Chukwunonso Azubuike has always felt like a “good American,” he said.
He played sports in school, married the love of his life and is committed to working hard.
But it wasn’t until Thursday that the Tulsa resident could call himself “American” officially.
“It’s pretty cool,” Azubuike said following a ceremony at City Hall during which he took the oath of citizenship. “It feels fulfilling.”
Azubuike was one of 21 new U.S. citizens to participate in naturalization ceremonies Thursday hosted by the city of Tulsa.
Two ceremonies were held back-to-back in the City Council chambers.
Mayor G.T. Bynum spoke to the groups, who represented 10 countries, before they received their certificates.
“I hope you understand that you are a historic figure in the life of your family for centuries to come because of this decision,” the mayor said. “There are generations of your family that will have better lives because of this decision that you made.”
Bynum added: “Here in Tulsa, we are so honored. We know just coming to the United States takes a great sacrifice, and going through the citizenship process is arduous. … We want it to be the best city it can be for you.”
As part of COVID-19 precautions, the new citizens were allowed to have only one guest with them in the chambers.
Azubuike said he had no trouble deciding who his one would be.
“She is my everything. I wanted her standing by me,” he said of his wife Michelle, who accompanied him and took photographs.
“We’ve experienced so much together. Now we are proud Americans together,” he added.
Azubuike, who works as a mortgage loan officer, was born in London to a family of Nigerian immigrants. He moved to the U.S. when he was 5. His parents wanted better educational opportunities for their children and a chance to attend Christian schools, he said.
Azubuike went to Victory Christian School in Tulsa, where, like his younger brother, former NBA player Kelenna Azubuike, he excelled at basketball.
Azubuike said as an adult he would hide the fact that he wasn’t a citizen.
“It was a little embarrassing,” he said. “I was afraid of what people might think.”
Michelle Azubuike said her husband’s journey to citizenship has shaped both of their perspectives.
“With all the drama going on right now, a lot of people don’t feel like America is so great,” she said. “But if you don’t have your citizenship you look at that so differently. America is great. You want those rights. You want the right to go for the dream.”
“It’s why my parents brought us to this country,” her husband added.
The city of Tulsa began hosting naturalization ceremonies in 2019 as part of the New Tulsans Initiative. They are held the second Thursday of every month at City Hall.
Crystal Reyes, director of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, told the group:
“You are already making Tulsa a more vibrant place for everyone. Thank you so much for choosing Tulsa. We are so happy you are here.”
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