There are times I asked myself if I made the worse decision by relocating to the USA from Nigeria. As an African gay man, living here gives me high blood pressure and makes me scared of the unknown.

Every day in the news, we hear of someone black being killed by police or other violence. So, imagine being black, from Africa, a refugee and gay living in the south side of Chicago which happens to be one of the worse cites in the USA for high death rates of black folks in the country.

I remember my first day in Chicago. I took the red line train going south and when we had gone far enough south, I realized we were all black on the train. I quickly asked my host, “why are we suddenly all black in the train?” He responded “welcome to the city of Chicago where segregation based on color is very common.”

I have seen several American movies and listened to stories of how America is like heaven on earth but seeing the south side of Chicago made me question if I really was in the USA or just dreaming. On the south side, there are lots of abandoned buildings, people living in poverty, and most surprising, fewer grocery stores close by. I became very curious and really wanted to know more and also got me thinking about why a city would be divided into different parts based on color or race.

One faithful day, I decided to take the train to the north side of Chicago where I realized that majority of the folks who live there are white. At this point, I became less concerned about my sexuality but nervous about the segregation. My first set back was when I heard about the several killings of black folks mostly in the south side which is where I am living. I was so scared because I am black and also an African. For me, I felt I could be a victim one day because of my skin color. There are times people look at me in strange ways which makes me feel like I am not welcome.

I came to America to be safe as a gay man but now I feel at risk here as a black African man.

America is such a very complicated country which makes me wonder if it is safer to be here with the possibility of being targeted by the police/gangs or safer to be in Nigeria where there is possibility of me being jailed or killed because of my sexuality?

This makes me realize that there no place that is safe for everyone but with our trust in God, we can continue to work to change this. No one should have to choose which part of themselves to protect.

Dennis Akpona

Dennis Akpona is an LGBT activist originally from Nigeria. He was granted asylum from Nigeria where he fled persecution as a gay man. While in Nigeria, Dennis worked for seven years in the nonprofit sector for a number of organizations including Journalists Against AIDS, Initiative for Equal Rights, and Population Council.

Since arriving in the United States, Dennis has not stopped working for, and on behalf of, LGBT individuals. He volunteered at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and is a co-founder of Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program or CLASP. Knowing first-hand the difficulty arriving asylum seekers face and the lack of resources available to them, Dennis took it upon himself to organize and start CLASP to assist LGBT asylum seekers while they await the long and complicated process of applying for asylum. Due to his love for giving back and helping others, he completed a bachelor's degree at Northeastern Illinois University in Social Work and a bachelor's degree in Accounting from Lagos State University in Nigeria. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Social Work from University at Buffalo.

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