Black Voices at UBC: Afro-Canadian Diaries

Wagwan bro, it's Esther. I've been told to describe myself in my journal by my therapist. I’ve been slinking around my micro-suite ever since graduation — uni tings, ahem — and now I ruminate on my next move.

I'm Black obviously. You can tell by my biblical name and my use of Jamaican Patois known as Toronto Slang by the Liberaliqua's. I'm not Jamaican or from Toronto for that matter, but I still use it. Caribbean-Canadians, if you want to use that as ammo for the ongoing Diaspora Wars — refer to your Black friend for further information — then go ahead.

I'll rebut by saying you're spiritually ashy and then give you "abeg" as a piece offering — refer to your highly melanated compadre for more information. I'm Nigerian-Canadian, African-Canadian, Afro-Canadian or whatever the oyinbo yutes want to call us today. I think they settled on Black Canadians because it's easier. So, I'm a Black Canadian from Forest Lawn, a neighbourhood in Calgary deemed by suburbans as the trenches just because you might see the occasional sex worker and what the mandem might call a crackhead. I smoke weed the way stay-at-home moms guzzle boxed wine so no judgment.

As most POC stories go, I'm a child of an immigrant and my parents came here looking for a better life and blah, blah, blah. I know that's what the multicultural'shaquans want me to say but let's skip to the racism — just kidding, but am I? Anyways, I graduated from UBC, formally known as the University of British Columbia, informally as U'd think there would Be more people of Colour with all them damn POCs on the recruitment ads. If it wasn't for the Black Student Union, my only Black friends would be the frat boys that think Black Pete is a cultural icon — how do I sing diversity in Dutch?

Enough about my all my life I had to fight origin story — refer to your hickory-brown compatriot for more information. Back to what I look like.

I have medium to small traditional-style box braids with curly ends because that's the vibe right now or, at least in Vancouver. If you ever see a Black girl with a durag tied to the side with fake eyelashes heavier than student loan debt then you know she's from Toronto — I decided to be your Hershey's Kiss-coloured confidant this time.

I dress differently for every occasion. The theme is what do the suburbans deem as not suspicious? Clearly, that's a trick question — at least in West Van or for those whose Black friends don't consist of the help. And yes, Melanie, the Trinidadian woman that waxes your balls counts — I pray the only one that didn't get that joke was Dave Chappelle. For work, I look like Liz Lemon from 30 Rock but, on the block, English-Canadian Karens ask me if I'm a rapper whereas French-Canadian Karens say Sacre bleu! For a coloured woman, you can really dress, how you say, litty! Like Beyonce or Madea! I think the Blacks say “yas, Queen!” Needless to say, I usually got on a trackie or some forces — refer to your Hennessy-flavoured Nubian homie for more information.

I can't cook jollof rice to save my life. Instead, I cook what I call bootleg jollof. I combine gentrified fried rice with No Name tomato paste and hit it with a dash of Walmart's Cool Runnings Jamaican curry. Side note: Let Cool Runnings go, white people. That movie came out 30 years ago and Caribbeans hate it 'till this day. And no, using your Jafakin' accent won't save you this time. You sound like a leprechaun who just found out they’re a transracial Jamaican. Oi! Those wasteyutes are after my rice and peas! Headass — refer to your mahogany tinted playmate for more information.

To wrap this up, I'll tell you about my hobbies.

I go on long walks and listen to audiobooks. I listen to authors like Tina Fey, Charlamagne tha God and the scholars behind Critical Race Theory, the 3rd Edition. Don't tell the Conserva'lashawns that information though. Or I'll disappear faster than the Raptor's chance of ever winning another championship — Siri, play 'I Will Remember You' while I scroll through Kawhi Leonard's Instagram.

All in all, I'm just Esther.

Stephanie Okoli is a third-year creative writing student, author and CEO of Daalu Media, a virtual safe space where Black Canadians can laugh and learn.

Black Voices at UBC is an open-form column publishing work by Black writers in UBC’s student community. If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to