To Be Real: What Makes You a “Real” Part of a Culture?

If you had the opportunity to read our interview with the Founder of Kamp Kurat, Carrie, you know that she mentions wanting her son to feel Ethiopian, because that is where he was born, even though he was raised by American parents in the United States.

If you had the opportunity to read the blog on why we started Little Doebahyou, you also saw that I talked about my issues with finding my footing in American and Liberian culture.

If you have been paying attention to anything on social media, you know the discussions on what makes someone a real Jamaican, Haitian, American, etc. gets brought up often and it really has made me start to wonder how do we define what makes someone a real part of a culture and if we are being intentional about passing those things down to children.

Williette and I had a conversation with our dad, who recently returned to the United States, about what it means to be authentically Liberian. We discussed a lot of things that we felt contributed to being a Liberian, like knowing your tribal dialect, or knowing how to cook the food, or understanding customs like what a father does when he dowry’s the family of his son’s future bride. I left the conversation being like, well dang, I don’t know any of those things, and I wish someone would try and dowry me, but I also left the conversation feeling really curious about learning more about my culture.

So what are we doing? We are taking it back to the basics! First we are going to have our father teach us our tribal dialect, which is going to be interesting since it is not a written language. Next I am going to have Liberian cooking lessons with my mom, since Williette swears that she already knows how to cook Liberian food *insert a side eye here*. We are also going to plan to do immersion trips, where we visit Liberia for extended periods of time, and spend time upcountry with our grandparents and the  elders of our family so that we can not only learn the language, but also the customs that make us who we are.

It’s important to me that I feel like a real American AND a real Liberian, not just that I occupy the space between both cultures, and I feel really fortunate that I have access to the resources that will allow me to at least try and relearn the parts of my culture that I suppressed.

In your opinion, what makes someone a “real” part of your culture?

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