I will raise my head high wherever I go
Because of my African pride,
And nobody will take that away from me.”
― Idowu Koyenikan
It was Katherine’s birthday on the 11th of May, but she had traveled to Uganda so we didn’t get to celebrate on the day. I love celebrating birthdays and tend to go all out for my friends and family. A friend and I decided to organize a small surprise lunch, luring Katherine out of her room by pretending I needed her help for a photo-shoot in the park. While Katherine and I had friends in common, we had never really had everyone we knew in one space. So apart from just worrying about getting the birthday girl out of her room, I was anxious about people actually turning up. Little did we know that this would be the beginning of something great. The get-together turned out to be a small African Union as our group had people from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and yours truly, Zimbabwe.
While we indulged in the delicious red velvet cake, conversations sparked -from politics and sport to the complexities of relationships – what do men/women really want?? Everyone took turns at picking the music and it was interesting to hear how much music we knew (or didn’t) from each country or region. I was pleasantly surprised when my Ugandan friends played and sang along to Todii and Neria by Oliver Mtukudzi. Basking in the precious sun in Regents Park, I felt at home surrounded by a group of like-minded, young, talented and ambitious Africans. Being an international student is no easy feat – navigating through cultural differences is a slow process and sometimes you just miss being around people who understand where you are coming from. As we each shared anecdotes on our experiences in London, laughing over bland food and complaining about the cold, I realized that although the party had been to celebrate Kate’s special day, it had turned out to be a special day for all of us. We found comfort in each other as Africans, bonded by bad governance, rigged elections and corruption. We could easily talk about black tax and the challenges of surviving on a scholarship allowance. We reminisced about the sun that we took for granted back home and shared tips on where to get ingredients for spicy African dishes. That afternoon I learned so much about different African countries – the people, the tribes, the politics, the jokes – stories that the BBC, CNN or Aljezeera never cover.
As the sun set on one of the best days of my time in London, it dawned on us that this was just the beginning. That afternoon was the beginning of friendships that will probably last for a lifetime. What started just a birthday celebration turned out to be one of the first of many bonding sessions with African students in London. It was the birth of my African Union.