“Be careful of Maggie” I had told Hakim in the car. “She completely detests me.”
He assured me that it was alright, as he always did. Oh Hakim, he always understood. He was one of the few that did. Hakim with his hair flowing over his head like the proud mane of a lion. Hakim reminded me of Africa. Of our proud, ancient heritage. It was a shame that my family didn’t understand. But at least he did.
Despite Hakim’s reassurances, when we pulled up to the house, I was not surprised. It was very bright outside, but I noticed Maggie trying to dash inside the house and Mama stopping her, as usual. I stepped out of the car, as did Hakim. I hoped Mama would be impressed with the change I had gone through. As always, Maggie had a disapproving look in her eyes, glancing from my hair, to my dress, to my shoes, then back to my hair. I couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable, with the eyes of Maggie staring at me under the hot sun. But Mama’s face was beaming, I could see that she liked my dress. Soon, I stopped thinking about Maggie’s disapproving look and rushed to greet Mama.
“Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!” I said, using the African greeting that Hakim had taught me. Hakim kindly followed up with “Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!” He moved to hug my sister, to prove that I had been wrong about her feelings towards me, but of course, I was not proved wrong. She shied away from Hakim, and abruptly sat down in Mama’s chair. I could see the sweat dripping off her body. Why was she like this? Why did she detest me so much that she could not even hug my friend?
“Don’t get up” I said. I turned around, trying to conceal my disappointment and resentment, and headed back to the car. I grabbed my Polaroid and began to snap some pictures of the house, the lovely old house, with Mama sitting in front of it. Of course, Maggie couldn’t help herself from making the picture look bad. She had to cower behind Mama, completely ruining all of them. After a while, I gave up, none of the pictures looked good. I set the Polaroid back into the car, and went back to Mama. At least she was somewhat happy for me. I walked up to her and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
Hakim continued to try to befriend Maggie, trying to teach her one of his traditional African greetings. However, Maggie refused to cooperate. She was sweating so much that a pool of water was forming under her feet and when Hakim tried to show her how to complete the greeting, she kept trying to pull her hand back from him. Eventually, Hakim gave up. As I said before, my sister completely detested me, and all of my friends as a result.
“Well,” Mama said. “Dee.” “No, Mama,” I replied. “Not ‘Dee’, Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!” I had renamed myself, in honor of our ancient African heritage. “What happened to ‘Dee’?” Mama asked. “She’s dead,” I replied. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” In college, I had realized an important thing about our culture. I had realized that white people were trying to make us like them, to make us forget our African roots. I did not want this to happen, and I hoped Mama would understand. “You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie,” Mama said. “But who was she named after?” I asked. “I guess after Grandma Dee,” she said. “And who was she named after?” I asked again, though in reality, I knew the answer. The name came from way back, probably from when my great-great-great-great-grandma first landed in America on a slave ship. Mama didn’t understand the reason behind why I changed my name. She didn’t realize that “Dee” was a name given to us by white men. It wasn’t truly ours, and Wangero, to me, really was. “Her mother,” Mama said again. “That’s about as far back as I can trace it,” she added. “Well,” said Hakim,…