prepared to have your stereotypes shattered and your outlook elevated. As far as my mostly positive experiences traveling in Africa while first-generation African-American, I feel like traveling as an African or a direct descendant of the African diaspora is an ancestral right. Travel is not new to Africans. We have been doing this for AGES–even before colonization and chattel slavery. There is an ongoing joke laced with truth that you can find a Nigerian immigrant in EVERY country on this planet. I like to think it is because my ancestors were very nomadic. This still shines through us in present day.
Traveling While American Is A PrivilegeI cannot deny the privilege that comes with having an American Passport. I am blessed to say I’ve had few hardships while traveling outside of long stares and laughs in countries not used to seeing a beautiful Black woman with locs in their presence. I also get long stares at my super long and super strong Yoruba name on my American passport. However, I often get asked silly and/or invasive questions while going through immigration. This even happens to me when I travel through Africa at times. I have always been a lover of cultures and languages different from mine. In fact, I love my own culture all the same! Connecting the dots between cultures across the world gives me LIFE. Being able to conceptualize the common thread between rice dishes across countries, dialects across tribes and thread colors across cultures has added to a globally minded education that I will always treasure.
The Deportation Traveling Narrative Needs To ExpandI’m sharing this story because this narrative is not shared enough. The face of deportation in the U.S. is normally affiliated with Latinxs even though Africans and Caribbean countries with African diaspora have made up a large bulk of deportations in the past couple of decades. Deportation is not exclusive to one political party. I always make a point to tell folks, “Don’t make immigration a bipartisan issue.” My parents were deported when the Democratic Clintons were in the White House and statistically, Obama deported more people from the U.S. than any other president. This is an elitist problem and a country who has clearly forgotten how this country–after attempting ethnic cleansing of the Native people here–is primarily made up of immigrants. Whether immigrants were forcibly brought here or seeking a different life, it is clear that the immigration system is only made for a certain type of person and like most systems, forgets about the African face of immigration. Signed, Folasade Badetito (Yoruba for Honor bestows the Significant Crown)
About the Author
Folasade Badetito is the creative behind The Foladora. Her platform specializes in depth storytelling, wellness and transparent & transformative travel for POC. She is currently working in Dubai as a career counselor for private school students and expatriate adults.