Levi is not his hair…

Levi has had thick black hair since birth. He came into this world with his hair, fried, dyed and laid to the side! As he has gotten older, his hair has taken on a personality of its own. Initially it was slick down and laid close to his hear but it soon became curly and thick. Now we are starting to see it take on new dimensions and what we can expect his hair to look like.

His unique hair has made him stand out especially as we have settled into our life on the African content. People always comment on his curly Afro and how it stands up on the top of his head. At Christmas, we were visiting with cousins in Kigali and one cousin was really fascinated with Levi’s hair. He pulled at Levi’s curls and rubbed his fingers through his curls. Eventually he asked, “why is his hair like this and my hair is like this?”, pointing to his own head. After we laughed at this comment, I tried to explain that Levi‘s ancestors not only include Rwandans, but Nigerians, Ghanaians, English, Scottish, German and French. So all those genes have come together to produce this curly Afro. The cousin looked at me, not fully understanding what I was saying and moved on to play with the other cousins.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, various countries have a word for white that is often used when they see a white person. As a black person from the US, that word has been often directed at me. Not because I have white skin but my mannerisms and speech are reminiscent of their interactions with white people. This has created a long agonizing relationship with being called white, especially in Rwanda and in Nigeria. I have gotten use to it and have now started doing the same thing. I now have to face reality that Levi will face the same of often being called white. It happened a few times when we were out for a walk with Levi in his stroller and the children called him Mzungu (white in Swahili). To stop and engage will only make it worst with my Americanize English and few Kinyarwanda works (the language of Rwanda).

When I think about Levi, what people say of his hair, that other Africans call him white, I’m reminded of his complicated ancestry. He is the descendant of enslaved people, the enslaver, refugees who fled their homeland, proud African tribes as well as European clans. His skin tone and hair reflects these diverse ancestors. But we live in a world where color defines who you are before where you are from. I will start early teaching Levi about his ancestors and his homelands.

One Comment on “Levi is not his hair…

  1. Lovely to read from you and see Levi! You both look well too. Thanking God that as his children we have a better heritage not withstanding what our ancestry is 😊. Lots of love from us all x.

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