“Where are you from?” Whether spoken or implied, this was the continuous question I received during my 7 day journey in Africa. I received the life-changing opportunity to attend an observation trip with Shot@Life, a United Nations Foundation campaign focused on raising awareness and funds to give other mothers a choice in the vaccination of their children.
Shootie Girl™ has been working as a Shot@Life Champion in saving the lives of children via our T-Shirts For A Global Cause program for the past year. But who knew a year ago that this partnership, along with Mocha Moms, Inc. would lead me home to Africa?
In each location we visited, I felt the stares and curiosity of Ugandan natives who couldn’t quite place if I belonged to their mother country or somewhere else. Here is how my first conversation with the Governor of Mubende Village went on Day 1:
Governor: Where you from? – Deliberately eliminating the word “are.”
Shootie Girl: I live on the Eastern Coast of the United States.
Governor: NO! Where you from?
Shootie Girl: Well, both my parents grew up in the State of Louisiana.
Governor: NO!! Where you from?
Shootie Girl: Ooooohh!!! Both my parents are African-American. But my mother’s family is Native American and my father’s family is from Haiti.
Governor: Yes, Yes! Haitian people come from Africa ! YOU ARE HOME!
It wasn’t as if I didn’t know that Haitians descended from Africa, but my Haitian roots were a piece of information that was only a few years new to even me! I was truck by the pride in which the governor shared this information. He was happy to welcome me home.
During our visits to Railway Primary School, St. Zoe Boarding School and finally Kabarole Village the inquisitive eyes followed me. I questioned whether it was just the novelty of visitors, or was there more? In additional to the governor, others had the courage to inquire.
There were very emotional moments for me while sharing Family Health Day with the parishioners of Kabarole Village. As I walked around to greet the elder women of the church, I looked into the eyes of my paternal grandmother many times over. I could not believe the resemblance. Their beautiful brown skin and comforting eyes. Their noses and their smiles were all like hers. Like mine! Having lost grandmother several years ago, it was as if she was sitting in the room with us.
A fellow Shot@Life Champion shared that two girls had been watching me very closely and seemed to be fascinated with me during mass. I asked her to find them for me and when she did I went over to meet them. Their eyes lit up when I pointed out the similarities in our noses and smiles. Rose wants to be a lawyer and Elizabeth wants to work for UNICEF. The girls are well on their way to greatness, as they attend secondary school, which is a rare opportunity for girls in Uganda.
The most heart-warming moment came when a woman ran out of the Family Health Building. She eagerly searched for something or someone. When our eyes met, she walked quickly to me and began speaking very emotionally and passionately but I could not understand her native language. A translator came over to help me and shared, “She says, you look like her daughter!!” I was so overwhelmingly honored that Mrs. Rosemary would go out of her way to find me and make that connection.
It is ironic that my work with Shot@Life has led me to my ancestry in Africa. The people of Uganda have taken ownership of me and welcomed me home! I tearfully and humbly accept!
Have you ever considered tracing your roots?