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  • Any moment now I expect to receive a message or a phone call informing me that my friend has delivered her much anticipated daughter, W. I cannot put into words how utterly thrilled I am about the arrival of this child who is the first born of one of my oldest and most highly treasured friends. I am thrilled, exhilarated and not more than a little scared. In fact to be quite honest I'm in a mild panic about how well I will do as a member of the village it will take to raise her. There is so much to consider! She is black, African and female and for that alone there are heavy odds stacked against her. She will be born in the potential firing line of many “isms.”

    Racism - even here in Africa the land of the origin of the species she may find herself treated as a second class citizen.
    Sexism - Women are still jostling for a space and an identity that makes sense for them and that doesn't require their having to prove themselves to anyone.
    Imperialism - Be it China or the West, everyone is trying to get their hands on the land of her ancestry and she may in all likelihood fail to benefit from the wealth of resources endowed to the land of her birth as they will be channeled toward another little girl across the Atlantic ocean.
    Tribalism - she is the product of two ethnic groups with a long history of dissonance and unresolved conflict
    Capitalism - and the stranglehold it has on us all from the cradle to the grave

    So we need a plan. We need to know the lay of the land we have brought her into and we need a strategy to equip her as well as we can to navigate through it successfully such that she thrives and reaches her full potential. Besides ensuring her optimal physical and intellectual development we must do more to ensure that she hits the ground running. So right now, on the night of her birth, while I am giddy with anticipation, here are a few thoughts dancing around my mind.

    We will show her that an airplane takes off against the wind not along with it. We will show her the freedom of birds in flight, and how they must overcome the powerful pull gravity in order to fulfill their destinies. Life is inherently a struggle to overcome very strong forces; it is by necessity and by nature a very difficult exertion of a living being from a state of chaos to order. We will teach her that she must fly.

    Her hair in its natural state will be an untamed mop of tight black coils that remains dead still in the wind and through which no besotted boy will be able to run his fingers adoringly. They will call her exotic if her skin tone is darker than caramel. A man will deliver lectures in which he will claim to have empirical evidence that that black women are the ugliest women in the world. We will remind her she is made in the image of Infinite Grace and that dark chocolate and liquorice coloured girls are beautiful too.

    We will teach her that a smile, her smile, if genuine and heartfelt can melt stone cold hearts on any day of the week, any time of the day. We will tell her to use it liberally with the confident assurance that like sunflowers leaning towards the sun people will be drawn to her and bask in her radiant warmth. We will show her that the greatest privilege is to be able to give and that she should seek to exercise this privilege at every possible opportunity in whatever way she can, big or small. The smallest gestures can completely change the course of another being's life and she should never take for granted her power to impact the lives of those around her.

    It is our responsibility to demonstrate to her that everything finds its meaning and purpose as an expression of love, that love is the only legacy worth leaving and that outside of love we might as well be a troop of screeching chimpanzees. My eyelids grow heavy as I lie in bed clutching my phone to my chest in anticipation of the big news. And in my dreams, I marvel at the softness of little feet that have never touched the earth and I wonder what footprints they will leave when they do.
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