Too African for the Americans, Too American for the Africans…

I often get asked why we started Little Doebahyou and why we chose to focus on the population that we did. I answer that question so much in interviews and during speaking engagements, that it never occurred to me that I never shared the story with you, our Tribe.

So today is the day that I share with you, in my own words, a few of the reasons that we started Little Doebahyou, and why the company means so much to me.

To Bridge the Gap and Re-Learn My Liberian Culture:

 

“Little Doebahayou started as a way for me to train myself and fall in love with my culture all over again.”

I still remember my first day in school in America. There was a spelling test that day, which I got an F on, because I had not been to school in two years, and I just copied EVERYTHING on the paper of the kid next to me, down to his name, ha! It was in that 3rd grade class that I began to realize that all Black people were not the same. I sounded different, I brought different food to school for lunch, my parents talked with THICK accents, and when you add all of those things together, you create the perfect environment for teasing and being made fun of.

It was somewhere between being called an “African Booty Scratcher” (to be clear I have NEVER scratched my booty at school) and the humiliation of having to use the classroom pencil sharpener (because I didn’t know that everyone had personal pencil sharpeners, and let’s be real my immigrant mother was NOT about to waste money on a personal pencil sharpener when there was a perfectly good one in the classroom) that I decided that I needed to do whatever it took to become a “real American.” I decided at 8 years old, that I needed to talk like a real American, eat foods that real Americans ate (at least in public anyway), and make sure that I fit in.

 

“Because I surrounded myself with only “real Americans” on the rare occasions when I went with my parents to African functions I always felt out of place.”

 

I succeeded, and for years paid little to no attention to my Liberian heritage. I had no desire to learn how to cook the food, my accent was gone within six months, and ALL of my friends were “real Americans.” What I found though, was that even though I did a great job, in my opinion, of fitting in, there have always been moments when I have been too African for my American friends (like when they come to my mom’s house and dinner is a pot of Jollof rice) and too American for my African relatives. Because I surrounded myself with only “real Americans” on the rare occasions when I went with my parents to African functions I always felt out of place. I didn’t know the music, I didn’t sound like everyone else and would get told that my “ceres” (American pronunciation of English rather than Liberian pidgin English) was not easy.

 

“You know what, jump rope in Haiti is the same as jump rope in the United States, even if they are called by a different name.”

 

As I have gotten older, I have found an appreciation for the parts of me that make me whole. Since college I have been trying to bridge the gap between my two cultures. As I begin to think about my future children, there are so many parts of my culture that I want to pass on to them, so Little Doebahayou started as a way for me to train myself and fall in love with my culture all over again.

To Teach Children About the Beauty of the Diaspora:

I also have nieces and nephews who are American by birth, but culturally are Liberian, Haitian and Trinidadian. They were also a huge inspiration when we started the company. I always think about how we can make them aware of the global legacy of greatness that exists throughout the Diaspora.

Around the time we started thinking about what would eventually become Little Doebhayou, my niece returned from her first trip to Haiti. All she could talk about was how much fun she had playing games with the kids. Even though she doesn’t speak Creole, she was able to connect through the games that they played, because you know what? Jump rope in Haiti is the same as jump rope in the United States, even if they have different names.

 

As we talked to families across the United States prior to launching, we heard the same feedback. Parents we extremely unhappy with the limited exposure to Black Culture and Black History that their children were getting in school, they knew that a cultural education was great for their kids and would help with positive self image and self esteem, but they just didn’t know how they could incorporate teaching their kids into their already busy lives.

So, I sat and thought about how we could create something that would meet the needs of parents in the Diaspora, without adding any more work to their already full schedules.

And thus Little Doebahyou was born!

I have learned so much starting the company, like how deep and rich the history of the Diaspora is. I thought I knew, but I had NO idea. I get emails and social media posts daily about how the products we are creating are impacting the lives of the families who receive them.

Kids and parents alike are actually enjoying the products and look forward to getting their yellow box in the mail every month!!! What!?!?!?! And, we’ve been able to give back to amazing organizations…

⇒ Do you know about Kamp Kurat?

And partner with other amazing companies who have are determined to create quality cultural experiences for children…

⇒I KNOW you saw the Summer Program Announcement with Little Buzz Book Club!!

Who would have thought that a little company that was inspired by years of suppressing my culture, would turn into all of this, I mean I hoped that it would, but to see it come to life has been nothing short of amazing, and we have you to thank for it!

Thank you for being a part of our Tribe, and we look forward to growing and learning with you and your family.

Xoxo,

Watchen

 

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