21 Jan 2018: Our Homegoing
It’s been exactly one week since we returned from our trip home to West Africa. On December 26, 2017, we left New York City and headed to Lomé, Togo, where my maternal grandmother, Mamima, lives in Tokoin. For three weeks, I explored Lomé, Accra, and Abidjan with my friends and family. I reconnected with my “why”. I was home.
Home, of course, is a state of mind. But there is something about breathing in the West African air, feeling the wind blow through my hair, and watching the sun rise and set each day that makes the feeling of being alive on the African continent different than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.
My connection with West Africa is something that’s existed before I was born. It is the essence of everything, since the African continent is the motherland. But in terms of my geographic existence, I was born in Paris, France, and my family moved to America when I was 3, so I am a first-generation immigrant. My parents were both born in West Africa — my dad in Senegal, and my mother in Benin. They both spent part of their childhood in Togo, but also had an international education, spending much of their youth in boarding schools outside of Togo or abroad. Nevertheless, their African upbringing and heritage remained with them, even as expats in France and America. And they shared that heritage and culture with their children. Merci Maman et Daddy.
Throughout my childhood, I would periodically travel back to West Africa and visit my grandmother, but there did come a point between the ages of 15 and 24 where I did not return to Togo for 9 years. My heart longed for my home, and I traveled to North African countries like Egypt and Morocco in my early twenties, but it wasn’t until Royce, Nova and I returned in January 2017 that I understood what I had been missing so profoundly. There is a simplicity about being in Lomé that helps calm my spirit and relax my mind. For the longest, I had convinced myself that I had to keep succeeding in America in order to be able to go back home and help my people thrive, but every time I return to West Africa, I find the opposite to be true. It’s essential that I prioritize my constant homegoing so that I can stay sane in this world, and I can thrive. Being in the motherland is like being based in the elixir of life. It puts things in perspective and shifts my priorities.
It is important to note that during my most recent return home this year, I was reading the book “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. It was gifted to me by my soul sister Asha Gipson, who also was part of this trip to West Africa, along with our soul sis Shakeria Reed. This was an emotional journey for us all. Being able to witness Asha and Shakeria rediscovering their roots is something that I was blessed to take part of. I had already seen it when Royce first came to Togo, but it’s a feeling that never gets old, and is unique for every individual.
As for me, one would think that I fit in like a fish in water. But even though Togo is my home, the fact that I don’t speak the local language, Ewe, can sometimes make me feel like an outsider. I speak French, which is the colonial language. But my soul longs to learn the OG language of my native land, and in 2018 I will be doing so, alongside Royce and Nova. Returning to Lomé made it clear that it’s a place I have to consistently connect with and grow increasingly familiar with. This isn’t something I have to put off to sometime a few years from now. Mother Africa is calling my name, here and now. She always has been, but for the first time in a long time, I can hear her loud and clear. I’m here, mama.