You can take the girl out of Africa, but you can never take the Africa out of the girl.
Just after I got back from Senegal, one of my girlfriends texted me, “Hey are you done with Africa?!”
I answered politely, “If you mean am I home from Senegal, yes I am.” But even though I knew what she meant, the question bothered me a little. I am never “done” with “Africa”.
In fact, every single day since I’ve been back (not even missing one!), I’ve been fortunate enough to still interact with Senegal on some level. There are countless and unbelievable examples of this.
Some of you know that one of my summer jobs is related to African immigration to Detroit. I’m hired by the University of Michigan Department of History and am involved in a large research project about recent African immigration in Detroit. We are specifically interested in learning about African spaces in Detroit economically and socially. Our method is to conduct interviews with African entrepreneurs and business owners. My main focus is on women African hair braiding salon owners, but I interview other people too.
Currently I’m sitting at a Barnes & Noble. I conducted an interview in Redford (just outside of Detroit), and couldn’t even wait to get home to start putting my thoughts into words. It will probably take me days to mentally process what happened this morning.
For his confidentiality, I won’t give too many details. However, I interviewed a man who inspired me, encouraged me, and ultimately reaffirmed that this passion I have for Africa is real and God-given. At the beginning of the interview I told him I had been to Ghana, his country of origin. His eyes lit up in excitement, because he could stop saying “Africa” when he referred to where he came from — I had heard of Ghana? I knew of Ghana? I had been there?! I had loved his home country.
He wanted to know all about me then. I told him that after the interview we could talk about me, but first, him. After the hour or so interview went past, he said “Okay, so what are you? Who? Tell me.” So I turned off the recorder and told him about myself.
I told him I was an International Studies and African Studies major. I told him that I spent time in Ghana last summer and then recently four months in Senegal. Then I started telling him why and when I knew my heart was for Africa. I told him about Foday. I told him that as a young, naive, innocent little girl, it was half interest and half frustration that started me on this Africa thing, and I haven’t once looked back.
I’ve left Africa and I’m still making grown men cry.
He just cried. They were silent but quick dripping tears. He didn’t wipe his eyes for awhile, just kept listening. After a few minutes he said “Oh you’ve made me cry”. He said that my story and my passion were beautiful. He said I was beautiful.
My favorite part of the whole thing came next. In all my life, I will never forget it. He was asking me about Senegalese love interests. He asked if there was any romance. I said:
“You know, yes. There is some romance. However, I am waiting. I fully trust that God will bring me a Christian man.”
“So many are coming,” he assured me.
At this, we were both beaming. Laughing, but mostly just looking at each other in the eyes with wide, sure grins. The moment was so full of sincerity and peace. Sometimes it’s so hard for me to believe that yes, God is bringing me a perfect Christian man. Not perfect in your definition of “the perfect Christian man”, but a Christian man who understands me and likes me and understands or wants to understand my passions and life goals.
But when this joyful, wise, Christian, loving, encouraging Ghanaian man looks at you with tear filled eyes and tells you that “so many are coming”, guys… you have no choice but to believe him.
We were blessings to each other. He encouraged me and influenced me in ways I would have never imagined as we sat down to the interview, him still being so skeptical of why I wanted to talk to him.
This is my life and my passion. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Learning Wolof: Jabar: dekel, dundal, dekoo. It is a husband’s responsibility to shelter, feed, and satisfy sexually his wife. (While reading a research report about Senegalese hair braiders in the U.S., I came across many interesting Wolof phrases relating to gender and equality both in society and in the household.)