For most of my life, I was told I don’t belong...

For most of my life, I was told I don’t belong.

My family came from what is now known as South Sudan to Canada as refugees in 1992. Growing up in Saskatchewan, I was always told by the other kids (and their parents) that I didn’t belong because of my dark skin, my hair and accent. I was always told I was too “Canadian” to be African. I was told by Canadians that I was too “African” to be Canadian. As harsh as those comments were, the one that devastated me the most was being told that I did not look South Sudanese enough to be South Sudanese... because of my skin tone, my height or the way that I spoke. I spent so much of my life trying to fit in to one group or another that I nearly lost my true identity. Now, I am my own blend of both cultures!

There are over 60 different tribes in South Sudan, each with their own unique facial features, heights, skin tones, languages, hair types, traditions and much more. With such diversity, I find it shocking that much of the world- including South Sudanese themselves- subscribe to the belief that South Sudanese look only one way. We’re all beautiful in our own unique ways and we all belong to a country that needs us to unite and strive hard to build it up.

I am so grateful for organisations like South Sudan Unite, who help bring South Sudanese together to discuss these issues and help to build an inclusive community. I’m excited to be joining the conference from July 19th to 21st in Minnesota.

I’m also grateful for South Sudanese owned businesses like Gatluak’s Hidden Jewelry for creating beautiful pieces that help build pride in who we are. When I got my ROSS necklace, I felt like I received a little piece of home!

To all the South Sudanese out there: you are beautiful; you are strong; you belong!

Stay blessed & united!