Undocu•me•nted: From the Bronx to Berlin
By: Chima Egbuzie
“Being undocumented dictated my thoughts, my decisions, and my interactions with the people around me.”
I identify as a Third-Culture Kid, an individual who spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture. I grew up with my grandparents in Nigeria and moved to the Bronx, New York City when I was fourteen to continue my education. My high school, the Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy (BLCPA), was a personal journey in terms of assimilating to the American culture and adjusting to a new educational system. My best memory was an accidental situation where I was placed in a film class, taught by Alix Duggins, instead of a French class. Back in Nigeria, I learned French, in addition to Igbo, my native tongue, and English, the official language. Ms. Duggins introduced the class and I fell in love with her explanation of storytelling. She explained that storytelling can be a tool to give voice to those who were silenced. This was a significant stage in my adolescent years, because being undocumented dictated my thoughts, my decisions, and my interactions with the people around me.
I struggled with my new black identity in the United States. People assumed that I was African-American because of my dark skin, which made me question my identity because I felt American, but legally I was only African. I seemed to exist in a different category of black culture. Transitioning into college, Clark University, I grappled with these thoughts because no matter how hard I studied or how good my grades were, it would not change my legal circumstance and would not lead to a brighter future. This compelled me to express my inner conflict through writing a short story, 9Digits, for which I won the first place. It centers on undocumented students who deal with common struggles of college life during a political era where their existence is threatened by government deportation. Not only did winning first place gave me a sense of relief, it also reassured me that people were listening to my narrative.
“I decided to major in Screen Studies at Clark University because I aspire to create intellectually stimulating content to educate individuals.”
During my sophomore year, I decided to major in Screen Studies at Clark University because I aspire to create intellectually stimulating content to educate individuals. I continued to hustle and to trust the process of my creativity and not focusing on areas, like my legal status, that I could not control. On April 17th, 2017, I received an email notification that I was no longer undocumented but was now a legal, permanent resident of the United States. My eyes were filled with tears because I could work, travel, drive, but most importantly, I would not feel different from my peers.
This past summer, I put my education into practice at the International Center of Worcester, a non-profit organization that promotes citizen diplomacy in Worcester. As the media consultant for the organization, I independently managed their social media for a project called the Global Citizens of Worcester. This project was created to share first-person narratives of Worcester residents to highlight the global identity of the city. I worked closely with my supervisors to implement an effective marketing agenda to publicize the project. In addition to this internship, I was a Summer Transition Coach for college-bound students at a non-profit organization called Let’s Get Ready. In the process of working with first-generation and low-income students, I connected them with resources and helped find solutions to problems they encountered.
“I have found my voice through film.”
As a current junior, I am studying abroad in the beautiful city of Berlin, Germany. I am learning about a new culture through my internship, Raised by the Beat, and also interacting with Germans through local events. I love my video content creation internship because I enjoy producing and publishing videos. I am learning how to contact German dancers, of many dance styles, on possible collaborations while also being the creator of the videos.
This summer, I hope to intern in either Los Angeles or New York City. I have found my voice through film and I hope to inspire current students who are still in the same legal situation. Trust the process and never give up.