There was a time in my life where I had no idea what it meant to be Black. Granted, most six-year olds don't have a concrete understanding of their race and culture and what it means in a larger context, but when I moved to a small town in Westchester, NY, from Ghana in West Africa, I was completely out of the loop. My skin was obviously brown so people assumed I was familiar with all the cultural staples that Black-Americans popularly identify with. As I went through my pre-teen and oh-so-complicated teen years, it became harder for me to navigate the cultural differences that I had grown up with, and the ones I was now expected to know. For a while, I didn't feel like I fit in well anywhere.
My town was fairly diverse, so to hang out with the white kids raised eyebrows from other kids of color in school. However, I wasn't hip to the music, styles and slang of the Black and Hispanic kids, leaving me in an awkward in-between position. So, I looked to TV.
The late '90s and early 2000s were primetime for Black sitcoms. Everyday after school, after finishing my homework, I would turn on our TV and immerse myself in the comedy, drama, and heartfelt plots of these shows. Through them, I partially learned what it means to be Black in America. More importantly, I saw myself in these characters in a way that gave me confidence to be Black in whichever way felt most natural to me.
Eventually I found my place, by way of just being myself. I made a diverse group of friends who represented a variety of races, backgrounds and experiences. Along the way, these stories told on TV gave me a bit of guidance that helped me fully come into my Blackness with confidence and pride.