What diasporas can teach us about human connection | O'Nell Agossa | TEDxMcGill

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In his talk, O’Nell Agossa talks about investing in connection and collaboration with global diasporas to co-create a better future and embracing diasporas members as global ambassadors around the globe to truly create systemic leadership O’Nell is an African Canadian fourth-year student at McGill studying strategic management and finance. He was born and spent part of his childhood in Benin, a francophone west-African country, before moving to Quebec City back in 2007. Growing up, he was always involved in multicultural community-building events and developed a passion for global communities. By sharing his personal experience and similar stories of others, his talk will revolve around the idea that diasporas-related experiences can be leveraged to connect the world better and foster genuine global collaboration. By embracing diasporas members as global ambassadors around the globe, we give ourselves opportunities to generate systemic leadership, thus helping us in pushing the right envelopes in the years to come. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

I am first-generation convenient I grew
up in Bimini the name is a small
francophone West African country I still
remember the day my older brother walked
into our room and said we’re moving to
Canada I was nine years old and at the
time I didn’t really grasp the
significance of what he was saying
the fact is my mother had been studying
in Quebec City for the previous two
years and she decided it was time for us
to join her so here I am
one morning I wake up and I’m in Quebec
City mum told me not to worry because
people in Quebec spoke French so I
thought at least I’ll have no problem
with the language it is my first
language after all but I soon realized
this wasn’t exactly the French
I knew so many new words and funny
expressions my first winter was both
magical and a little bit painful I still
remember the first time I saw snow still
one of the most your moments in my
entire life but then January and
February arrived and I remember one of
these turning up home going to my mom
and said mom why is the arrow hurting my
face
you know growing up here one of the
things that always surprised me was how
little people truly knew about where I
was from
I remember in middle school a kid came
up to me and said oh wow you’re from
Africa did you did you have a lion as a
pet I looked at him and I said no who
has a pet and in the back of my mind I
was like he must be thinking this is the
Lion King or something he probably had
this image of me a little African when
he’s like that going around
singing Hakuna you know this is a
comical example but the reality is even
as adults don’t really know who
immigrants are or what their life used
to be if I ask you a simple question
which proportion of the current Canadian
population is foreign born
now you might know it’s a significant
number but you might also be very
surprised to hear that a number is a
staggering 22% that’s one of the five
people I mean look around
to your right to your left in front of
you behind you high chances are one of
you was born outside of this country you
know a big part of the immigrant
experience is about blending cultures
you know at times you look different or
you sound defending people wrong and
some of my friends would ask me at times
but what’s your experience like as a
minority in Canada and every time that
question can hit me because I had never
really thought of myself as being a
minority or different until one
afternoon that’s right I was 13 years
old I was on my way back from school I
saw an elderly woman get on the bus
so I decided to create a bitter smile
and offer my seat now to my surprise she
looked at me with such disgust that I
felt as if I was dirty she then looked
down to the CETA offered and spitting on
it
for shouting loud and clear go back to
your country you don’t belong here
now I didn’t really know how to react to
that I was 13 I felt ashamed a bit the
label but it was one of those moments
where all you wish for is that you could
be invisible all I wanted was to
disappear so that didn’t have to deal
with all those people looking at me
waiting for me to react or not react and
to be honest that was also the first
time that I became self-conscious of
being black per se
believe me when I say I did not wake up
this morning when in front of my mirror
and say hmm interesting
you know from that point on I had too
many fears the first one to not be
African enough you know what times we
would call home and family would joke
around and call us a you go yoga is a
term from one of the most popular
dialects in the name that basically just
translated to the white person now
obviously they were joking but for me at
a time it meant that they were starting
not to see me as one of them anymore
my second year was that regardless how
much I felt at home here
I would never fully be accepted because
the color of my skin alone screams he’s
not from here he’s not from here now a
few years later I was discussing with
one of our neighbors a very kind and old
man who spent a big part of his life in
an indigenous community in Congo and one
day he told me this Annelle identity is
a moving target every experience leave a
clear imprint on me and it’s the sum of
those experiences and how they interact
together that make them what we like to
call identity so as long as you keep on
putting cultural experiences against
each other you’ll always feel conflicted
but you’re gonna have to learn how to do
is how to put them in service of one
another you know it’s funny I’m a little
bit older now so some of my friend asked
me what I go back to Africa I mean I
can’t go visit a name I could even
decide for myself that I want to live in
an African country but being West
African is not something that I can go
back to it is intrinsically Who I am the
same way by now being Canadian can occur
is not something that I have to further
become it is also Who I am and there’s
value in that reality because see each
perspective is unique yes but each
perspective is limited in his own sense
but if I could learn how to put them in
service of one another then I could
create something special I am a first
generation immigrant but I am only one
story out of 245 245 million is the
number of people currently living
outside their country or birth if it was
a country it would be the fifth largest
country in the world together those
pockets of people and cultures from what
we like to call the ask for us and
that’s also much more than the
dispersion of any people from their
original homeland they are dynamic
living ecosystems of people you know I
have a friend whose grandmother was
living in Colombia and she unfortunately
got sick his parent did everything they
could to help pay for the medical bill
by sending money back but they were
scrambling and my friend who was 15 at
the time decided to get his first job at
a fast-food restaurant and willingly
gave all the money he was making to pay
for those medical meals every time we
talked he would look at me and say this
is for my abuela
this is for my abuela this act of
sending money back to
origin is what we call remittances now
imagine these type of stories over and
over and over again and it adds up to
the point where 2019 alone global
remittances to load middle-income
countries are about to reach five
hundred and fifty billion US dollars
that’s twice as much as build or a I
know what I found the most special
without this number is the fact that its
main driver is nothing else that human
connection there’s more to it you know
the as far as our ambassadors for our
host countries we become the first point
of contact to other cultures rituals
experiences we tell you what to expect
and we give you the proofing on how to
interact with people all over the world
for our home countries we become
advocates champions if you’re sitting at
the table and you’re not around we can
speak up for you and put your best
interests forward if you really think
about it the effort might just be the
most unique pool of human experiences
and human interaction the testament to
human connection that goes way beyond
the concept of a nation or country you
know there’s a Nigerian art critics
named oak Rihanna’s oh and I think he
summed it up pretty well when he said
the formation of a diaspora could be
articulated at being a quintessential
journey into becoming a process marked
by incessant with groupings recreation
and reiteration and then he added
together these stressed actions strive
to open up new spaces of discursive
and performative post-colonial
consciousness
all these really trying to say is engage
with us because the aspirants are here
in a sense we’re also over there and
because we understand what it’s like to
be you but we also understand what it’s
like to be the other imagine just
imagine how different our current
conversation would be if you were able
to put real global human experience at
the forefront are real mobile
discussions just imagine how different
with treats and talk about each other
and I know it’s hard isn’t it because
we’re not really wired for this but I
think there is a way we just have to
remember in service of one another you
know as opposed to simply looking at
each other I’d like for us to learn how
to see and acknowledge each other
instead of simply hearing what about we
learn how to listen and what about we
drop the assumptions and we learn how to
connect a little bit more deeply over
tentacley you know I shared the story of
that elderly woman on the bus earlier
let’s imagine I were to see her today
imagine the same thing I’m sitting on
the bus she gets on I give it over to
smile I offer my seat
let’s assume she reacts the exact same
way no this time I wouldn’t shy away I
would gently stand up tall and proud and
this is what I would tell her the
country I am from is one of great people
and with a culture so rich words cannot
even do it justice
it has given me values that I’m carrying
with great pride wherever I go and
you’re right it is my home but as from
here which I’d also considered to be
home with all due respect man you don’t
get to make that decision for me that’s
for the record
I also
[Applause]

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