Harlem post-renaissance, pre-gentrification. When black people sat on the stoops of the brownstones they owned. When the chips were 25 cents and the bus fare 2 dollars. When there was block parties with smokey grills and a broken hydrant. I was born one summer in 1994 on a Thursday. I figured out Thursday when I went to Ghana and learned about Akan names. I am Yaa, a female Thursday born.
God placed me in a Senegalese family who came to the U.S. just a few years before me.
They named me Arame. Say it Ah rahm. I think it means wise, deriving from the Wolof word yaaram. I might be lying but it sounds reasonable.
Two more humans joined the family over the years. And we grew up together. With Senegalese heritage in America. I can write a book about our lives and experiences. I think Americanah is a piece of fiction that would be in the same section of the bookstore as my book. The “Africans in America” section. The “first generation” section. The “all my life I had to fight immigration to legalize my parents” section. But I do not want to write the book now because I am currently living through a major plot line and perhaps when it has passed and I have dealt with the trauma I can put it in text. For now, here are some bullet points:
- I am not African American. Living in Harlem a good chunk of my life and learning about the American American legacy in this country, I realized how white supremacy lumps all black folx together to erase our histories. I am African. I am American and I benefit from the civil rights movement. The 60s helped my parents come to America black. Though we have a nasty history with the red, white and blue, it is the one with baguettes in Europe.
- Sometimes I daydream about living a whole life in Senegal full-time. But I hate dressing up and putting on makeup, cooking with the infertility spice (I mean Maggi), being in large gatherings (I have anxiety), and eating thiebou Jenn like it’s a food group.
- Sometimes I daydream about living a whole life in Senegal full-time. I dream of having accessibility to some of the best tailors on the planet, sitting by the Atlantic after a casual stroll, going to a Youssou Ndour concert at Cices, and eating dibi like it’s a good group.
- The hardest academic assignment I ever had was to write a political history essay in Wolof. Essay question: “How can we use the lessons from the epic of Sundiata as a tool to address the problems of current African politics.” My thesis: Democracy did not exist in Africa post-colonization. It existed and was briefly interrupted. Once we disassociate democracy as a foreign tool post-oppression and associate it as an indigenous reality maybe our leaders will stop wearing suits and leading convenings in Français.
- My parents don’t really know the weight of my accomplishments they are just really happy that I am not a scammer.
- There is a whole market in Cape Town, South Africa with Senegalese vendors. I bought a bucket hat there and earrings from a dude named Ibrahima. I also randomly sat next to a Senegalese guy in a tro tro in Accra. And Malick cuts hair for the Africans in Bangkok.
- I didn’t like soup kandja growing up but now I love it. Try it with smoked turkey.
- All I know is my able bodied family members in Senegal will not be getting any donations from me. Stop the generational yonni’ing. I might draft a petty graphic explaining who can ask me for money and for what purposes.
- I sometimes think about how I will raise a baby Arame. Do I predetermine their identity and sculpt their experiences in youth so they can have the proper percentages of Senegalese and American. Or?
- No shade, every Senegalese person- in the homeland and abroad needs therapy. The compounded trauma from Occupation and migration runs deep.
- “Lou metti yagoul.” Literal translation: what is hard is not long. Fancy translation: adversity is short lived. I remember some hardships in 30 second memories even though they actually occurred over months.
- Senegalese men are so handsome but their toxic masculinity is like pineapple on pizza.
- Senegalese women.
- ^Senegalese women get their own bullet point because.