A Walk Down Memory Lane

The Key Consulting Firm is about providing thoughtful, individualized, and culturally-informed service with the understanding that culture is both foundational and embedded in all aspects of development. I think the best way to begin is to tell you about my background. I am a first-generation American born child of African immigrants. While my parents were both from Togo, I was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA – Philly.  At a young age, I first noticed educational disparities between communities. For example, there were stark differences between schools in Haverford and King of Prussia and the schools available to me in Philly. While I noticed those differences, I could not understand why they existed. My understanding of those differences did not come until much later in life because I was spending time learning how to straddle multiple unique worlds – different culture.

Socialization is such an interesting part of how children develop. I laugh when I say that I learned how to code-switch (i.e., how to effectively apply the rules of a specific culture and effortlessly glide back and forth between differing cultures) at age 2, before I even knew what code-switching existed. Probably more like age 5 or 6, I just know that can’t remember a time when code-switching wasn’t a part of who I am. Code-switching has been invaluable to me, but it came with its early struggles. The culture of my school differed from the culture I knew at home. At school, we drank milk with full meals. No one thought it was strange. However, at home with my African mother, I remember her firmly stating, “We don’t drink milk with dinner!” We also didn’t use our left hands at the dinner table, a rule that was ingrained in my mother from a time when the left hand – the dirty hand, was only to be used for toileting. I was simultaneously learning the rules of being a Black American, while also learning the rules of being African – Togolese.

Cheyney University

Then came the Black card at Cheyney University, the oldest Historically Black College or University (HBCU).  In Black culture, the Black card is an affectionate way to measure how much a person knows and subscribes to Black culture. It’s like the invisible membership card. I’ve had this proverbial Black card given and taken away from me so many times. Cheyney unlocked this cultural assertion for me, but also presented a whole new world. Learning the Black card existed and that I could say or do things to prove my Blackness or show that I am African, was priceless. I was exposed to the richness of Black culture, and to subcultures within the Black community (e.g., Black and Caribbean, Black and wealthy, Black and never met any White people, Black and only grew up with White people, Black and European etc.). It was like, ‘Wow! I grew up Black, but they’re subtle differences between subcultures of the Black existence.’ That was powerful! I became Blacker because of Cheyney; I learned what it means to be Black in America.

Bowie State University

Then came Bowie State University.  My experience at Bowie State warrants its own blog so stay tuned for more about the impact of culture on my educational pursuits leading to the start of The Key Consulting Firm.
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