Black Exodus: Evidence That It’s OK From the Other Side
Many African Americans are leaving the U.S. in order to find the safety and mental healing necessary to truly thrive. Cole Ezeilo left years ago, and now sheds light on his perspective and journey.
“Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life.” - Siddhartha Gautama
I won’t lie, it’s taken me quite some time to start this piece since I was given the opportunity to write it a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if it’s due to my seemingly incurable necessity to start every piece perfectly; or perhaps because it feels like a bit of a justification for the last 6 or so years of my life. Either way, fuck it. Here we are now. (I can curse here, right?)
I figure it would be strange to go on any further without somewhat of an introduction. Like starting a marathon or some other long-ass race without stretching first. (Don’t worry, this won’t be too long. I have a word limit.)
My name is Cole Ezeilo. I am twenty years old. Brown-skinned. Six-foot-three. And I know how to use their, they’re, and there correctly. In other words, I’m a threat to most white people in most spaces around the world.
I emphasize around the world because it’s a hypothesis I’ve somewhat tested.
When I was 14, I made the decision that I no longer wanted to live in the United States of America - the land of the sorta-kinda free, where I was born, and up until then the only place I’d ever lived. I spent the first two years of my life in West Orange, New Jersey – the same state that my mother, brother, and Queen Latifah were born in – but moved to Georgia to be closer to my grandparents and “get away from the cold” as my dad likes to say.
Within the nucleus of the four of us created by my parents – along with long-hugging aunties, quick-witted uncles, marvelously mischievous cousins, and the wisest of grandparents – life was pretty smooth growing up. The love was real and truly felt. And the most important ingredient in a child’s development, presence, wasn’t lost on me or my brother. For that, I will always be eternally grateful.
But externally, there was always something missing. Not necessarily a tangible element, but certainly an emotional component– or the lack thereof – which I was incessantly reminded of its absence, usually whenever I began to actually get comfortable.
Most blatantly, physical safety.
This may be a baffling concept for many people who have never spent time in America, or for those who have grown up living in one of the many other American realities which only seem to be open for cis-gendered heterosexual non-POC. (If you’re having trouble understanding this concept, think of the Multiverse theory from Marvel movies. There are many USAs.)
When a certain element – or for many individuals, several elements – of your identity seems to be adversarial to the structure you stand on, regardless of whether or not your ancestors built that very structure, it becomes incredibly difficult to live a life without fear.
So for many black boys and girls growing up in the States, it’s so easy for that fear to turn into fiery anger. At society, at the system, and at the world at large.
Yet, while many cultures and peoples would recognize this fear and choose to remove themselves from the environment completely, the Afrikan American community makes the choice to fight back, as our ancestors did not too long ago during times of Slavery and their descendants did during times of Jim Crow, and we continue to do during times of political injustice, loose gun laws, the expunging of women’s rights, and the continual ticking time bomb of black incrementalism.
But allow me to pose a question:
For how long do we want our lives to be defined by a fight?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reality that for many of us this fight is all we’ve known. Not only is it difficult to conceive of an existence outside of America, but it can also be incredibly scary. You may not know too many people who have left the States for travel, let alone to live elsewhere, and given the circumstances and conditions of your current life it may seem like an impossible reality.
But I think that the last two years of our lives serve as a prime example that realities are far more malleable than we think.
They can bend.
They can fold.
They can even pull a Simone Biles and flip all the way the fuck upside down.
But much like Miss Biles, more often than not, we are going to land on our feet.
So I’d like to ask you, the reader who I’ve just stolen about five minutes from, not to see this and think I’m preaching that you should drop everything and move to Mozambique. (Although I’ve heard it’s really cool over there.) No. I’m simply asking that you take a moment, and ask yourself if you feel holistically content in your existence where you are.
Are you joyful? Do you feel valued? Do you feel safe?
Ultimately, it’s this lack of safety in all forms which inspired my personal departure from the American system many years ago. The discovery of its absence led me to begin searching for other elements of my character in Nigeria, South Africa, and most recently, Spain.
My only question now is, what will your discovery inspire in you?
Contact Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org