A Letter to Mama Diakha

Dear grandmother,

A part of me knows that if you were still alive, you would teach me how to be an African woman. Not one who followed all traditions and cultural rules, but one who can defy all of it without hesitation. I talk about being an African woman in America. Mama Diakha, I want to know what it’s like being an African woman in Africa. It’s easy to travel back to Senegal, live like an African woman, but it’s not the same. It’s easy to read all the books about your history, but it’s not the same. It’s easy to take care of my household, but it’s not the same. Mama, I wish you were here to share your knowledge with me. Something my own mother fails to do. She hoards the stories I crave to know all to herself. I have failed countless of times, wondering if you were really watching over me. Yearning your soft comfort, and telling me everything will be fine. Mama, I’ve learned the traditions you’ve practiced a little too late. I’m not sure if I should follow these same traditions; however, do I even have a choice?

I know the woman I want to become, but I am afraid Mama. The thought of fully embracing the new woman is terrifying. She is an independent woman, who knows what it means to finally be free from the shackles of being a first born African daughter. She fully immerses herself in the love and care that Allah has given her. She doesn’t let her parents stop her from truly being herself.

Mama Diakha, I tried to marry a man once. I prayed, and did everything right. I asked Allah to guide me. Yet, there was an unexpected battle. I couldn’t fight it. If you were here, I would imagine you telling me, “my dear, the person that Allah has written for you will come in due time.” I weeped, waiting for someone to comfort me. I’ve experienced heart aches, but this one was different. I let myself forget in order to “heal.” I convinced myself what happened was not real, it was a painful nightmare. But I woke up every morning wondering when this feeling would ever go away.

I think I have healed. Letting the thoughts slowly drift away. Constantly distracting myself waiting for something new and exciting to bring me joy. I continue to ask myself questions, which are difficult to answer. Will I ever be the African woman my mother tried raising me to be? Will I be able to just be? Never having to worry about the pressures of my community. My culture. My people.

If I truly embrace this new woman, will I ever embody the true African woman our culture desires?

Mama, I wish you were here with me. And, if you are watching over me, I pray that you continue.

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