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Perfectly In Place

By Ethan Ovbiagele

PROMPT — Who am I today?

An American Bloomer,

And, a Generation Zoomer.

Of Africa, but not from Africa,

From America, but not of America.

Too African to be American,

Too American to be African.

Los Angeles, San Diego, Charleston, and San Fran

Traces the Great American Journey, so far, of my clan

Born with a sense of respect and tradition,

Raised with an inkling for caution and suspicion.

Encouraged to embrace my humble origins,

Nurtured to seek lofty new missions.

Exposed to several countries and cultures,

Observed that every society has its vultures.

So, emplaced or misplaced, that is the question.

To be self-paced and faith-based, is that the solution?

Told to strive for excellence,

To be of service and shirk pretense.

Taught to overcome adversity,

To be strong and show tenacity.

Still, an assimilation desire grew within,

Working to diminish the genuine.

Whispering to me that I needed to conform,

Nudging me to regress to the norm.

“Go back to your country”, my classmate says,

Quite at odds with what my passport displays,

Afrobeat and Gospel music play in my mind,

Years of listening to my mother’s playlist enshrined.

Legacies of discrimination, come to the fore,

As I recall my father’s lessons to the core.

I discern that no matter how much I try,

The color of my skin will always belie.

So, I went seeking out my own skin kind,

Alas, there I was also a strange find.

A brother, to the culture, late.

A foreign last name, set to irritate.

A pride in my dark skin, seen as not great.

My dismay at using the n-word, did not resonate.

My passion for academics, was an unwelcome trait.

My expressions of solidarity, viewed as illegitimate.

Can’t be the only one, just like me,

Must be others, folks won’t just let be?

When I cast my eyes around,

Saw others like me, trying not to drown.

Doing their very best to fit in,

Yet, with no clear signs of a win.

For how long, will we all continue,

Stuck in a queue, trying to breakthrough, with the right hue?

Not accepted anywhere as first rate,

I decide to meditate and recalibrate.

I appreciate, celebrate, abandon the chase,

And gather unforgiving thoughts, and press erase.

Accepting, others based on traits, not face,

Creating, a new space, not tied to race.

Seeking, relationships based on mutual grace,

Realizing, that I am now, perfectly in place.


Ethan Ovbiagele is a 16 year old junior at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He loves writing poetry and practicing taekwondo in his spare time.


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