Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Connecting the Youths to their Roots

One of the biggest things I wish my parents had done was to do a better job of connecting us (me, my brother and sister) to Nigeria and our Igbo culture and heritage. The older I get and the longer I live in the U.S., the stronger the sinking fear that there will never be a strong connection gets. I have gradually stopped emphasizing certain things like Nigerian Independence Day (October 1), staying current on happenings in Nigeria, even putting the kids and myself in traditional attire. It occurred to me the other day that this disconnection doesn't have to be although I am at a loss as to how to connect and stay connected. As it stands now, I have very little communication with my extending family in Nigeria and most of them are strangers. I wouldn't even really know how to arrange a trip to visit and with my limited Igbo speaking skills, I wonder how hard it would be (although most of them speak English). But I'm determined to give my children the gift of Igbo heritage and culture and really thinking on ways to make this reality. I think the best first step would be a trip. In thinking of Nigeria, I remember some of the not so positive things I saw but overwhelmingly I remember its beauty and potential. I would like my children to experience it.

As fortune would have it, I was in the children's library yesterday (hiding out from the scorching sun) and my eyes fell upon this book: Chidi Only Likes Blue by Ifeoma Onyefulu.

To say I was thrilled to find it would be a huge understatement. This book of colors uses elements of traditional Igbo life to illustrate all the wonderful colors in a little Igbo girl's life. The story is so cute and the photographs (I was bowled over that there are photographs and not illustrations) are full color and fabulous (Ms. Onyefulu takes the pictures herself). Definitely pick this one up at the library. I am most assuredly going to purchase it (it's in my Amazon.com cart as I type this).

P.S. Note the hairstyle of the little girl (named Nneka--one of my favorite girls' name) on the cover. I wish I had a picture book like this when I was a little girl. My mother would send me to school with similar hairstyles and I remember wishing so much that I could just wear cornrows like the other Black (African-American and Yoruba) girls (or have long flowing hair like the White girls). I didn't like being the only one but alas, my mom didn't know how to cornrow. Books like this really do build and affirm the self-esteem of young Black girls.

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