It was the 58th anniversary of Uganda’s Independence recently and naturally, I was reflecting on what that means for me and for Uganda. I was trying to figure out how I could celebrate as someone in the diaspora both in a meaningful and in a fun way, (because 2020 will not come and kill me). The fun of it was the easy bit, but my spirit didn’t feel settled with that one dimension alone. Previously, I battled with this particular intersection of my identity. Was I Ugandan enough if I spoke broken Luganda? Was I Ugandan enough if I didn’t know Ugandan history? What did it even mean to be Ugandan? The person I was—am, someone whose ideas around respectability politics, gender roles, sexuality, femininity and so on, differed from my understanding of general Ugandan society, was there even a space for me? Although I yearned to embrace Uganda, would it embrace me back?
At present, I have become much more comfortable with my identity. I am who I am and no one can take that away from me. However, as we have painfully learned, healing and growth is rarely linear. Sometimes, I remember some of the ways I used to bully myself in my childhood, wanting to assimilate in a culture that would only accept me if I skinned myself, or believed that whiteness was better, that learning a skewed version of the Slave Trade was all I needed to know of Black history, and that any resulting anxiety was because I was wrong and would never be what is right. So, with the celebration of the independence from British colonial rule (at least in the physical sense), what does this mean for me? As I write this, I think perhaps it’s simply a celebration of myself, as a Ugandan girl in the diaspora, who doesn’t speak Luganda fluently, who is still learning Ugandan history, who is still trying to find her space in the diasporic Ugandan society. A celebration of reclaiming a part of my identity that was muddied by internalised anti-blackness, colonial thought and white supremacist education.
The question of who one is, is something I imagine is explored for the duration of one’s life. So, although events in my life have forced me to come face to face with myself, and hold myself tightly, despite my own struggling, now is the clearest I’ve ever seen me. Therefore, from the 58th Independence Day, I celebrate the independence of me and of Uganda. I celebrate continuing to stitch who I am back together and loving the scars left behind.