When I was about 15 years old, I was watching the news with Papa. I had been living in Australia for 8 years, and I’d read more books than I could count. I had completely fallen in love with the English language, and I couldn’t wait to grow up and use what I’d learned in a setting befitting someone who loved words.
I remember watching the way the news lady spoke; her pronunciation, annunciations and the technique she used in front of the camera. The lady was well dressed, and looked professional and calm.
Without looking at him, I remember pointing to the screen and saying, “Papa I want to be on the news, like her.”
I wasn’t expecting his reaction. Papa was firstly very surprised at what I’d said. Maybe because it was out of the blue. What he said next, I will never forget.
“It won’t be easy. Have you ever seen a black reporter on the news? Maybe in America, but definitely not in Australia.”
At this point I had abandoned the screen and was staring intently at him, waiting for an explanation.
In hindsight, there was nothing false about his statement. I had never seen an African reporter, not even an African weather person. All the women I’d ever seen had straight hair, western features and a white complexion.
Papa must have caught me staring, because he looked at me and laughingly said, “Then again, if not you, then who?”
Papa probably thought that I’d grow out of this dream. Only a few months before I’d told him I’d become a psychologist, like him. Before that, I’d claimed that I was going to become a writer. And just as he thought, I never spoke about journalism, or news, ever again.
A few months ago, I saw the first African person on Australian news. If it wasn’t for my sister, who always believed in me, I would have missed this shooting star. My sister saw her delivering the news and called me from work. She was so excited, she was yelling at me to turn the television on. I watched her in awe — someone had finally done it. An African was on the news, and not just as the headline, but as the reporter.
Watching her made me believe that I could do it, too. Lo and behold — I recently applied for a double degree in Law and Media and Communications for the next semester.
Whoever said representation matters wasn’t wrong. It takes someone seeing themselves live their dream to spark something; just like it took me seeing that one African woman on the news to truly begin my journey.
(Featured Artwork: Christella Bijou)