From Changing Diapers to Changing the World

From Changing Diapers to Changing the World

International Women’s Day is a great time for women to lift up other women and the author of this post does just that. Our World Mom Contributor in California, USA, Ewa (Polish Mom Photographer), reviews a fantastic book, RELEASED TODAY, about mom advocacy , and written by fellow World Mom in Missouri, USA, Cindy Levin.

My Journey

I’ve been a part of World Moms Network since the beginning. Never too involved but always with a post or two, sharing whatever wisdom I thought I had. As a new mom I had a lot going on. Sound familiar? I was rediscovering myself, this time as a mom. World Moms Blog (as it was known then) was quite the community for a person like me. An expat, new mom, new experiences, new lessons learned (or not).

I was just starting my life anew, at 28. In a new country, a continent apart from my home and family, I was starting my own. A little lost. A little scared. Full of hopes.

Looking at the history of my posts here on World Moms Network, I go back in time. I see how far I’ve come, and how much one’s life can change.

World Moms’ Evolution

After a break, WMN came back to life, and we, the “old team” of contributors, were asked to start collaborating again. I said yes. After a few months of being back on the team I still didn’t know where to start. What would I write about? The Mom Photographer who used to write here doesn’t exist anymore. There were blog posts about postpartum depression and feeling like a nobody (as a new mom I seriously thought that). I wrote blog posts about passionately throwing myself into opening a business. I even wrote about DIY projects.

Today, I’m a full-time single mom of two, a business owner, a VAWA petitioner and a non-profit private school founder. I feel there’s a book within me but every time I sit down to write there is silence. For now, I will read about other Mom Heroes and learn from masters to conquer the always expanding challenges of being a mom.

Finding Inspiration

When an email from my friend and fellow World Mom, Cynthia Levin, came in, ding! I don’t remember the last time I hit the “reply” button so fast.

“My book is coming up and I would love if one of you could help out. Here is the title: From Changing Diapers to Changing The World… I was like: “YES! I’m taking it!”

I finally found something to contribute. Cynthia’s book sounded like a step-by-step guide that I feel like I need, or some sort of funny memoir.

Well, it’s both.

Mom Activists

So, here I am following Cynthia on her journey to become a world leader. Because, let’s face it, she is a freaking hero! And here I am writing a review for her book. What an honor. What feels even better is to know that even world activists start small.

So, Cynthia, my answer to your question is, “Yeah! I would love to join a movement of powerful moms who want to change the world”.

After almost 3 years of my own battle for VAWA rights, Cynthia’s book feels like something I wish I had when I started. This book represents what I needed the most: a voice of protection and assurance.

The book is like getting under warm and safe wings, with the voice of a mother empowering other mothers to take their steps in the world of advocacy, even if it was something you previously never thought of, because well, let’s face it, “You’re just a mom”.

A Must Read

So, if as a mom, you have these thoughts of fear and hopelessness, From Changing Diapers to Changing The World is a must-read. It’s a great example of the big-things-start-small mindset. Do what you can with the things you have. Fail and start over – almost like running a business. And so many of us know the glory of bringing our kids to work.

That’s what’s great about Cynthia’s book. She brings back the normalcy of being a woman while being a mom and still pursuing things that are important. Don’t overestimate the power of Mom. She knows how to pick the battle and she will show up when it counts.

You might think, “How can I change the world? All I change are diapers” or, “I’m just a housewife. What can I do?” Well, I say just read Cynthia’s book. It will give you a roadmap for expressing your voice in ways that could make a difference even while carrying a bag full of diapers.

Not Your Ordinary “Motherhood Survival Map”

Cynthia’s story about overcoming the postpartum hopelessness and fear of the future by taking baby steps toward advocacy is inspiring. This book connects mothers from everywhere. It is not your ordinary “motherhood survival map”. This is a map to a hidden treasure of a “mother on a mission”. Regardless of your marital, economic or political status, advocacy could be coffee with a friend or advocacy could be volunteering in your kid’s classroom to do an art project and send it to your senator. I love that Cynthia’s message behind it all is to become passionate about something instead of getting angry. Be outspoken with passion, not anger. I love that!

The Role of Motherhood Can Feel Heavy

It’s overpowering and often lonely. I remember my first day in the hospital after a long natural labor ended with an emergency c-section. It involved a slow walk into the bathroom in my hospital room. I looked into the mirror hanging over the sink and I saw a different person. This book is about this transformation. Transformation from a woman to a mother.

That period in life where we transition from woman to mother can send our entire self-identity and self-assurance for a spin like a blender. That’s a fact. For some of us, it’s a painful transformation. For others, it is like finding a calling.

When we become moms, we become new. After tapping into the ancestral consciousness of motherhood our entire being changes. It’s almost like the “I am” no longer exists. From that moment it all becomes “we are”.  We are mothers, protectors, nurturers, leaders, healers.

We can feel helpless and tired at first.

Cynthia’s book delivers what she promises:

I spent too many years aimlessly wondering what to do and how to do it. I want to help you skip right past those questions and frustrations. I’m sharing my story and the lessons I’ve learned along the way to clear the path for you and make your journey easier and a bit more comfortable.

-Cynthia Changyit Levin

Motherhood can be tough. Especially first-time motherhood. It can be a little depressing if you don’t have a support system or some sort of outlet. The outlet can be art or meditation or yoga. The outlet can be a quiet childless walk. And for some people, the outlet can be activism.

After you have your children, you can find yourself anew. Yes, you will have a second hip from now; your favorite saying becomes “It is what it is”; the smell of stinky diapers follows you around like a magic cloud – but that should not stop you from feeling like you can still change the world, mama.

Because whatever you want to be passionate about, you can start taking baby steps towards it right now, from the comfort of your home.

Redefining Identity

I remember when I felt like my existence was limited to two words: “unemployed housewife”. What kind of change can I be if I feel like my whole existence is to sit with my boobs out and change diapers day and night? How can you feel like a hero? How can you not feel depleted of basic human aspiration? I’ve been there and done that. How could I claim “this Mom-power, contribute to society, become a Mom-activist when so much of my day is consumed by diapers?”

Well, you can, and Cynthia’s story will leave you nothing but inspired.

Today, on International Women’s Day, with all the craziness of the world happening right now, with people asking, “How can I help” and “How can I contribute?” Cynthia’s book is heaven-sent.

From Changing Diapers To Changing The World by Cynthia Changyit Levin is available for order on Amazon.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ewa Samples in California.

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again! She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals. Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time. You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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Caviar

Caviar

Grandmothers are the glue of a family. They always have the warmest hugs and are so happy to see you no matter what. In the 80’s they were built in nannies for most. At least I know mine was. I was there daily even when I became old enough for school. I was for sure a grandma’s girl. In fact that’s what she called me. Her gal.

I can remember every detail of my grandma’s house. I can remember the house before and after the remodel to expand the kitchen. We spent most of our time together in the kitchen.

She always said, “ One day when you have your own family you have to make sure you keep your hands good and clean! A mother will touch every bit of the food that goes into her family’s mouths.”

When I was very small she would sit me on top of the washing machine so I could help stir. We’d make cakes, pies, cookies, rolls, and all sort of goodies. Churches and family members from all around knew grandma was the best baker.

It wasn’t the desserts that I loved. I loved her savory meals: roast and potatoes, mustard greens and corn bread made into hoecakes especially for me. But my favorite was hamburgers. I can recall other kids being fascinated with popular drive-thru burger places, but not me. I only ate my grandma’s or my mom’s homemade hand patty burgers.

Growing up a farmer’s daughter, grandma learned to stretch meals to accommodate a large family. She was the eldest daughter of thirteen children with one older brother. In our home it was just my brother and me, so I wondered why she wanted to teach me to stretch meals.

“Add a cup or two of broth to that soup,” she’d say. “The pastor might come by this evening round supper time.”

Always making more out of what little she had.

On Fridays we had fish! It was tradition. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that eating fish on Fridays was a tradition based in the Catholic faith. Humph? We aren’t Catholic.

Like clockwork the fish man would show up on a weekday. My brother and cousin would  holler, “The fish man is here!!”

Grandma and I would turn down any pots and pans to a low fire or off. Picking the perfect fish took time. Nine-year-old me would stand there bashfully, hanging on to her apron. I must have worn a hole in that thing. I was painfully timid and reserved.

“You got any of them nice fat ones?” she asked.

Laughing, he’d say, “ Nobody want them but you.”

I’d wonder why people didn’t want the big fish. My mama and daddy always kept the big ones. After picking her bucket full she’d pay him from the pocket on that apron and we’d rush back to get supper on the table.

“We got some work to do this evening. You gonna help me?”

I’d smile and nod still holding her apron as if  I’d get lost between the front porch and the end of the driveway.

“That’s my gal,” she whispered.

That night, along with cutting up the catfish into fillets and buffalo fish ribs, we’d also grind the beef we got from Madea’s out on the farm. I was old enough to work the grinder now!

We wrapped the kitchen bench good with plastic and some butcher paper we’d pulled from the pantry. I didn’t mind handling the raw beef meat like I did chicken. I even liked the way it smelled. Once we’d filled my large yellow Tupperware bowl with sections of beef I’d drag it over to the bench. PLOP! In goes the first hunk of meat.

“Don’t forget we gotta pass it through two times” she’d say.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

While I ground the first pass, grandma started prepping the fish. I was glad to be helping her. I didn’t care that the other cousins were off playing. Grandma would usually sing a church hymn while we worked away. Sometimes she’d even turn on the old crackling radio in the kitchen window or put on a record from my uncles collection. But I liked when she just sang, slapping her thigh occasionally to get the right soulful rhythm going. We didn’t sing lively songs like that in our church. All the while she’d be making sure I wasn’t chopping off my fingers or dropping a big piece of meat that was too heavy for my small hands. Strange how she could do so many things at one time.

“I’ll do the second pass,” Grandma said.

“No, let me finish it,” I begged.

She agreed reluctantly. She inspected my work from the end of the grinder shoot. Still singing and smiling as before. She added filler (fat) back into the meat. This was to make it stretch and for flavor. I tried to take in all she did in the kitchen. She handed me my yellow bowl back, but this time it seemed to smell different and was covered with cheesecloth.

When I removed the cheesecloth the beef not only smelled different, it had some bubbly looking things in it! Grandma had a smirk as if she knew I’d react how I did. A smirk, not her usual full toothy beautifully gapped smile.

“EEEWWWW, what is that!” I screamed.

She said, “Child that is roe. Roe from the fat catfish.”

I apparently looked puzzled.

“Caviar! Fish eggs,” she said. “You’ve eaten it all your life.”

I was in shock. I sat there silently, wondering how long had I eaten fish egg hamburgers. The last thing I remember from that day is feeling sick. The next day grandma squeezed me close to her while she had her morning coffee wearing her big fuzzy pink robe.

“One day you’ll be able to tell your children you used to eat caviar. I won’t make you eat that ever again.”

Identity Part 2: More Geographical Perspectives

Identity Part 2: More Geographical Perspectives

Dear reader, thank you for coming by again. If you’d like to read the first part to this post, please read Identity: A Geographical Perspective.

Sophia in the United States of America

My first home away from home was Santa Monica, California. It was beautiful. I would walk everywhere. Once I saw Keanu Reeves casually walking to an apartment three doors down from me, like he wasn’t Neo from the Matrix. Hahaha!

A lot of people looked at me. It is only recently that I noticed that people usually look at me, and I figure it’s because I’m tall. That is where the Brazilian and Moroccan guesses started rolling in: in Los Angeles County. That’s when I started wondering about my identity on a whole new level, slowly but surely.

My identity crisis culminated eighteen years into my life in the U.S. This is when it became something I had to seriously look at, and decide what kind of action to take. In the early 2000s, I noticed some girls look at me in a strange way (strange to me), when they knew I was with a Black guy. I brushed it off as me seeing things, and it might have been so. I never got the same looks when I dated a White guy or one with my skin color.

In the early 2010s I went to the bank in a predominantly White neighborhood, and was helped by a really nice White man banker. I came back two times later with my husband, who’s Black mixed with Black. I noticed my husband’s whole posture and energy change. He was making himself smaller. He is 6’5″ or so, but it wasn’t just his height he was minimizing. He was making himself non-threatening. 

I looked at him curiously, but when I sat with him across from the same White man who had helped me so nicely twice before, I began to understand. The whole thing infuriated me on a level where I couldn’t even say anything. The banker talked to us like we weren’t account holders, like we didn’t belong, like he didn’t have time, and like he forgot how to be as nice as he was earlier that week. It was completely new to me. I couldn’t understand it. Apparently it was the way my husband’s world worked, and I (being …Other and a woman) had never been exposed to it first-hand.

I decided then to open myself up to understanding this world my husband was living in, and that our children might come to live in as well. 

The United States Through The Eyes Of A Foreigner

As a foreigner living in the U.S. I feel like an outsider looking in on a very personal family situation. There is so much love, and fear-based hate, and fear-based actions all around. The love should not be ignored, but lately I notice that it is becoming an aspect of the Black/White relationship that isn’t being talked about as much. There is a whole other thing too: I, as a woman with African identity and mixed ethnic heritage, find it super strange when Black women here see me as a disappointment or as a threat. Let me explain. It has taken me SO long to come to face this possibility, and I only bring it up because it has nothing to do with me, I believe, but with an idea.

I have had the pleasure and blessing to be around a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds. Here in the United States I have been around Black women who have either come to, or are working on coming to a place of self-appreciation and self-worth, and a place where they feel freer to express their African identity and cultures. I don’t seem to get along with the majority of these Black queens. At least not for long-lasting relationships. There has been a small group of them, but by and large, I have remained this Other girl who says she is from Africa but doesn’t look like the African stereotype.

I was MC of this Afrofuturistic event in Columbia, South Carolina once, because this Black King saw my worth before I could even see it. His name is THE Dubber. He’s a rather dope human and musician.

Most people at the event didn’t know who I was, but if you know me, you know I will come say hi with a smile on my face (and in my heart). I will introduce myself and ask you about yourself. I walked into the main room and one of the evening’s artists was there, sitting in a row of chairs. She was a Black girl who was evidently on her journey of finding her magic. I think that’s awesome! Low natural haircut, beautifully moisturized skin, funky outfit, African jewelry, coffee-brown skin. It fit the image of Africa that many people in the United States have. My husband was in front of me so he walked into the room first. She got up, smiled big at him, greeted him and shook his hand, and sat back down. I was right next to him by this point, getting ready to look up again from my planner at the right time, and greet her when she was done greeting my husband, but I guess she didn’t see me. She didn’t even make eye contact with me.

Did you say I could have cut her out of the evening’s schedule? Oh my! You’re such a naughty reader! Haha!

At least she behaved like that to my face, which I appreciate.

I do not pretend to understand the distress of the descendants of enslaved Africans in America. Distress, injustice, disgust, hurt, pain, frustration, trauma, etc…

Yet, I would like to share a perspective from outside the box, and I thank you for lending me your ear.

Power

Power comes with responsibility. A part of that responsibility is to ask what kind of world one wants to live in and what they can do to make it become a reality (if it isn’t already so). With the power that Black people and Brown people, and BIPOC and all marginalized people are sloo-o-o-o-wly gaining, we must ask ourselves this question: what kind of world do we want to live in, and what are we doing about it? I have heard Black friends say they hate White people. Some have said they would never date a White person (some for the sole fact that they would be White, not to do with culture and understanding), some say they won’t teach their kids about anything other than Black excellence and identity. I want to ask…. isn’t that the same kind of biased reality that we are working to get away from? If we start teaching our kids only a part of history, isn’t that history as skewed, but from another viewpoint?

Please consider this: would it be possible for us minorities to not only empower ourselves, but also be empowered by others (if they choose to do so) AND also not disempower others? I understand that if those without power gain it, those with it would have had to relinquish it. That’s fine. But do we have to exclude them entirely like they have done?

If that’s the case, do we know when and how to stop so that we don’t tilt the scales all the way to the other side and miss the point of balance?

We Just Want To Be Understood

I know you don’t know me and can’t verify my intention in saying any of this. I am truly coming from a place of mind and heart in which you and me are the same thing. Whether you believe in a Biblical Adam and Eve, or a scientifically founded story of a set of Eves, or whether you subscribe to the Big Bang theory, or evolution with a different beginning… I don’t know. What I believe is that, scientifically, we are all the outcome of the death of a star, a supernova. The only difference between you, and I, and that tree over there, is how energy and matter is collected (collected: has changed through time to become what it currently is). In truth, we are one.

I also believe we are spiritually connected. So when I ask these questions it is not because I am for any group or identity in particular. It is because I am for all people as one group. One group with varying stories to tell, cultures and traditions to live and share. We will likely always war and fight. We will have defeats and triumphs. In this seemingly pivotal moment in which history is swiftly changing through the use of newer and newer technology, can we decide that we all want to operate based on love? Can we empower ourselves to love ourselves fully? Then we can empower others to love themselves fully.

Can we at least attempt to tell history as factually as it occurred? So that all children of the world know about world history from all viewpoints? The good and the bad, and the understanding that sometimes the (good and bad) sides change. Personally, I am (learning to be) done with proving I belong. I don’t want to assimilate to become American or Black or anything else. I would like to be me. I am African. I have an African nose, and African hair, and African skin. Anything I do is African. LOL. I can’t prove it, you see? It’s kind of a ridiculous notion, now that I think about it after doing that for 22 years of living in the U.S.!

This is a scary post to write, but God knows my intention is to unite people – not take away anyone’s culture or identity – and to make progress without creating an unintended monster on the other side. I hope you understand.

Do you grapple with your identity living in a foreign country? Is this something you are concerned about for your children?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Sophia.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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World Mom: Tes Silverman of USA

World Mom: Tes Silverman of USA

This month’s Meet a World Mom features a treasured member of our senior editing team, who celebrates a very special birthday today. Get to know all about Tes Silverman, how she came to World Moms Network and what she does outside of her role with us. Happy Birthday Tes!!

WMN: What country do you live in?

Tes: I live in the USA.

What country are you from?

I was born in Manila, Philippines but have lived in the United States since I was 10 years old.

What language(s) do you speak?

My primary language is English but I also know some conversational French and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines.

How many children do you have and what are their ages?

I have one daughter, Shaina, who is 22 years old. She is currently doing a post-baccalaureate on her way to medical school.

How did you connect with World Moms Network?

I was attending Moms+Social Summit and started a conversation with then Managing Editor, Elizabeth Atalay. I had my own blog but I wanted to connect with other women through my blog. Back then, they weren’t accepting new writers from the United States, but I was really interested in getting involved with World Moms Network. After talking with Elizabeth, I started submitting a post to World Moms Network and the rest is history.

How long have you been a part of World Moms Network?

I have been lucky enough to be part of World Moms Network for 5 years!

How do you spend your days? (work, life, etc.) 

I live in Virginia Beach, VA and spend most of my days looking for ideas to write about for World Moms Network, traveling pre-Covid with my husband for his speaking engagements and taking care of our 4 year old lab mix and 3 year old pitbull when we are home.

What are the top 5 places on your travel wish list?

I love to travel and have traveled to quite a few countries like France, Spain, Iceland, Israel, Canada, Thailand, Luxembourg and Belgium.  If and when everything starts opening up, my travel wish list consists of: Portugal, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Greece and Turkey. 

What is your best motherhood advice?

The best motherhood advice I can give is to make sure to take care of yourself. The example that I still remember dates back to when my husband and I brought our daughter home for the first time at my in-laws’ home. We were staying with them because I had a difficult pregnancy(I was on bedrest for 4 months) and since they were both medically experienced, it was advised that we stay with them until I gave birth to Shaina. Our first night with our daughter consisted of lots of her crying, unable to comfort her, until my mother-in-law took her from us for the rest of the night so we could sleep. Her words were, “I’ve got her, get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning.” I didn’t realize until much later how much that one gesture would impact the way I took care of my daughter. Caring for your child is important, but caring for yourself is just as crucial.

What is one random thing that most people would be surprised to know about you?

I am a big foodie and love to look for great places to eat whenever I travel. 

How did you get through quarantine/lockdown (2020/21)?

I started a podcast titled r(E)volutionary Woman in November 2019 as a result of wanting to connect with other women from different countries. It was my way of creating deeper conversations with women about what’s going on in their lives and what they’re doing for their communities.

I connected with family and friends via Zoom calls. I went to a few family birthday parties via Zoom which was chaotic but fun.

What’s your favorite social media platform, if any?

Facebook, because it has made it easy for me to connect with family, friends and possible guests for my podcast.

What brings you joy?

I love going for high tea, a walk on the beach, road trips with my husband and playing with our dogs, Dobby and Miso.

What UN sustainable development goal are you most passionate about?

I am very passionate about SDG #5 – Gender Equality. I believe that educating girls, having  their voices heard and advocating for their rights are just some ways to achieve this goal. There is so much work to do to get there but I am hopeful that we can achieve this if we keep using our voices and speak out against any inequality.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Identity: A Geographical Perspective

Identity: A Geographical Perspective

“Where are you from?”

“What is your ethnicity?”

Do you ever get asked questions about your identity?

How about me? Could you guess my ethnic background or identity? In fact, you could put your answer in the comment section and see if you aren’t alone!

There is going to be some humor in this post. Beware!

My name is Sophia. Like Sophia Loren with the big eyes, or Sofia Vergara with the big breasts. I haven’t called myself these names; I am only (vainly) conveying what people have said since childhood and in later years.

I have consistently been asked these questions: where are you from? What is your ethnicity? At some point I decided to ask the curious person what they thought. The guesses across U.S. state lines varied only slightly: Brazilian, Moroccan, and Indian were the top three guesses. Less than a handful of times someone guessed Italian, Eritrean, and Afghani (I wondered if they had been stalking me, but they just had a good eye for phenotypes).

I am a Mhaya from the Haya tribe of northwest Tanzania, west of Lake Victoria. This is the tribe of my mother and my grandmother, while my great-grandmother was from the Kingdom of Buganda. I am also Punjabi, Afghani, Eritrean, and Italian; and that only covers up to 4 grandparents & my great-grandmother Nshashwoi – I think her name is so awesome! I consider myself all those things, and I am aware of being all of them to some, and one of them to most. At this point in my life I wonder, more than anything else when it comes to this, how I feel about it all and how I identify. 

It’s an ongoing question, but I know I am not alone in answering it. I think there are others who are going through the same thing, so I hope this post can help someone with today’s set of… wonderings about their identity.

Sophia in Italia

When I lived in Italy as a kid, I honestly had the best time! We played outside; I ran and ran and ran; we shouted; we had spit contests; we did our homework; we played palla a calcio, aka football or soccer; we hid from the Carabinieri driving by, as if we had done something wrong. I am still in touch with most of my neighbors and elementary school friends; they hold a special and beautiful place in my heart. There were parts of childhood that were tough and in retrospect uncertain, but overall, I think it was pretty great!

The grocers across the narrow street from our house were super nice and let me learn how to do things around the shop when I asked. I never thought anything really deep, when the husband would tease and say “O! Are you getting bananas today? You guys like them where you’re from!” with a big smile on his face. I just thought that was a stupid comment and that he was only making a joke. So I took it as that.

It wasn’t until 20 years later that it dawned on me that in our class, there were just two of us who were not “olive-skin white Italians”. I mean… our olive skin is there, but you know, mixed with some other things like… cardamom and Thai basil. 

We tanned really well! No one pointed any of that out, though, and childhood went on as I wish it would for all children.

Sophia in Tanzania

When we moved back to Tanzania I learned Kiswahili and English as quickly as I could. I jumped straight into 6th grade with two-weeks’ worth of English classes, and let me tell you… it was quite the experience! From a class of 18-24 students, all speaking Italian, all friends since yay high, to a class of 90+ students, speaking in languages I didn’t understand, and looking at me like only a part of what I am ethnicity-wise. How dare they!

One girl in particular was really cool. She was African (color omission is intentional) and she knew all these cool English hip-hop songs that I heard in 6th and 7th grade. Our Cameroonian teacher would let us sing them in class. Her English sounded perfect, even though I didn’t know the meaning of all the words we were singing (now that I speak English I can say she does speak it excellently.)

As time passed and I learned to speak the local languages, people started asking me about my ethnic identity; guessing that I was Baluch, Omani, Arab, or Indian. The Somali girls would befriend me and we’d hang out quite a bit. I remember being in Form II (think sophomore year in U.S. high school) and a group of Indian girls asked if I wanted to be friends, to which I said yes. The next morning at school, the group of Indian girls and I waved from across the courtyard.

During that same morning, I met some more friends in class, and during class changes I walked with them to our next destination. Three of the Indian girls from that morning saw me with my new friends, looked at me, hugged their books tightly to their chests, and walked past us like they didn’t know me.

During recess I went to say hi to the Indian girls, and sure enough they had changed their minds about hanging out with me. The only difference that I could think of is that the friends they had seen me with looked pretty coffee-skinned.

It’s so strange to me to say Black, as Black is not a word anyone used to describe our identity; not even the darkest-looking person… unless they were really, really dark… like beautiful moon-lit nights. In this case, someone might have called them ‘of the night‘ or ‘of blackness‘, which was sometimes done in a collective jest that included the person being discussed, and at times it was used to be hurtful.. The more I say, the more wrong it sounds, but I am not here to lie to you or paint a picture that isn’t so. Back to my point, though. Africa is home to so many skin colors, physical features, and hair textures!

So it was, that from that day I chose to not say I was Indian; that included Afghani. I was Tanzanian, Eritrean, and Italian. I didn’t watch Indian movies if I could help it, I didn’t seek out anything to do with my Indian heritage at all. I still ate Indian sweets like gulam jamun because, well… it’s gulam jamun.

I came back to appreciating and happily embracing my Asiatic identity in my 20s. Of course that small group of girls was not a complete representation of all Indians, just as most small groups aren’t a complete representation of a group or an ideology or belief.

This brings us to Sophia In the United States of America, but see, that is an entirely different experience, that requires its own post.

Before I go, I would like to ask you: Did any of this resonate with you? How does it feel? You don’t have to answer that publicly, but you are free to do so.

I hope it feels reassuring or that it helps in some way.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Sophia.

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu: A Man Who Changed The World

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: A Man Who Changed The World

Many years ago, when I was still living in South Africa, I was on the organizing committee for a national conference at which Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the keynote speaker. There were about ten of us on the committee, and we were all unspeakably excited at the prospect of an in-person meeting with this great man.

All of us had witnessed in real time the dismantling of Apartheid. Desmond Tutu played a major role in this process, and he helped shape the landscape of post-Apartheid South Africa. He was, without a doubt, one of South Africa’s greatest heroes.

At the time we were putting the conference together, South Africa was still a fledgling democracy. The first democratic election in which everyone had a vote was still a fresh memory, and the nation was in the early stages of its healing. Desmond Tutu was a bright light that all of South Africa’s people looked to for guidance.

On the day of the conference, the committee members were assembled in the room that had been allocated as our centre of operations. This was where the logistics happened, it was where we took our coffee breaks, and it was where we greeted the speakers and presenters.

When word reached us that Archbishop Tutu had arrived in the conference centre parking lot, we arranged ourselves in a line down one side of the room. We knew that Archbishop Tutu would only be there for a few minutes before he was whisked to the auditorium to deliver his speech. Each of us would have the opportunity to shake his hand and have a brief exchange with him.

I was standing beside my friend Dave, who seemed unaccountably nervous. There were little beads of perspiration on his face, and he was jiggling his leg so much that I kept nudging him to stop. As momentous as this occasion was for me and the other committee members, it was doubly so for Dave. He was the only Black person in the room, the only one whose life had quite literally been saved by the demise of Apartheid.

When the door opened and the Archbishop was ushered in, he instantly won all of us over with his grace and charm. He moved down the line of people, engaging everyone in a brief conversation, presenting himself not as a global celebrity but as an equal. When it was my turn, he grasped my hand with both of his. I told him what an inspiration for change he was, and he told me that I had the power to change the world in my own way.

He moved on to Dave, who was standing dead still, looking absolutely terrified. Dave managed to extend his hand for the Archbishop to shake, but he was unable to utter a single word. Archbishop Tutu told Dave he was a trailblazer for the generations to come, and Dave just – stood there. When the silence was on the verge of transitioning from mildly awkward to downright uncomfortable, the Archbishop started moving to the next person.

All of a sudden, Dave blurted out, “You’re a lot shorter than I thought you were going to be!”

There was a beat of stunned silence, followed by a guffaw of laughter from the Archbishop. He shook Dave’s hand again and moved on to the next person.

When all was said and done, I said to Dave, “You had the chance to say one thing, and that was it?”

“I didn’t know what else to say,” Dave said. “Anyway, it’s true.”

It was true. Well, kind of true. Archbishop Tutu was small in physical stature, but he carried himself as if he was ten feet tall. He was one of those people whose presence could fill an entire stadium. We saw on multiple occasions how he could sway the sentiment of an entire nation with just a few words. In a country that for decades was torn apart by racism and government policies designed to pit groups of people against one another, Archbishop Tutu’s message was one of peace and unity.

Desmond Tutu believed in the interconnectedness of all humans. He promoted the message that everyone has value, that the path to peace lies in talking to people whose views differ from our own, and that there is strength in diversity.

As South Africa – and the world – reels from the loss of this great man, we can take comfort in the fact that his legacy will be with us forever. He leaves behind lessons that all of us can teach our children as they strive to make their own marks upon the world.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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