Loving All Of Her Blackness
As a mother, I want for my daughter to grow up fully knowing that she is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I want her to love and accept all of herself, including those traits that make her unique. I desire for her to have a deep appreciation for who she is, unconditionally.
Since marrying my husband, I have done my best to embrace his Ugandan culture, not just for the sake of our relationship, but also because I want my daughter to be familiar with and enjoy that part of her lineage. I’ve always been a proponent of celebrating my blackness, but after going to college, meeting new people from all over the globe, and especially after marriage, I’ve become more aware that blackness transcends my African-American experience. Bella is also Ugandan, and I want her to be able to celebrate that part of her.
Here are a few ways I keep Uganda alive in my home:
I love cooking and trying new recipes, so I’ve been totally open to sampling and learning how to cook dishes from my husband’s culture. Like anything, there are some things that I like, and others not so much! I very much enjoy the hearty stews, paired with soft, pan-fried chapatis. However, I’m not too fond of Uganda's staple dish: matoke (a variety of banana) served with groundnut (peanut) sauce. It may grow on me, but I just can’t get the hang of using peanut sauce in savory dishes.
My husband has taught me how to make a few recipes, and his sisters have offered me hints and tips on perfecting certain foods. Distance makes it difficult to stay in touch with my in-laws, but when we do chat, I ask many questions, and am open to learning new things. I try to make sure that we eat Ugandan-style regularly so that Bella is accustomed to having it, and will be less likely to reject it just because it looks unfamiliar.
Holiday dinners are a lot of fun because there’s a mix of cuisines, and everyone, including my family and friends, gets a chance to try something new. I want Bella to know that her food isn’t weird, and it’s something that can be enjoyed by everyone. Inviting others to partake helps her to see that she can be proud of her culture and share it with others.
My husband’s native language is Luganda. I read a short post by the Linguistic Society of America called: Raising Bilingual Children, by Antonella Sorace and Bob Ladd. One of its key takeaways was that bilingual children need natural exposure to the non-dominant language and stated that “a bilingual home is more likely to succeed if both parents at least understand both languages.” This is also something one of my sister-in-laws hit on when she told me that if I wanted Bella to learn her father’s language, I too should learn, and use the language daily.
I am trying, but I could put forth a better effort. We’re getting there slowly but surely. Her father speaks it to her regularly, and to help both myself and Bella, I’ve also bought books to help us learn. But I’m realistic about expectations. I don’t really expect for either of us to speak it as fluently as my husband, but it is my goal to be able to hold simple conversations in Luganda with my in-laws the next time we visit Kampala.
In the past couple of years, African prints and dashikis have been quite trendy and considered fashion-forward. However, I will continue to wear and dress my daughter in Ugandan clothes regardless of what’s “in.” The clothes are beautiful, distinctive and authentic.
I want Bella to feel free to wear clothes and accessories that represent her, and I can’t help but notice how my proud my husband is when he sees us unabashedly wearing our Ugandan fashions. I want Bella to grow up with an open mind when it comes to fashion, knowing that you don’t have to dress or a look a particular way to be beautiful. You can create your own type of beautiful even if it is different from the rest.
I’ve been blessed to receive many gifts and decorations from my in-laws. I have several paintings, wood sculptures, and even small things like woven baskets around the house that are from Uganda. She won’t see many of these things when she goes out into the world, so I find it important to have these things at home. They are belongings that she can associate with where she comes from. I love decorating my home with a sense of purpose. Our homes say a lot about who we are.
Parenting a child with a multicultural background has been an interesting experience thus far. I don’t have to make such an effort to incorporate all of these things in my household, but I do it because I’m conscious.
Many of us, especially black women, grow up with identity and self-esteem issues. The color of our skin is always a topic of discussion. I can’t tell you how many people were eager to see if Bella would come out closer to my complexion or her father’s. It shouldn’t have mattered.
I’m already prepared for kids possibly making fun of her last name, as I’ve already experienced this with strangers and family after changing my name. I’ll admit, I was pretty tempted to keep my maiden name because I was concerned about name discrimination.
I want my daughter to love her blackness so much that ignorant comments and questions don’t phase or bother her, because they will come. Her black is beautiful, and she should always be proud, never ashamed. I also want for my husband to know that he has a wife who will make sure his culture will not be lost to the next generation…, at least not entirely. I’m doing my best!
If you have any tips/suggestions on raising a child with a multicultural background, I’d love to hear!
Happy Black History Month!