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Aaliyah grew up in a small village in England where she has lived surrounded by all kinds of different people, in different classes, from different places, and with different backgrounds - really diverse. However, when it came to school that was a different matter altogether - it was predominantly white - there were hardly any people of color. In fact, she was the only black kid in her whole class, and the only Pacific Islander as well.
Other kids and classmates would always ask her where she was from - so awkward and uncomfortable - they would ask things like "so, what ARE you?" And Aaliyah felt so out of place and so insecure in those moments she would lie. She lied about where she was from.
Part of it was that not many people had ever heard of the country where she was from, but also, she figured that if she lied about where she was from, and made it somewhere more recognizable and maybe even glamorous, well, that her class mates would be impressed with her.
So, when kids would ask her where she was from she would answer that she was from the South of France. And they all seemed to like that, so she stuck with it.
She was ashamed to be telling the lie, but also so embarrassed about where her origins were and where her family was from. She felt lonely, lying, and so discouraged because she didn't know anyone outside of her family who were Pacific Islanders.
Aaliyah was so ashamed of her family and heritage that she used to tell people that her Mom was mixed race and was half French - which of course, in reality, isn't true - she's not mixed at all. Her Mom would never lie about where she was from, but Aaliyah couldn't help it.
When Aaliyah got to secondary school she met all kinds of new people, but again, she was still the only black kid in her class, and still, she lied about where she was from.
She tried to step up her game with these new people and come up with a new lie about where she was from. So this time she told people she was from Kenya, but again, she's not actually African at all.
One day Aaliyah met a girl who was like her - for the first time she wasn't the only black kid AND finally, she didn't feel like she had to lie about where she was from, at least to her new friend.
This new friend taught Aaliyah to lover her afro, to love her skin color, love her background and love where she was from. That new friend and her new found pride in her family and history changed her life!
Now Aaliyah is in her third year of secondary school and with her new confidence and sense of identity she has really learned, well, taught herself, that it's okay to be different, it's okay to be the only black kid in class and she started to really embrace her blackness and her culture.
Aaliyah is a Pacific Islander and she is proud to be because that is such a large part of what makes her unique. Oh, and, by the way, that girls she met - now they are best friends and will be for life!
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