Stephen “Iggy” Igwe

Determined / Free / Father

GROWING UP:  I was born in Inglewood, CA and grew up in Orange County/Buena Park. My dad is from Nigeria and my mother is from Louisiana. When I was young, I was trying to assimilate and fit in. I kept trying to change my identity to fit it. There were mostly white kids around me growing up. I was picked on and bullied. I got kicked out of every school because of fighting due to the racial tensions I experienced. Everything changed when we moved to Cerritos/Long Beach, CA. It was very diverse and therefore, much easier. My dad instilled the importance of excellence and education even though I wanted to be a jock. I attended an honors high school in Cerritos. I graduated with a Bachelors in Chemistry from Cal State Fullerton, then a Masters in Bio Chemistry. Anatomy totally changed my life. Seeing how chemicals and atoms grow and progress is amazing to me.

CURRENT GIG:  I am an Actor living in LA. I substitute teach high school biology in South LA. I also work for a non profit that supports foster youth. We teach independence to older students so they can fit into the world when they age out. I have a 13 yr old daughter who is half Mexican and half black.

EXPERIENCES WITH RACE:  I watch my daughter deal with girls and see them picking on her because of her hair and how she looks. I feel racism everywhere. There is hidden racism, it is more of an attitude. I have to pay attention to how I speak and change my hair to fit in. I want to be accepted for who I am, not just how I look. Police do follow me. When I am in certain neighborhoods I get followed.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I am really scared of birds.  I speak Korean. I break dance and do improve comedy. I love expressing myself thru dance. I am a B Boy first and foremost.

I don’t think we know all the answers. We are still discovering things about ourselves. I love to observe and pay attention and ask questions. People think I am intimidating. I am more like a hippy and want to be free and express myself. My daughter saved me when she was born. I now realize the world is bigger than me. I love and respect my parents. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  I believe we should celebrate our differences. I would love for people to look each other in the eye more.

Photographed by Renee McMahon