Being an immigrant or the child of an immigrant can force you to confront your identity in ways others may never have to. But have you ever considered what it is like to be biracial with immigrant parents? Being biracial means you have mixed ancestry of two or more races. In the 2010 US census, approximately 9 million individuals, self-identified as “multiracial.” Since then, that number has gone up. We sat down with Jamal Ofori, an NFL hopeful, to discuss what his experience being Ghanaian and biracial is like. Here is what we learned.
"My name is Jamal Ofori. My father and his whole side of the family are from Accra, Ghana. My mom is Canadian. She tells me her family comes from the native Indians in Canada. She was born and raised in Newfoundland. I was born in Canada." Jamal tells us that he and his father have a close relationship. "Growing up, he and my mom made sure I lived a happy life no matter where we lived," he says. From the sound of it, Jamal's parents did everything they could to steer him in the right direction. Like most parents, they tried to keep their child out of trouble as best as they could. They would encourage him to see the value in himself. He says that his dad and his friends would always tell him "You are a star." Jamal's parents are probably a lot like yours, but his family experience is probably a lot different from yours.
"I am biracial, so when people ask me what I am, I usually tell them that I am mixed with African and white," he tells us. It is clear to us that Jamal values everything that makes him who he is. He told us that, he "feels very connected to my Ghanaian heritage." He says that he always loved the food, the culture, and the music. "My dad made sure that I spent time with a lot of our Ghanaian family members," Jamal told our team. He said he visited Ghana when I was about 9 years old. The experience appears to have been transformative for him. It sounded like access to his roots helped him understand the country, its culture, and the people so much more. In other interviews we learned that, seeing how much a loved on respects their culture can pushed a child to respect it as well. It sounds like he began to see his father's Ghanaian ancestry as my own early on. It wasn’t always that easy though. Jamal faced some bullying growing up, but he assures us that none of it stopped him from being "comfortable being African."
Jamal says he experienced some bullying for being African. He says that even his own friends would "make fun of my last name and the fact that I was African." There was name calling, comments about his full name, and they’d even try to make him feel weird whenever they’d see other Africans. "It hurt a lot back then, but none of it ever stopped me from being comfortable being African," he stressed. He knew who he was. He says that even his dad endured some bullying. "My dad went through the same thing at his work too," he told us. No one should be bullied for having a different culture. When you're a kid, society calls it bullying and when you get older, you realize it is prejudice and racism. Things aren’t that way for Jamal anymore. While the bullying did impact him, he still became confident in his identity.
From our conversation with Jamal, we can tell that he has always valued being Ghanaian and he continues to embrace that part of his identity today. He told us that a reconnection with his birth country (Canada) may have helped solidified his identity even more. Jamal says that, along with a trip to Ghana, he visited Canada when he was younger. He says that, he recently spent time in Canada because his "family moved back and [he] decided to continue college out there." He mentioned the difference between Canada and the US and it seems he couldn't overlook it. According to Jamal, "the people were different much nicer, different accents - which [are] not American accents...the money was colored - which was new and different, [and] also the Fahrenheit to Celsius change was interesting." He says that It was a different experience than he was accustom to in the US. It sounds like leaving the US taught him a lot about himself, his family, and what it means to be confident in his identity. Canada is different from the US and from past interviews we know that no immigrant experience is the same in either country. "Overall I got a new look on how people can live that was not the same from where I grew up," he says. Our interview with Jamal taught us a few things about race, identity, and culture. Being biracial hasn't made Jamal any less Ghanaian or any less Canadian. His isn't half of either background. He is full of both. But his connectivity with his roots is a choice. It is a choice that everyone should be able to make. We love the parts of Jamal that make him who he is and we need to learn to celebrate people for who they chose to be instead of the boxes we want them to fit in. This type of acceptance isn't just for immigrants. It is for everyone because we all have decisions to make about who we want to be and what we want to be connected to. Let's celebrate our differences and become confident in our identity.
Jamal hopes to play football professionally in the NFL and to own his own studio where he will handle production for his media businesses. Stay connected with Jamal:
Personal Instagram: @jamalofori