STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
The transition from home to college can be a difficult one for many first-years, but several Drake University students have faced an even larger transition in their lifetimes.
Long before he moved from Chicago to Des Moines when he started attending Drake, broadcasting major and varsity basketball player Ore Arogundade emigrated from his home country of Nigeria to the United States amid political turbulence in his home country.
“I was actually driving with (Ore) and his two brothers,” Tayo Arogundade, Ore’s mother, said. “And we got into the middle of a riot, or something was going on, but anyway at the end of the day they started shooting to us in our direction. We were not the target, but we were right there, right at the spot where they were shooting at. And I can say it has to be the scariest moment in my life.”
“My mom told me she was praying the whole time. Luckily they stopped, they didn’t touch us, but it was just traumatizing being in a situation like that,” Ore Arogundade said.
“You could hear screams everywhere. . . . People were dead in the road,” Tayo Arogundade continued. “Even if it was a minute or two or three, it felt like it was an eternity. . . . I don’t know how I made it home, but I made it home with my kids.”
Sadly, this violence was not the only danger the Arogundades faced when living in Nigeria.
“I never really told anybody this, but like, my mom had three dogs. Some people came and killed them all, killed all those dogs. They ran into our house,” Ore Arogundade said. “We got shot at a couple of times.”
Tayo Arogundade is a professed dog-lover and the murder of her pets was traumatic for her.
“I don’t ever want to get attached to another dog because of that particular situation,” Tayo Arogundade, said.
The only love that rivals Tayo Arogundade’s love of dogs is her love and devotion to her four sons.
“I’m a single mom. I have four kids. Ore is my second of four children. And, as a parent, whether you’re single parent or married or whatever, as a parent, you have a love and responsibility for your children. And, for me, my children are my life. It doesn’t matter what people say about me, but if you want to touch a nerve you mess with my kid,” said Tayo Arogundade.
The oldest Arogundade child is Mayo Arogundade, who is 11 months older than Ore and works as a hip-hop artist in Los Angeles. Ola (18) and Joshua (11) are the youngest members of the family. They both still live in Chicago with their mother.
The attack at the Arogundade’s home was unprecedented and uncalled for. They were not the target of the violence, but lived in a neighborhood affiliated with a prominent, but controversial Nigerian politician. Simply living in close proximity with that politician put their lives in danger The home invasion and the riot in the streets just two instances of conflict in their hometown of Ibadan.
Ore Arogundade does not recall these events specifically, as he was still too young when his family left Nigeria, but they still had a distinct and profound effect on him.
“I don’t really remember it, but when my mom brings it up, I feel like I remember it,” Ore Arogundade said. “I don’t think many people understand my story, well know my story. I mean, I never really told them. I really just told them ‘I’m from Nigeria’ and just kept it at that.”
Another Drake student came to America in their younger years, but is able to reflect on the time they spent in their birth country more easily than Ore Arogundade can.
Phani Chevru is a first-year, biochemistry and molecular biology major who lived in India until he was 10 years old.
“My dad always had this dream of coming to America because he viewed it as the land of opportunity. He tried (to relocate) throughout his younger adult years, but it was kind of hard back then so he just kept trying and eventually got a job here,” Chevru said. “He stayed (in the U.S.) for six months before my mom and I and my brother moved out to join him.”
Although violence was not as prevalent in Chevru’s life as a young boy, he and his family still faced struggles before and after they moved to the United States.
“It was just very competitive because back then there was just a huge rush (for software engineers) and everyone wanted to get in. And the competition combined with financial reasons kind of took him awhile and then the English language was a barrier as well,” Chevru said.
As Ore Arogundade and his brothers spent most, if not all, of their formative years in the United States, it was not as much of a struggle to assimilate into American culture. They are glad to have moved to the U.S. for the opportunities that it granted them, especially considering the danger in Nigeria.
“It was best for them to be here I guess. (Their) dad was here already,” Tayo Arogundade said. “We were coming anyways, regardless of violence or not.”
However, the life of Ore Arogundade was not easy once his family was reunited in America.
“After I had (Ore’s) youngest brother, my youngest son, then we became divorced. So (Ore) now had three brothers, but a single mom. And his journey has not been easy. When I say easy, we’ve always had to work for everything that he got. Nothing was ever handed over to us,” Tayo Arogundade explained.
“We come from a faith-based family. Everything that we are, who we are, how we are has always been by the grace of God,” she continued. “When I became single, then it was harder. . . . (Ore’s) dad is not in his life, so it’s hard for a male, especially a black male, not to have a dad in their life.”
Although it may have made his life more difficult, Ore Arogundade feels strengthened by his experiences.
“I had to be the man of the house at a young age with my father not around,” Ore Arogundade said. “In the future it will make me a better father for my children and being around.”
Even though Ore Arogundade may not have had a fatherly presence for much of his life, he still is a mentor to his younger family members.
“(Ore) is wonderful. His little brother, my youngest son, looks up to him as his role model. It’s not me, it’s Ore, and that’s a good thing,” Tayo Arogundade said.
“Just to be there for my little brother because he never grew up with his father around him,” Ore Arogundade said. “I just wanted to see (my little brothers) grow up and be that father figure for (them).”
Joshua Arogundade has never been to Nigeria, the only one in the family to have never seen the land of their ancestors with his own eyes. However, the dangers of Nigeria do not deter the Arogundades from wanting to return to their home country at some point, nor does it take away their sense of pride and nationalism.
“Being born in Nigeria, it gives you a sense of pride in African-American culture, knowing your ancestors, especially all the civil rights movements. Being born in Nigeria, it gives me a sense of belonging. It makes me proud of where I’m from,” Ore Arogundade said. “I really want to go back though, really take it all in. I was young, so I didn’t really get a grasp of where I’m really from.”
“It’s a beautiful country. It’s not as bad (as people think),” Tayo Arogundade said. “I would love to go back. He wants to go back. We’re going back to visit soon. There’s nothing wrong with going back. You just have to know how to play it. You just don’t go into certain areas. It’s just like coming to Chicago. What are you going to be doing on the west side? What are you going to be doing on the south side? . . . You just gotta be smart, that’s all. But it’s always good to go see family and just visit.”
Although Chevru remembers his home country, he also feels that split between two separate worlds, particularly when he first arrived in America eight years ago.
“There was a huge culture shock. The first moment I came here, it was in the winter. There was snow on the ground and no leaves on trees and I had just come from a city that was 100 degrees and by the beach. Just the physical change in the environment was a big deal to get used to. But I think more fundamentally it was the day-to-day interactions I had with people,” Chevru said. “I didn’t know what a dollar was. I went to school and people were talking about dollars or whatever in just normal talk and I was just completely lost and had to ask people, ‘What’s a dollar? How does this work?’”
Chevru has learned and come to be more integrated into American society, his accent all but gone and has acquired a knowledge on how American currency functions.
“There are a lot of instances, just cultural things, that you take for granted because you grew up here, but someone from a different country wouldn’t exactly notice. And I still kind of struggle with it sometimes, but it’s gotten a lot better in the eight years that I’ve been here,” Chevru said.
However, even though he spent more than half of his life in India, Chevru is glad that his family made that moving and says that he identifies as an American. Ore Arogundade, on the other hand, feels the opposite.
“I identify myself as a Nigerian, but it’s hard because I’ve been in America for so long,” Ore Arogundade said.
Before making her return trip to Nigeria, her first in more than 15 years, Tayo Arogundade is getting a dog after her youngest son’s insistence, the first one she will own in more than a decade, something that she is quite excited about.
“It’s time,” she said.