My name is Amy Benson and I currently reside on the island of O’ahu in Hawai’i. My family’s country of origin is Nigeria. My mother is Igbo and my father is Yoruba. My family came to the states in 1984. Shortly thereafter, I was born in Alabama.
I grew up in a Nigerian household, in the black American projects, ghettos, and communities in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up, I was always too African for my black American friends and not African enough for my family back in Nigeria. I believe there is still a cultural gap between black Americans and Africa, due to the diaspora, white supremacy, and the lack of knowledge and information about Africa in general.
I’ve always been adventurous. However, growing up, that adventure was seen as rebellious. Especially, in a Nigerian household. Although then, there were consequences, it later fueled my desire for travel, exploration, and adventure.
Four years ago, I bought a one way ticket to Honolulu, Hawai’i. I had never visited Hawai’i before and knew very little about Hawai’i, only the hula girl and surfers that they had shown on television and in film.
Before I arrived in Hawai’i, I didn’t know what to expect. I just felt in my heart it was time to leave. I had grown weary of superficiality. My mind felt as if it was deteriorating. I felt I had outgrown people, my environment, and could no longer entertain fictional expectations. I was tired.
I craved mental, physical, and spiritual replenishment. Whether Hawai’i would deliver, I hadn’t the slightest clue but I had to find out.
It wasn’t until my abrupt decision to move to Hawai’i, that I begun studying and reading about Hawai’ian history. The history sounded very familiar. Their history was parallel to those of the African diaspora and it intrigued me immensely. Their struggle of oppression and colonization, shares many similarities of black people both in the past and present.
Being black in Hawai’i has been refreshing. Being black in Hawai’i has not felt like a hindrance but instead the complete opposite. Hawai’i, unlike the mainland, doesn’t remind you that you’re black everyday. Hawai’i is a mix of many cultures, ethnicities, and races, mostly those of color. White people are not the majority. It does not have an ethnic majority and with its history, I can understand why. Hawai’i has a history of immigrants from Asia and other parts of the world, from long ago. Whether it had been for labor then and/or opportunity now. This contributes to the majority being multiracial.
Although, black people make up a small and I mean very small percentage in Hawai’i, our presence is appreciated, felt and welcomed.
Our brown Hawaiian brothers and sisters stand with us in our continued fight, as we do in theirs. We stand in solidarity. Day to day.
There’s no typical day for me in Hawai’i. It’s currently 6 am and the roosters are crowing outside my window of my home in one of O’ahu’s most sacred valleys. The sun has awakened and is slowly starting its day. When I make my way downstairs for my cup of tea that I’ll enjoy on the lanai, my neighbor Uncle Bill will be watering his plants and we’ll talk story. Because here in Hawai’i, you actually know your neighbors, their names, and even their birthdays. You also refer to your elders as Auntie and Uncle as a token of respect, similar to Nigerian culture.
Beside the roosters and birds, it will be pure silence in the valley. A hollow, calming silence. In this moment, a gratitude session will take place in your mind and heart. You are thankful.
Later, as you slither through traffic, to avoid getting stuck behind “Da Bus”, the keiki and kupuna will be loading as they head to school or doctor appointments. Out the windows of vehicles you’ll see shaka hand gestures being thrown to say thank you as you allow them to pass in front of you.
By now the sun is fully awake as it moves with the sounds of the island reggae coming from car speakers.
Work doesn’t feel like work. Your work ohana has shown up with malasadas, manapuas, and musubi to share with everyone for breakfast. We make the time pass talking story. On lunch, as you walk to the wagon to get a lunch plate, or your poke, the sun will be shining brighter than ever.
We work to live, not live to work.
After work is pau (finished). One pau hana (finished work) will commence. You’ll meet at your favorite sunset spot to enjoy yet another masterpiece in the sky. You’ll reflect. Those sunsets remind me everyday that moving here was the best decision of my life.
On the weekends, we adventure. Beach barbecues, camping, hiking, surfing, farming, community projects, diving, fishing.
Hawai’i has rearranged pieces of me that I didn’t even realize were broken. I don’t know how I’ll EVER repay her. If you ever find yourself in the Pacific, please reach out. In the meantime, until you get here, follow me on Instagram at @amybeezay. ️