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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chi

Fieldwork Had Me in My Feelings

July 2019, I was in Chicago conducting in-depth interviews with Africans working as registered nurses or in nursing school. I called a Lyft to take me to an interview on the Southside. The driver today was a man named B***** a thin dark-skinned man with a straight nose. He discussed how Uptown is the area where historically Nigerians would migrate to initially and then once they became settled, they would move on to other areas of the city. He said that Uptown historically was where many undocumented Nigerians live and that once they got their papers, they’d move elsewhere.

He said that back in the day, decades ago, Nigerians worked together more. He said that it is mostly gone now, except among the Igbos who have more solidarity. (Everyone always thinks the other groups have more solidarity.) He said there are not enough events for kids and that his son never wanted anything to do with Nigerian culture until he went away to U of I. He knew about the history of NAPA being originally for public servants and then moving to professionals in general. However, there is nothing pan-Nigerian, which he really wants and thinks is important.

He also said a lot of other things. It was a really uncomfortable moment that made me feel small. That conversation inspired a poem that I wrote four years later.

The Disappearing Aunties

Got to get a green card

Got to get a green card

“Go to the West side.

That’s where you will find them.

They are dumb over there.

Say you’re in love with them.

They believe anything.”

He chuckles. I am stunned.

But he’s older, wiser.


Is the Southside too smart?

Is that how I met them?

Sarah. Mariah. More

Elders yet not aunties?

First name without title?

And I spoke without fear

They can’t isolate me

With language like others

The aunties and uncles


I got to speak to them

They did not roll their eyes

I played with their kids too

Uncle was not the dad.

Baby came, bundle of joy

Made sure I heard small-small

“America spoils them.”

“Women have too many rights.”

In English not Igbo

I push back. As did she.

The end of the new life.

She who hits last hits best

“Cause Westside doesn’t play.”

So she got half they say

Goodbye Mariah. Sarah.

Uncle is mad. Going back home.

Fresh goods on sale for cheap.

“ATM wife only.”

Others need not apply

That’s where you will find them.

They are dumb over there.

Say you’re in love with them.

They believe anything.

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