Passion for theatre, music, and liberal arts, and talents in cosmetology, fashion designing, or media have never been options as careers for African parents’ children. In fact, African parents endlessly drill the exact opposite to their kids; influencing careers as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, or therapists as long as it falls under the umbrella of medicine. Additionally, they sometimes influence that they become lawyers, accountants, and whatever else they view to be concrete money making careers. Interestingly enough, they have already concluded for you your destiny as a doctor. Expressing their goals for you begins not as a youngster in primary or secondary school; instead it begins before your parents even know you. Whether it be in the first, second, or third trimester in their pregnancy, rest assured they confidently bragged to their friends, co workers, and family that the baby who lies in their womb will be the world’s future doctor.
This attitude is very typical of African parents- close-minded, and viewing few fields as acceptable because their own life experiences led them to believe the health/medical field is the guaranteed path to plenty money, thus spending much of their child’s life up until early adulthood forcing their wants upon them. However for some children, they eventually take left field; chasing their own dreams and not their parents, choosing a career other than one in the medical field.
I can remember an unpleasant moment, when my young cousin told his mother that he wants to be an artist. However, his mother seemed embarrassed by his expression despite her knowledge of his interest. His mom was especially embarrassed because it was said in front of my Nigerian parents and other family members in our home. She told him, “You can become an artist after getting your degree in medicine.” I laughed. I told her it was okay that he wants to be an artist because his passion for it will take him far, but with her success as a pharmacist she wasn’t a believer.
Unfortunately, I can certainly relate to his experience as my own are very similar. Finalizing my choice to major in Africana studies in college did not settle well with my parents. They were angry that I did not follow through with Anesthesiology. After all, it’s what they have been pressuring me to do even though I was never interested in it. I simply was not gifted in the sciences nor was it something that came naturally. As I matured and began thinking for myself, I became real with what my true passions were and therefore I declared it as my major in school. Initially the support of my parents was non-existent. They constantly doubted how I would fair pursuing African studies in school, questioning what type of living I would make for myself and tried to change my mind, though it was already made up. They are not completely supportive of my career choice and at times they even mention I should take courses in biology and anatomy incase I choose the health field all over again, though I assure them there is no possibility of that happening.
Nigerian examples like playwright and Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, dancer Ade Obayomi, and recording artist Laura Izibor are all successful because of their determination. They have proven that with focus and drive, Africans can make plenty of money pursuing careers in other fields, like in the arts and entertainment. Much like them, African children with desires of being actors, musicians, and writers prove their determination as their parent’s witness. Very often their doubt turns into joy, reaping the financial benefits of their successful children.
By: Ashley I. Okonkwo
Photo Credit: http://www.adaid.org.uk/diaspora.html