“Know your roots, though!”

Today, I went to the Docklands Museum and saw the gallery exhibition: Slavery and Sugar.

Yoruba busts displayed at gallery

Yoruba busts displayed at gallery

It was really good, so much detail and really progressive, in my opinion.
As I learned, I saw kids on a class trip, learning as well, while many of my classmates casually decided to peruse right on past. Some did stay and spent as much time harking over every detail provided as I did. It was quite a lovely collection and as my professor explained, this was quite a big deal for a museum to assume “responsibility.”

So, I decided that my kids shall be educated in London, inshaAllah. Done. Lol.

After that, run to work.
Make wudhu, Zuhar prayer.
Eat lunch.
Go get ingredients for cookery club.
Make wudhu, Asar prayer.
Just as I was on my way up, my supervisor asks, “Amira, would you like to help with the Christmas decorations?”
Christmas in my house was always, just another day. Home, with family. Loving to be home, probably catching Home Alone reruns. We would look outside the windows to see the neighbors decorations, then guess how long each one would leave it up.

“No, March!”
And then, I’d ask my dad for $100 explaining that all my classmates would be returning with new gear and that I needed new clothes. He’d pull out his wallet and I’d walk away feeling accomplished.
This was Dec. 25 in my house.
But decorations? Decorating.
Like the verb.
I don’t know if I can bring myself to decorate a Christmas tree.

Quite frankly, I don’t feel like it.
I responded “Can you give me 20 minutes”. I didn’t explain that it was time for midday prayer when I stepped out. As I walked to the restroom, I asked myself if I didn’t want to decorate because of some moral/religious/anti-Hallmark profiteering objection, or was it just because I’m sleepy and don’t feel like it.

So, I’m sitting here.Making conversation on the laptop as they continue to decorate.
“It’s nice,” I offer my approval.
But anyway, back to my world. Yes, I want my kids to be educated in London because I like the fact that the children here grow up watching the news and have a global awareness. They are going to exhibits and they are like 9 years old, learning first hand about slavery, civil rights, immigration, at a level that many of my peers have yet to learn and have no intentions of filling the gaps.
If, I decide to live in the USA, which would probably end up being Chicago, then, I shall home school my kids, God willing. I don’t trust teachers. I don’t trust No Child Left Behind. I don’t trust the system, man. Period.
I look at myself. How ignorant am I. Sure, I have a real desire to learn as much as I can, but how much can I ever learn to even understand who I am.
We’ll see.
My  fascination with mothers and motherhood in general has been resurfacing lately. I mean, I’m not going to drop out of college tomorrow and throw on my apron! Don’t take what I’m saying to seriously, or seriously at all even. That would be the most awful of crimes.
But yes, I am fascinated. Like the woman from Eritrea that I made friends with during my bus ride to work on Monday morning. I thought she looked spunky in her colorful hijab. Her 2 year old son was just adorable and the little girl in the stroller was so cute and serious, blessing us with her smile at her own discretion. The son was quite active, standing in the seat in front of me playing with his toy car, every now and then offering it to me. I would make faces and laugh and he’d laugh. Sometimes, he’d just look at me and laugh for like 60 seconds without stopping. Oh, it was the best of bus rides!
When he kindly threw his car at his mom’s forehead, she disciplined him with kind words and explanation. Following, she offered me some advice, about not to beat children. “In Islam, we don’t beat our children harshly,” she said. Some do some don’t but children just need to be taught better.

She followed with a few examples, smiling along the way. Oh, she was so beautiful!
I felt good to be in her presence and the way that she was so happy with her two kids reminded me of my mom and how she went out of her way to make us comfortable when we were bad little brats.
And just to further illustrate why London kids probably know more about the world than your boss, here’s a snapshot from my day:
As usual, the kids at my job enlighten me. I’m sitting in the lounge and two girls are talking. “Are you Nigerian?!”
“No you’re not!”

I interrupt a few minutes later. I was bored, and the girls for the cookery club was late as usual.

“Are you girls Nigerian?” I wanted to know if they were Yoruba, Igbo, or what. I guess, after reading Half of a Yellow Sun, I’m more invested in learning about Nigeria’s history. And Sudan’s. And so many more African countries, but that’s another blog post.

They confirm and then ask me if I am. I reply, I’m not sure.

They kind of understood right away. I mean, they were like 14-15 years of age growing up in London.

When I explained, “You know, because of slavery, I only can trace my lineage like a few generations back.”

They understood what I was saying, but wanted to know more about what that meant. How I didn’t know what language my ancestors spoke, where they were from. “Can’t you look at photos, though,” they asked, hopefully.

I’m afraid not.

“I’m glad I’m not American then. I’m glad my mom was born in Nigeria and I know that,” one of the girls said, sympathetically.

“How come you sound African though,” she asked. I guess she still couldn’t believe that I was African-American but had no idea what is constituting my “Africanness.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” she replied, “not knowing where your from. That must be hard.”
I told the girls that I will one day do some research and pay to get the test taken. But when I explained to them that this was expensive and not even precise, they were disappointed. “So, it’s not even accurate,” the younger girl said, disapprovingly.

“I can tell that,” confidently, the older girl answered, “you’re either from Nigeria. Or Ghana. Or Sierra Leone….or Jamaica! Cause you know they took Africans to Jamaica too.”

Not a bad analysis, and it was free of charge.

The young girl was filling out a form to join the Centre, and the first girl snatched the paper quite upset, “What are you doing circling British Black.” The paper’s ethnicity section had about 10-12 options to circle. Amazing.

“Your not British Black, you’re British African.”
“But my mom lived her for a while, I got some British in my blood, I didn’t make up the rules,” the girl explained.
“Know your roots, though!”

The younger girl acquiesed, erasing what she formerly circled and then circled British African, sighing out how the girl was just like a friend of hers.

The older girl turns to me then,
“Are you Muslim?”
I’m thinking, “How’d you know?!” when I remembered the green hijab I was donning today kind of gave it away…”Yea.”

I find it weird that you can be American and Muslim.
I told her, like Christianity, Islam is all over the world.
She agreed, still unconvinced.

But I was convinced of one thing: it’s these conversations, these interactions, whether on the bus or at work, with kids, or older people, that make me want to stay in London. There’s a certain possibility for discourse here that I hope exists somewhere in my return to the US of A.

Less than three weeks to go.

And, I’m already lost.


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