In Their Own Words

THIS IS MY STORY  //  by Brian Orakpo

THIS IS MY STORY // by Brian Orakpo

My parents are from Lagos, Nigeria. They came here with the American dream, wanting a better life. And I have to say that's exactly what they gave me. 

My dad's brother left Nigeria first and my parents followed. There was – and still is – a big Nigerian population in Houston. 

At first they ran a Nigerian food store. They brought their culture to Houston, to that community. That's how we first got started, how we made a living. Eventually both my parents were able to go to college and get their education at Texas Southern University.

My neighborhood in Houston was pretty balanced. You had your good side and your bad side. You had two parent households, like mine, and one parent households. You had a bunch of kids doing the wrong stuff, a bunch of kids doing the right stuff.

My parents made sure I was one of the kids doing the right stuff.

I just remember they worked from morning until night. There were times when they wouldn't come home until real late when we were all asleep – my brother, sister and I. 

I knew things were different in my family and we were definitely discriminated against as immigrants. Just for being different. My parents are fluent in Igbo, one of the native languages in their home country. They speak English but with an accent, and when people see your last name it's an automatic trigger.

But that's stuff you just have to overcome. I never thought about it twice, never looked back. 

That's one thing I want to make sure I pass on to my kids: the idea that you can come from anywhere and still have an opportunity to succeed. My parents came here to America to make a better life for themselves and their family, and that's exactly what they did.

I think we need to get back there as a country, back to appreciating our differences. Regardless of our backgrounds or how we look, we all bring different things to the table. 

To me, the son of Nigerian immigrants, that's the backbone of this country. All of us coming together to be successful no matter what your background is, no matter your race, religion or gender. We all want the same opportunity to better our lives.

I tell my kids to appreciate your upbringing, appreciate where you are right now. The way my parents grew up, they didn't have it so easy. And they raised me to be as responsible and mature as possible. 

I want to raise my kids the same way. I want them to be responsible and mature, and accepting of all different kinds of people. 

Like me, a Nigerian and an American.

Brian Orakpo

This is My Story // Brian Orakpo