This poem by Ekhlas Ahmed is part of an art exhibition at Cove Street Arts in Portland by the same name. The January issue of Amjambo Africa will include an article about the show, which runs through January 16.


by Ekhlas Ahmed

I am an American.
Today, not someday.
Inserting my authentic African self in every city, every state, and every history book that has been written.
I am an American.
Not because I was born here.
But because my heart, my soul, my sorrows, and my future promises are buried deep
down into the soil and concrete of this nation.
Yes, I am an American.
Not because I speak English.
But because my tongue knows how to roar in many languages,
knows how to comprehend, read, and rewrite the stories that haven’t been written.
I am an American.
Not because I drink my morning coffee with a little cream but because I drink it dark,
just like how I was taught in the motherland.
With every sip I take tasting the bitterness of my experiences.
I am an American.
Not because I take the subway to my place of work, but because I have walked miles on
stones to find my final destination that I call home.
I am an American.
Not because I wear a T-shirt and pants but because I wear my Abaya and hijab proudly
with no fear.
Not sitting at the dining room table or eating from one plate, it’s the floor in the center
of our living room that has become our threshold.
Our Thanksgiving meal does not include turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, but expect fufu and plantains to be at the center of our meal.
I am an American not because my father fought in the Civil War that eventually ended
but because he, I, and many others still have cut open wounds with no medication or a
plan for a renewal healing.
My eyes cry for my America while my feet dance to my African beats.
Holding on to home on the tip of my tongue.
Sewing this diverse piece of fabric of my many identities,
leaving each needle to write its own story.
I am an American.