Ashrakat Hassan ’24 is a sophomore Politics major and African American Studies minor.
“The thing that’s very interesting about being a part of a diaspora is that I’ve only been to Sudan once before. So as much as that’s where I’m from, I do kind of have this mini identity crisis of who I am, and where I’m from. And I will always claim Sudan no matter what, but it’s hard when you’re so far away from there. The culture and traditions are kind of far removed from you. And there are people that are so much closer to their country than I am because they go to visit every summer. So, it can feel a bit isolating, and a bit different. But whenever I’m back there, I’m like, this is home, this is where I’m from.
Both of my parents are from the Eastern part of Sudan, in the countryside. When they were coming to the States, they had a transition period in Cairo—and that’s where I was born. We moved here when I was a baby, and have lived in Clarkston, Georgia ever since.
The thing about being an immigrant is that even when you try not to assimilate, it’s kind of forced upon you. You wear different things; you look a different way. Now, all that ties my family to Sudan is our DNA, sometimes the media that we consume, the music we hear, and the food we eat. That can be very disappointing and depressing. But it’s a product of being an immigrant—it’s hard to hold on to something millions of miles away from you. But my parents make every effort to cook the foods they ate as kids, dress us up in clothes from back home, and make sure we talk to family as often as we can. It’s nothing like the real thing, but it’s all we’ve got.
My younger brothers were both born in the States. But when we went to visit Sudan, they were much more immersed in the culture than I was—but I think that was just because I was 13 and being a little bit of a brat. Hard time going through puberty when you don’t know the culture, miss the luxuries of home, and miss your dad.
But it was interesting to see how immersed they were. They really enjoyed seeing the Nubian pyramids, going to the markets, playing with our farm animals. They had a much richer connection to being home. Because I’m the one who speaks Arabic best, I’m the one who watches Arabic shows. For me, that’s the one connection that I have to my culture. Whereas for them being born here, they’re American, in the full sense of the word. So, I think for them, it was just like, desert, sand, donkey! But for me—my identity is there and due to my age and everything else I feel like it was harder to appreciate it. If I were to go back, say, tomorrow, the trip would mean the world to me. Sudan isn’t just where I’m from, it’s who I am.
I don’t want to say that there’s a disconnect between Africans and African Americans. Because if anything, I feel like that will divide us as a community even more. But being an American descendent of slaves versus an African immigrant…the experience is the same, in some ways, but different in other respects. We’re treated the same way in terms of face value, like skin color, right? But in terms of being at home, with Thanksgiving dinner and everything—my family, we don’t do that.
It’s a very different world and experience, but there are things that unite black people in America. And I think that learning about that is important to me, to understand their experiences and how they’re different from mine. If anything, it’s why learning more about Sudanese culture is imperative to me; learning about the culture of my fellow Black folks here is just as important as learning about my fellow Sudanese people back home.
That’s why I added an African American studies minor. Because these conversations need to be had, and I just wasn’t having them before in grade school. It’s really interesting to get an in-depth look at history, and I love those classes so much. Disciplines where students can get closer to other cultures and histories can also mean learning more about their own. I’m doing my honors thesis on Sudan and the coup that occurred this past year and several years ago. Each day I’m learning something new about Sudan and myself and I’m so thankful to Oglethorpe for giving me that opportunity.”