Living between my Nigerian and African-American identities

I shoved my research notebook in my desk drawer and slammed it closed.

I’d just completed my dissertation study. I should have been eager to sift through the pages, but that notebook was the last thing I wanted to see.

The year before, I’d traveled to Detroit to purchase it.

I barely recognized Woodward Avenue. No longer decorated with broken streetlights and vacant lots, it was now well-lit and laced with high-end stores, modern buildings, and farm-to-table restaurants. The media called it “an urban renewal,” but Detroit natives knew it was gentrification.

“I can get out here,” I told my…

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This Is Us

Illustration: Niege Borges

i hate those stories the ones where women recall how they once hated the shade of their deep dark skin the same stories that appear in Oprah’s documentaries and characterize the dark-skinned women across her network whenever i hear them i never understand how ugly words can form on the lips of such beautiful women i hate hearing them because they dig up old memories i buried memories of when i wanted to live outside of my own skin it wasn’t my choice it was the narrow beauty perceptions that are placed on young Black girls Black African booty scratcher…

Illustration: Sacree Frangine

my younger
cousin called me

we hadn’t spoken in 7 months

our call,
she told me
she wants to
see herself
as beautiful

i understood her
i kept silent

some things
cannot be explained

some things

and as we
live through them
fully grasp
deep truths
that entangle
with our DNA

if i were to
tell her anything,
i would have told her
that the beauty
for which she searches
cannot be found in any mirror
no matter how deeply she stares into it

nor can it be found in…

my mother
i wear
all black

it should be reserved for those who mourn, she says

i fell
in love
black clothing
on the east coast

New York City

subway passengers
waiting for trains
clothed in all black
laser-sharp focus


an aura
always admired
but never knew
how to acquire

not until recently
so i’ve been wearing all black

last week
my mother jokingly asked,
Lakeya, are you mourning?

a response
came from my depths,
Yes, mommy. I am.

i went on to tell her — i am mourning the woman…

Photo Credit: Lakin Ogunbanwo

I’d barely taken off my coat before my grandmother walked into the living room and asked her infamous question: “Iyore, which day you go marry?”

She placed her hands on her hips and slowly moved her waist from left to right, singing , “Eh eh…I wan shake my ikebe.”

Iye, my grandmother, was ready to dance at my wedding — the same wedding that she’d been pestering me about since I graduated from undergrad ten years prior.

My stomach could no longer resist the food that awaited me in the refrigerator. I debated whether I would devour egusi soup with…

Illustration: Niege Borges

What might it feel like to open a book and see reflections of yourself?

Characters who speak like you. Settings that remind you of home. Story events that resemble your lived experiences.

In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita at Ohio State University, wrote an article titled “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors”. In the piece, she argued that books can be mirrors for children to see themselves. Books can also be windows for them to see in other worlds that differ from their own.

Illustration: Tiffany Tuedor

i traveled back in time

1994 to be exact

and i saw myself
with my head
buried inside
of my arms
on top of
the wooden desk
in ms. booker’s classroom

my tears
had seeped through
my brand new
mickey mouse shirt
that i got for Christmas

my small
body and mind
had crashed under
the weight
of whispered insults
from answering
of ms. booker’s questions

i wasn’t supposed to

i’d just transferred to the school in the middle of the year,
and i’d only been in her classroom for two weeks

mismatched curricula leaves Black…

This Is Us

The pursuit of a PhD from my urban vantage point

A dark-skinned person with dreads dipping backward while dancing.
A dark-skinned person with dreads dipping backward while dancing.
Illustration: Niege Borges

what they don’t tell you
about getting your PhD
is that your childhood memories
of growing up
on the Westside of Detroit

and sitting inside of
public school
with more students than desks
will be etched across
the pages
of your mandated
course readings

they don’t tell you
that your carefree moments
of sharing textbooks
with your classmates
and bike riding
pothole-ridden side streets
past boarded up homes
with caved-in roofs
hidden behind
tall dense grass
will be placed inside of a frame

they will hang it on a wall and gaze at it and…

Documenting black pain has no entertainment value for me

Illustration: Chelsea Charles

I grew up on the westside of Detroit. A Black enclave.

Once the first smell of BBQ filled the air and warm sunbeams replaced the city’s frigid cold weather, Black children rushed through metal screen doors that squealed until they closed shut to play outside. Girls’ multicolored hair barrettes held on for dear life as we jumped rope on cracked concrete sidewalks and rode our 12-speed bikes through the streets. Heads tilted back, laughing with rainbow-stained tongues from popsicles purchased from ice cream trucks, we were enveloped in bliss.

As we moved into our teenage years, grief from mourning the…

Lakeya Omogun

Storyteller & Ph.D. Candidate @ The University of Texas at Austin. Writing about society, culture, women, and identity.

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