Living in America, it is not easy to remember where you’re from. You are bombarded by everyday concerns of survival, and little is offered in terms of your value. Your story is often overlooked. The dominant narrative does not acknowledge your value and if it does it is as a darkness the hero has to escape, act on or against, in order to attain self-revelation. We often serve as the cypher for others heroic transformation. And are less often given the chance to tell our story, much less be the hero of our stories. This can stunt, even damage a psyche, limit the mind.
I want my sons to know that they are the heroes of their story. I want them to remember where they come from, all those that have lived and sacrificed in order for them to enjoy the freedom they possess. It was not easy for me to do this when I first came to the U.S. Home slowly became more and more distant, and I struggled to remain connected. I relished any connection that could keep me linked and nourished by home; a song that reminded me of the sound of rain on a zinc roof, my father’s Sunny Ade records, a biography of Marcus Garvey I stumbled across at the library one day––I was enthralled by the African’s return home because that is what I also longed for, and is part of my story. I became fascinated by the Harlem Renaissance writers because they were reaching back to Africa, the same thing Amiri proposed for Black Arts. I discovered the Negritudes in college, along with Achebe, Ngugi, Kenyatta and Soyinka. Home became increasingly present to me.
This is what I want for my children, to know they are African and to remain connected to home. To know and love their ancestors. To love themselves and understand the richness of the heritage they come from. That is why even in their names they are forever linked to home. And we tell them stories, my wife and I. We make sure they know where home is on the map. Living in the place where you are increasingly told and shown that your life and your body does not matter, we have to teach them that African lives have always mattered. Even in our enslavement, even in our dispossession we mattered. Our contributions to the wealth and greatness of this country, and the world, has always mattered, and continues to do so with all the riches that flow out of Africa. I want them to know this so that their imagination will not be limited or crippled by the specter that America often tries to create out of the African. So they can live with the same kind of the pride and freedom that we are all entitled.