We All Have to Start Somewhere
Author Nana Ohemaa Asante
“...And our last performance of the day is Nana Asante performing two Gospel songs in the Ghanaian language Twi. Let’s give her a warm welcome!”
The mass of students packed on the bleachers deliver a clamorous applause. I inhale a deep, shaky breath, and advance a few steps forward to collect the microphone.
Last January I presented a poster on Ghana for Culture Day, an event where students display various countries to other classmates. I had split the poster into different topics such as food, fashion, symbols, names and their meanings, and the meaning behind the colors of the flag. In addition, I performed two Gospel songs in Twi, a language which I was once but am no longer fluent in (but I’m learning before I attend college). I spent the days before Culture Day gaining wonderful facts about my birth country that truly sparked my interest. Every day I would practice the two songs because even if no one knew whether or not I was butchering the words, I wanted to do justice to my people.
I erase my mind of doubts and fear and give the crowd what I can only hope is a grin filled with just the right amount of confidence with a hint of humility. “Hey guys,” I greet the crowd, “I’ve prepared two songs for you today in one of the many languages of my people. I hope you enjoy them.” The crowd gives hoots of encouragement as I take another calming breath and begin to sing.
I’ve always been bashful, especially when it comes to singing. However, even as a kid I’ve hated the thought of fear holding me back, so I always completed activities to combat my stage fright. My high school is deficient in minorities compared to my middle school, and often I’m the only African American in some of my classes. I was absolutely terrified that my classmates wouldn’t understand the sentimental value behind the songs as I poured my soul into my performance. I feared they would laugh behind my back, or even right in my face, at my african print clothes, my necklaces, and my cornrows. Nevertheless, having the opportunity to display my heritage and teach others about the beauty of Ghana, instead of how the media tries to present African countries, filled me with great joy. Oftentimes society depicts Africa as a dying environment, where everyone is sickly and depressed. As a lifeless area, searching for help from outside continents. However, Africans are banning together to fix the communities they see on normal everyday basis, realizing that change starts from within an environment, not outside. I was excited to depict portions of Africa the media often overlooks. The rich culture, the lush environment- things that bring happiness and a strong sense of pride.
After Culture Day, I slowly but surely began to adjust into a more confident me. I want to learn to love myself for my uniqueness and the tiny quirks that make me who I am today. I started fully embracing my skin tone, natural beauty, and heritage through fashion even more than I previously did. The Saturday after the school designated SAT, I cut my hair into a tiny afro to transition between my chemically relaxed/straightened hair to my natural texture. I wear African necklaces and African print headbands more frequently. I even donned an African styled dress for Prom this year. I took risks that I originally wouldn’t because I would be too fearful of failure and people’s opinions. I applied for president of the Underrepresented Minorities club in school and won. With Ms. Lober, I ran Culture Day 2017. We had twice the performers we had the year before. I've had an influx of other performances, from dancing to spoken word poetry to even preaching a sermon.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of Charter, it is that one must move from their comfort zone. Growth does not occur without discomfort. In the words of inspirational speaker Inky Johnson: “It is not about the product, but the process.” There is something about the struggle, the unease, that makes the victory truly sweet. To all the underclassmen reading this, my advice to you is to let the right people and right circumstances inspire you. You are the captain of your own ship, and all great explorers must first travel through murky waters before they reach the unknown. You will never know what you are capable of unless you take the chance to see the outcome.
It’s been good, it’s been real, and I’d like to say it’s been really great. Goodbye Charter, I’ll see you on the other side.