I am first and foremost a big sister to 4 incredible human beings; 1 sister and 3 brothers. I am from the Kwahu people and grew up in Sakaman, a suburb of Accra. I grew up speaking Twi and English. I was surrounded by multiple generations of family when I was growing up in Ghana. I could/can still trace my lineage for multiple generations and was constantly reminded by everyone of my powerful lineage and heritage. Even my name reminded me constantly of the power in my identity. In my culture, you are named after someone (a family member or close family friend) dead or alive who is greatly admired by most and has contributed positively to society. You then take the last name of your father and then you get the name which is the day you are born. I am the namesake of Sarah Yamoabah, a very close family friend an incredible woman, still alive, who is an entrepreneur and has managed to build several business and invested her time, resources and energy into developing the talents of others. My full name based on my birth certificate based on our naming nomenclature is Sarah Yamoabah Ofosu-Ameyaw Akosua (means born on a Sunday). I can trace my lineage back to before the British colonized Ghana, all the way through our Independence in 1957, and until today. Being surrounded by family, friends and a culture and environment that was so affirming to me and my identity had a positive impact in my formative years.
My family migrated to the United States from Ghana West Africa when I was 13 years old. My family moved here for economic opportunities and we all became naturalized in United States citizens 8 years after moving to America. When we migrated to the States, my parents and the few family members I had in America would constantly make sure to affirm who I was and remind me of my heritage and my power. Despite their efforts, I saw myself as different and tried to do all that I could to “fit in.” I did my best to assimilate into dominant culture because the other way was just too difficult. While I understood my identity and knew that I was powerful and had a great deal of self-worth, I realized that for the most part, I was strong in who I was only because I had constant reminders and affirmations, but when it came to searching inward to affirm myself, I did not have the ability to do so. It was not until I got to college that I began to gain the self-awareness necessary to recognize my own worth outside of others telling me of my worth. I attended a PWI (predominantly White institution) and it was during that time that I learned that no matter how hard I tried to assimilate, I would never be accepted into dominant culture. I needed to own who I was, my unique strengths and individuality because I could not live for others and what they wanted me to be because I would never be enough in their eyes. In college, I made friends that celebrated me, my heritage and my background. I came to the realization that by not being my full authentic self, I was truly limiting myself and holding myself back from sharing my gifts and talents with those around me. As I got older, I also began to learn more about the women in my family, what they had overcome and how they had help move our lineage forward. I finally came to the realization and fully accepted that the blood of these women ran through me and that made me, and continues to make me feel powerful. Whenever I have doubt, feel like I am not enough, I am reminded that I am enough, that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to because greatness runs through me.
When thinking of my journey and lineage, I feel as though it is my duty to support my community. I currently live in New Haven, Connecticut which is designated as a “Sanctuary City” for immigrants.When I reflect on my childhood and adolescent experiences as an immigrant, and the struggles behind it, I am that much more passionate for social and equitable change for our communities of color. I moved to America when I was 13 with my parents and two of my siblings. My other 2 siblings were not allowed to join us due to bureaucracy. It was until 8 years later, that my siblings were able to join us. We lived in a middle class neighborhood because my parents wanted us to go to better performing schools so that we could get a better education. But we honestly could not afford to live there. My parents each had to work 2 jobs in addition to receiving federal help, such as food stamps, just so we could make ends meet. From a young age, I learned the importance of not taking education or any opportunities I had for granted, simply because of the sacrifices made and the selflessness of my parents. I also gained a hard earned lesson on on how the lack of services and resources can negatively affect our communities of color and immigrant population.
My experiences in addition to last year’s presidential election results, pushed me to raise my voice a little louder and to do something about the broken system that we are in. When Trump was elected, I immediately thought with fear, “What is at stake for our immigrants? What is at stake for our people of color?” I always had the slight desire to run for office, but after he was elected, I knew that I had to step up. I know that the Mayor will only continue to support immigrant protection and resources if we as a community continue to leverage our voice. As a city council representative, I can be a true advocate by bringing the issues that matter because I will have a seat with a higher level of power. A squeaky wheel gets the oil. I plan to squeak win or lose until the people in my community get their needs met and have true services provided.
I hope to help other children of color, specifically children of immigrants to understand that they have so much to offer just by being themselves. That they do not need to become something else and that they are more than enough. I have moments where I become that teenager who does not believe that she is good enough just as she is and that she has to be what others expect her to be. I have the tools to work through these feelings now but I do hope to eventually overcome this feeling and help others along in the process. I measure personal growth by how I handle setbacks, challenges and especially failures. My goal with any hardship in life, whether I am triumphant in overcoming or not, is to walk away with lessons learned. I know that I am growing in my strengths and ability to navigate challenges in life when I can name which lessons I used from previous challenges to help me navigate new challenges. The big challenge that I am ready to face and tackle now is to cement the change I seek in my community by running for local office. I am currently in the process of running for city council in New Haven. I know the road will not be easy, but my community deserves to have someone walking alongside them on this path for equity. Whether I gain that title or not, my work will forever go on.
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