Joy. That is my name–well, my middle name actually. If you must know, my full name is Fadzai Joy Mazhangara. My mom calls me Fadzai (she named me) and my dad calls me Joy. Weird, huh? Well, allow me to explain a few things…
I was born in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe on September 30th, 1997. I am sure that you are a mathematical genius and have figured out that I am 21 years of age at the moment. In all my 21 years of life I have seen people, ideas, and–heck–even fashion trends come and go but the one thing that has remained a constant in my life is my ethnicity.
Growing up here in America has made quite the impression on me and my background. A great illustration of this would be in my name–well, the name I choose not to go by: Fadzai. My first name and my middle are in fact synonymous. In my native language, Shona, Fadzai means, “makes people happy/makes people laugh.” In choosing not to go by it, I feel as if I am preserving its essence and beauty from people’s ignorance.
I mention people’s ignorance because growing up with a name such as mine wasn’t always peachy keen. For example, attendance at elementary school was a nightmare for a period of time. In short, kids can be cruel. In order to shield myself from more hurt (or embarrassment), I went by my middle name. I was proud of my first name and its cultural ties, but I disliked the idea of it being butchered and mispronounced–especially every time there was a substitute teacher.
As I was growing up, I was juggling between three cultures: Zimbabwean, African-American, and American. Let me paint a picture of what that looked like for me. So, at the time I didn’t know the term for switching your form of communication around different groups of people: code-switching, but that’s in fact what I would do. For instance, when I was around a group of black kids I would use more slang than I would when I was around white kids.
I would make an effort to fit in more in every room I was in–even forsaking my own comfort do so at times. In the back of my head I would be questioning whether they bought it enough, whether they would buy it long enough for me to eventually show my true personality to them.
It wasn’t a matter of me being fake, it was a matter of me assimilating. Not everyone would be so understanding of my culture and heritage growing up so I adopted more and more aspects of American and African-American culture in the absence of expressing my Zimbabwean one.
As I see it today, my culture is in fact a hybrid of all three of these. I am not one without the others. I am the culmination of all these cultures in a 5’4″, silky smooth mocha, curvy package (yes, I am aware that it sounds like I’m describing a milk chocolate truffle).
Anyways, I am grateful for the struggles I had growing up in regards to my ethnicity. Those struggles forged me into the person I am today. I really appreciate how culturally diverse America is–if you haven’t discovered that for yourself I suggest doing so–just look at the different types of food places there are! This country is made great by this fact, and I in turn hope to use my experience to remind people of that.