Late last week, I was informed that I would not be able to travel to Dubai for an important meeting scheduled months ago.
Like other countries across the globe, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) halted travel for those with Guinean, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean passports during the height of the Ebola outbreak. It has not lifted these restrictions.
The miniature red suitcase I had packed lay abandoned on my wooden floor. I caressed my dark green Liberian passport as if to reassure this inanimate marker of identity that my citizenship was not on trial here.
When I was ten years old I attended a sleepaway camp outside of Nacogdoches, Texas, where I told a few hundred people, with great pleasure, that my name was Bernice, not Wayétu. My family had only emigrated from Liberia five years prior, and for two weeks I basked in the glorious trope of American normalcy; a name like Bernice was proper, distinct, pronounceable.
When I arrived home my father probed about my time away. After some banter he asked me: “What is your name?” I was caught. When he was finally content with my repetitions, he said “You must always be proud of who you are. Be proud of Africa.”