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​​This story was originally published on The Mash-Up Americans.

“When you are in this house, you are in Nigeria; when you are outside of these doors, you are in the USA.”

This was a common refrain from my dad. He and my mom immigrated to the U.S. from Lagos in the '80s to finish university. I was the first in my family to be born in the U.S. — but I lived in an alternate Nigerian-American reality. As a child of Nigerian immigrants growing up in Chicago, code-switching was an art form.


It was particularly tough when it came to school. In a Nigerian household, education is everything. Religion and education are the panacea for all problems. There was no challenge that a Holy book, or a math book, couldn’t solve. School in Nigeria isn’t about making friends or varsity sports or prom queens. It is about putting your head down and studying. The overarching theme is: Work now, play later. By labor comes wealth.

Boyede Sobitan in his happy place. Image via The Mash-Up Americans.

In American schools, fitting in and making friends is of utmost importance. As an African kid in the Midwest with foreign parents — suffice to say that Hollywood did not help me meet those goals.

I love Eddie Murphy, but the movie “Coming to America,” was the worst thing that could have happened to many African immigrants in the '80s and '90s. The accents. The outfits. Everything was terrible, and everybody I met at school thought that’s what my family was like too. Did we have animals walking around our house? The never-ending jokes about what things were like in “Zamunda!” Then there were those awful Christian Children’s Fund ads with the starving African children and constant images of Africa as a place of strife and famine.

Being African was not cool.

Image via iStock.

Food was always a solace, at least at home. But not at school. Try explaining an African meal to an American child in the '80s.

While other kids were eating bologna sandwiches, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Capri Sun, I was eating white rice, egusi stew, and stewed goat meat, my favorite.

To me, it was food. Not only was it food, it was great food. I never noticed the difference in smell between my meals and the other kids’ meals. I thought African food was downright fragrant. In Nigeria, food from home is always the best. But to my American counterparts, it was pungent and offensive, which led to a lot of isolation.

“That’s monkey food, “ or “Is that was what they eat in Africa?” were common retorts. The immense level of shame I felt didn’t go unnoticed at home — where, of course, we were Nigerian through and through.

“Why are you not eating?” my mom would often ask.

“I want some pizza, Ma.”

My mother’s response? To look at me incredulously and snap: “Pizza ko, lasagna ni!” In other words, “You don’t want pizza. You want lasagna!” followed by a hiss. This is a common comeback for many Yoruba people. My mom’s stance was: “If you don’t eat this rice, you won’t eat.” Meals quickly transformed from my favorite time of day to a nightmare.

After a few years, though, the ice began to thaw between me and my classmates — or the jollof began to bridge the gap, as the case may be.

Image via iStock.

Thanksgiving played a huge part in this. It celebrates common values that both Americans and Africans hold dear — faith, family, and food. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. We’ve adopted the traditional turkey. But we have included sides like Nigerian salad, moi-moi, jollof rice, fried rice (not the Asian form), and dodo, or fried plantain.

Finally, my two cultures began to merge.

I loved when my “American” friends came over, and I could articulate what we were eating and its significance to my culture. At home, I was in a safe place. My friends were on my territory. I didn’t have to go to the corner to enjoy my food. I could eat my fried goat meat with stuffing or jollof rice with a turkey drumstick. It was, truly, my American dream.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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