Photo courtesy of Julie Oni
English Professor Julie Oni juggles her roles as a playwright, professor and parent while also trying to understand her dual cultural identities as a Black American and a Nigerian woman.
“We come from different backgrounds and different traditions, and so it was something that I was interested in investigating was the kind of lack of total understanding between those two communities,” Oni said.
To comprehend the breakdown in these communities, Oni has had to separate her two identities.
As a Black woman, Oni has developed an understanding of the ways she has withstood struggle. The plays she writes address that struggle and work against the stigmas society often assigns to Black women. Through her writing and characters, Oni said she feels comfortable talking about her struggle and knows others can connect with and appreciate it.
“I’ve realized through my career as a writer, that the more honest you are about whatever challenges you have, the more of a response that you can gain from your audience,” Oni said.
She said she uses her own experience to outline what it looks like to be Black and connect Black people to one another and other people of color.
“I feel that responsibility as a Black American to share the stories of our struggle and share the stories of our joy,” Oni said.
Her roots as a Nigerian come from her father, but Oni is still figuring out her connection to her Nigerian identity. She said she hones in on the universal African diaspora intertwined in Nigerian culture.
“I feel a very strong connection to people who are saying I wasn’t born and raised on the continent but have these roots in my body,” Oni said. “I need to figure out a way to kind of deal with what that means right. And for me, I feel like part of that is in my writing.”
Despite having two cultural identities, there is only one Julie Oni. As she finds self-discovery, Oni informs others that their “story is perfect paradise; share it and we will see ourselves in you.”
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