The amazing stories of Africans living in the United States are rarely told in the United States where most people in the news are often white. Kids who grow up watching television or browsing news sites often end up believing that the world ends in California and starts in New York. They may also end up believing that success, peace, care, love and intelligence are all white while failure, chaos, terror, ignorance, anger and violence are all black. TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA knows that’s false. Our popular segment “My American Story” highlights the perseverance, tenacity, intelligence, sophistication, struggles and successes of Africans in the United States and Canada – Simon Ateba, editor-in-chief of TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, Washington D.C., August 18, 2018.
Eric Essono Tsimi believes he is a citizen of the world. He considers Africa to be his country and Cameroon his birthplace. He also associates with France where his lovely wife hails from and with the United States where he has chosen to live, stay and perhaps spend his last days on earth.
As a Senior lecturer in Francophone Literary and Cultural Studies in the Ohio State University, Eric Essono Tsimi is a published author, columnist and researcher.
He is a recipient of many doctorate and master’s degrees from Canada, Cameroon, Switzerland and the United States, in many field of studies, including Communication, Political Science, Law, Psychology, Cultural Studies and Literature, just to name a few.
On what has surprised him the most since arriving in the United States about five years ago, he says, “People, things, venues”.
“I keep being surprised every day. But the election of Donald Trump at the Office (against Hillary Clinton, after Barack Obama) remains quite a mystery to me,” he told TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA during an interview in early August.
Mr. Tsimi granted an interview to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA, and gave us a peep into his extraordinary life in the United States.
1. What’s your name now? What was your name before? What do people call you and what do you prefer to be called?
My name is Eric Essono Tsimi. I was « Charlie » on January 7th, 2015. People tend to call me « Dr. Tsimi », «Professor Tsimi », « Dr. Dr. », « Eric », or with my African moniker « Meyon Meyeme »
2. What African country do you identify with and what part of that country do you associate with? What state do you live in the United States? What’s your citizenship?
Africa is my country. Cameroon, my birthplace, is the part I associate with. I am Cameroonian, obviously. French through marriage, I feel American as well because I chose to live, stay (and maybe die) here.
3. Where and what did you study?
I may hold some kind of records given the different places and field I studied. Canada, Cameroon, Switzerland, the US. I am a recipient of many doctorates, Master degrees, even while in the high school I got two BEPC (Middle school degree in the Cameroonian system, with one major in Latin and the other major in German). I studied Communication, Political Science, Law, Psychology, Cultural Studies, Literature, to name the few.
4. Where do you work or what type of job do you do?
I’m Senior Lecturer in Francophone Literary and Cultural Studies in the Ohio State University (OSU). I am a published author, columnist, and researcher as well.
5. How long have you been in the United States?
Almost five years now. I came into the United Stated on August 23rd, 2015.
6. What has been your most memorable moment in the United States?
I had a number of unforgettable moments. The ‘’Unite the Right Rally’’ was my first actual experience of a raging crowd. I was aware of everyday prejudice and what Black people face in terms of hatred and structural racism here, but the above mentionned rally was my first experience seeing how people may fight back. Besides that, I my wedding day at Bellagio, in Las vegas in June 2019 is also memorable.
7. What has surprised you the most in the United States?
People, things, venues… I keep being surprised every day. But the election of Donald Trump at the Office (against Hillary Clinton, after Barack Obama) remains quite a mystery to me.
8. What do you like the most about living in the United States?
Living in the United States in itself.
9. What do you miss the most about not living in Africa?
The sense of concretely impacting people lives around me.
10. What’s the biggest lesson you have learned about being in the United States?
The education system in most African countries does not prepare learners to the future : unlike in the US, they have curriculum but little experience, they think of earning a job but despise ambition and money. Those are few illustrations of the many things that should be adjusted over there as inspired by what I am learning here in the US.
11. What’s your biggest challenge in the United States? Right now ?
My credit score.
12. What’s the biggest misconception about life in the United States that people in Africa have?
I think they are aware of the complexity of this world. They are not naive. And generally speaking what they think of America is considerably less than the actual picture, their conceptions are still less impressive than the reality.
13.They say that everyone has a book in them. What would your book be about?
About friendship and family.
14.What do you spend the most time thinking about?
In no particular order : my wife, my teachings, the books I am actually writing, the manuscripts I recently submitted to some publishers, and those I plan to write.
15. What is something you will NEVER do again?
Never say NEVER
16. What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
The death of my father. All my love encounters.
17.What is the strangest thing you have come across?
Leaving the Switzerland to start another PhD in the USA without, back then, being fluent in English was a big jump, the strangest, the craziest, the riskiest, and the most rewarding thing in my life, so far.
18. What are you addicted to?
Books. Georges Brassens.
19. As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
I’m afraid to lose my cognitive skills or suffer from a disabling illness
20. What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
Hit’em up. Tupac
21. If life is a game, like some people say, what are some of the rules?
Things are meant to change and come to an end, don’t fight them.
22. What’s the most surprising self-realization you’ve had?
Hmm ! Self-realization?
23. What do you regret not doing?
It’s quite a shame, I didn’t swim while I was growing up close the longest river in Cameroon, the Sanaga.
24. What gives your life meaning?
The memory I have of my father. And making my mother proud by being an university pofessor.
25. What are you most insecure about?
My first grey hair starts to show….
26. How do you get in the way of your own success?
Am I a successul person ? I still work on it.
27. What are you afraid people see when they look at you?
28. What’s one thing you did that you really wish you could go back and undo?
29. When do you feel truly “alive”?
When I make a student, a sibling, or any ordinary individual happier, wiser than before we met.
30. What do you like most about your family?
Autonomy, diversity of point of views : among my siblings you will find Christians, Muslims, Buddhists. My wife is atheist, I am deist.