Fall 2020 Issue

Heritage n. ˈher.ɪ.tɪdʒ

Ancestor [ˈansɛstə] noun 1. a historical figure whose blood “flows through my veins” and whose life I inherit in stories.
      Origin     1998 – present ~ My family tells me about my ancestors:
         (i) Nnebisi, a charismatic leader and the founder of Asaba, Nigeria;
         (ii) Bishop Ajayi Crowther (1809 – 1891), a free man, kidnapped from Nigeria by a slave ship, which abolitionists hijacked and redirected to Freetown, Sierra Leone; a religious man who studied divinity at Oxford University, translated the Bible into Yoruba and worked in Lagos;
         (iii) Herbert Macauley (1864 – 1946), Nigerian nationalist, helped pave the road towards Nigeria’s Independence –– October 1st, 1960;
         (iv) Hermann Blaich, a man who wanted to take his family to live on a farm in Namibia, but instead died a German soldier in World War II.

What stories were left untold? Do I want to know? Do I prefer the simplicity to a deeper look into the lives of these men that I will never know?

Black [blak] adjective 1. The identity assigned to “colored” people of African descent, regardless of skin tone or mixed race. 2. mum’s favorite cloth color and coffee. 3. a color that many western countries align with danger and evil. 4. a shade void of light and full of color.
        Origin     I listen, see, and hear:
                (i) 2005 – 07 ~ TV explains that white magic is pure and that black magic is corrupt.
                (ii) 2014 ~ A friend introduces me to an interview with Muhammad Ali, Why is Jesus White: “Beautiful shapes and all types of complexions but [Miss America] was always white. And Miss World was always white [. . .] Everything was white. And the angel’s food cake is the white cake and the devil’s food cake is the chocolate cake.”
               (iii) 2016 ~ I am researching the history of multiracial identity in America and uncover the one-drop rule, which states that anybody with even a drop of African ancestry is born black and, often, born into bondage. I wonder, wasn’t the origin of the entire human race in Africa? What does blackness really mean?

Culture [ˈkəl-chər] noun 1. the essence of a community or group of people. 2. a source of intense confusion for my analytical tendencies.
       Origin   I weave between the cultures of Germany, England, US, Nigeria, South Africa, etc.
                     I feel the differences but never can pin them down in description, only pieces of thought that someone always manages to contradict.

Name  [ˈnām]  noun 1. Words my mum and others in my family gave to me at birth  to guide my destiny. 2. A reminder of my family’s hopes and dreams for my future. 3. My first source of history and identity.
       Origin      1998 ~ I was named:
          (i) Deborah, after a female prophet in the Bible––to grant me courage, wisdom and faith.
         (ii) Amarachi, meaning God’s grace in Igbo–– to shower me in the grace of God.
         (iii) Nwanneamaka, meaning a “sibling is good” in Igbo––as I am the youngest of two.
         (iv) Folasade, which means “honored with a crown”–– to honor Nnebisi’s leadership.
         (v) Clara, my grandma’s name and St. Clara’s–– to remind me of my ancestry and my Catholic faith.
         (vi) Nnoli Edozien, to acknowledge both the maternal and paternal family history that God bestowed upon me.

Nationality  [ˌnæʃəˈnælɪtɪ]  noun 1. country(-ies) of citizenship 2. lines on a map that simplify the world and box my identity. 3. land/culture/people/ancestry that I am expected to represent and defend in conversation. 4. place(s) I feel the most pressure to belong to.
         Origin     My globalized existence as a dual citizen:
         (i) 1998 ~ I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a mother born in Germany,  a father raised in the U.S., and grandparents who put aside cultural differences (Igbo vs. Yoruba / Nigerian vs. German) for love, to the beat of a drum in my chest that tells me I am solid.
         (iii) 2007 – 14 ~ At the airport, I am German and Nigerian; while studying in Britain, I am Nigerian; while studying in the U.S. I fluctuate in and out of being African, Black, Nigerian, German-Nigerian; while in Nigeria, I am a Nigerian and an oyibo – Nigerian pidgin word for light skinned people / white people / westernized. Only with my close family does my nationality truly feel whole.
         (v) 2014 ~ I start school in the U.S and experience what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes in her speech The Danger of The Single Story: “Before I went to the U.S. I didn’t consciously identify as African. But, in the U.S., whenever Africa came up, people turned to me. Never mind that I knew nothing about places like Namibia.”
         (vi) 2014 ~ A classmate offers me her plate of scraps and says she has done her part feeding a starving child of Africa. I swallow my words, afraid to be judged, now ashamed of my cowardice, then hurt by their laughter, now thrown into my thoughts, smiling through my teeth. An inner voice tells me “it’s just a joke” but all I feel are my true emotions.

Where is my courage? How do I speak when afraid? Will I feel this isolated again?

Story [ˈstȯr-ē] noun 1. a jumble of words that vary in meaning and significance from place to place, time to time, person to person 2. narrative that frames one perspective in a digestible way.
       Origin     reading, writing and listening to the stories around me.
          (i) 2008 ~ I live in the library, soaking up the stories of more experienced writers until
       I begin to admire not just their stories but the craft of word meshing and world building.
       (iii) 2012 ~ feelings of inadequacy begin to take the words from the page, and then from my thoughts as I tumble further into confusion, never knowing if anyone would taste what I truly mean to feed them, if I have anything to feed them.

Unfed [ʌnˈfɛd]  adjective 1. a state of sadness and lack of energy. 2. A feeling of dissatisfaction that arises in response to the lack of ingested materials.
         Origin       discovering the difference between food and “food” i.e. knowledge and protection.
              (i) 1998 ~ My mum realized that all it took to stop me from crying was access to food.
             (ii) 1998 – 2019 ~ I realize access to food and “food” help my brain grasp the complexity of the world we inhabit and the experiences I inherit from Life on Earth.

N.N Edozien

Close friends and family call N. N Edozien a curious thinker, a food lover, a chipmunk, and an old soul. She is an undergraduate in a Maine college where she is studying Human Ecology. She aims to publish her first book after graduation. (author image by Nwakuso ).

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