Op-Ed

I Am Halfrican: On Embracing the Two Cultures that Make Me Who I Am

A personal essay on identity and how the term "Halfrican" best describes OkayAfrica contributing writer Erica Garnes.

DIASPORAHalfrican: One who identifies as an African as well as other ethnicities.


I first heard this term from a YouTuber named Halfrican Beaute and have since then decided that this was a great way to describe who I am.

It would be easier to just tell people, “I am an African American, my mother is African and my father is American," but there is more to me than just that. Hearing the term Halfrican just sounds intriguing, compelling, funny and honestly confusing.

Dear Halfricans,

To understand me and why I use this term, you need a glimpse of my upbringing. Being raised in an all-white community was like putting someone scared of heights on a roller coaster; at the highest point it was terrible and at the lowest point it was still bad. But once they get off the ride they feel great, because they accomplished and learned something about themselves from the experience.

As my glow up began and I started to really identify myself, it was always interesting to me how the white kids and even the black kids raised in the white community at my school viewed me, in comparison to how I viewed myself. They saw this curvy, dark-skinned, tall, outspoken gal (cue Beyoncé's "Feeling Myself"), who was the only black kid in their class for years. Subsequently, to a few of my friends meeting my mother and finding out I'm African, GIRL...WHO ARE YOU?

I am that chick who knows how to make fried chicken, cornbread and homemade macaroni and cheese. But without question can still eat the Zimbabwean traditional meal with my hands when the sadza (corn meal and water), mbida (greens) and stew is in my face! I am not just one identity; I am my culture and life experiences.

The best way to explain the differences I experienced is through food. I can remember my friend coming to my house for dinner and seeing rice, vegetables, chicken and—wait, “what's this red stuff?" What I knew as gravy to eat with my rice, she confused as soup for a side dish.

*Disclaimer, my mother was okay with me hanging out with friends, but not so much as sleeping at their houses, so the only real American home cooked meal I knew was my fathers.*

Erica Garnes (left) with her mother, her brother Andrew and her sister Makho Ndlovu. Photo courtesy of Erica Garnes.

Her reaction to the gravy was as shook as Takeoff's answer to not being featured on "Bad and Boujee." I mean, baby girl didn't know what to think! The only gravy she had ever seen was grey. Besides that, as long as she had sugar and salt, there was no need for gravy on her rice. Thankfully, she was open to new experiences so she tried the rice and gravy and even went back for more.

With all the experiences I have went through with my friends, I have also been blessed with a strong Zimbabwean mother who has taught me about struggle, and truly starting with nothing and building to the very best you. From the lessons of what hard work is, to my mother's long talks about needing to find a man at this point in my life (I am only 22), and to the cursing I receive for not washing the lone dish in the sink. She has sculpted the African woman I am.

As if my life is not interesting enough, my father was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He takes great pride in exposing his lessons, way of living and understanding of life onto me and my siblings. He teaches me strength in knowing who I am as a Black American, the importance of being book smart and street smart, and understanding how precious our energy and love is when that is given to others. He has sculpted the Black American woman I am.

At this point, you are probably wondering who am I and how I managed to reconcile this harmony I call my life. I did too and at the time felt I had to pick a side but I soon realized that being a Halfrican is getting the best of both worlds; I am able to experience more than one culture, hustle, love and struggle in a way that others cannot. The things I have experienced, my incredibly unique and hard working family, the lessons I have learned, all the way to understanding my mother's language, Ndebele. That being said, I would like to now formally introduce myself.

Hello, my name is Erica Sindisiwe Garnes and I am Halfrican!

I welcome a short series with a few stories from other Halfricans like me.

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(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

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