I was born on a kitchen table in the home of a doctor in the village of Mkar, Nigeria. My mom was there of course. And my dad. The doctor who delivered me, a nurse and a dog or two rounded out the party. The villagers named me Sewuese Aondo (suh-wuh-esa ah-own-doe). We praise God. I proudly wear a tattoo of the name on my left shoulder.
I lived in Africa until I was 11 when my family moved back to the States permanently. Sometimes I feel like a refugee living in a foreign land. Yes, I am American by citizenship but my heart belongs to Africa. Something happened between me and that land; the soil made my bones and the heat baked my soul. I am not of this American land; I am of that African land. To me the soil should be red, not brown. You should be able to smell the rain coming, not see it on an app on your phone. The sun should beat down on you in the mid-afternoon with such force that you have no choice but to sit down in the shade or to withdraw to the house where the concrete walls and floors of the rooms cool in the dark. Food should be bought in a market and bargained for, fresh from someone’s small farm; the freshly killed chickens should hang unplucked by their feet. We should eat pounded yams dipped in sauce with our fingers from a common bowl, not use forks and plates in isolated splendor.
When I was looking for a supplier for my Shea butter, I looked to Africa. I wanted a company that would give back to the people who were harvesting and packaging the Shea butter. I didn’t want a company that used the labor of Africans and then took all the profit. FairTale, the company I buy my Shea butter from, provides employment opportunities for women in Ghana. They have also partnered with NGO Mondo who are committed to improving educational opportunities for kids in Ghana who can’t afford them. This is the kind of business I am pleased to support. With every tin of Lolly Butter that you buy, you are also supporting women and their children in Ghana.
I wish I could go back to Nigeria. I would like to live in Africa again. But even if I can’t do that, I am proud to have the opportunity to support people living in Africa. And, I wear my tattoo with pride!