Each day we walked about 1 1/2 miles to the Kafountine Clinic. We would be greeted by kids, some at first peaking from behind things looking at us, others coming near the road to greet us with "Toubab." Later in the day we walk down the dusty main street with a stream of onlookers; by adults we are also considered “Toubab.” “Toubab,” at its best translates into a “Tourist,” “Stranger,” but also means a person of European ancestry; we are not recognized as the “Returning African Sistas.” Not what we Sistas Returning Home wanted to be called. But to these kids and others we are not recognized as long gone returning family members. Makeda with her waist length locks and African centric clothing, Jessica with her light skin, and me with short hair and tattooed ears; we are not recognizable as being one of Africa’s children by our folks Back Home. A question is soon asked of us—“How did we get such light skin (did we bleach it?)?” and “Are your parents white?” We have returned Back Home to find bleached skin and hair weaves as a new icon of beauty.
“Toubab!” Nikki would educate them by pointing at her skin and their skin—we are the same as you —not Toubab; and Makeda would holler back "Toubab" and growl.
We have returned Back Home with this need to tell everyone what happened to our ancestors once we were taken by force from here. We feel the need to explain all of the things that have happened to us since leaving. Their knowledge of who we are and how we got to be is practically nonexistent, except for those who have seen a part or all of the “Roots” series. As a whole, our families Back Home don’t have interest in our past. Not much different from our children in the U.S.
We are not recognizable as family members to our returning family—we carry ourselves differently than their women relatives; we dress differently than their women relatives; we are not the same as their women and they know it.
And I am really so naive as to expect some big “Welcome Home” meta-physical banner to appear (too much TV).
So—once again looking with my eyes blinded me when the Recognition of Sisterhood came to me. When did the laughing of the women in Le Grand Salon turn from light hearted jokes about my clothes and shoes, to the smiles of welcome when I arrived. When did they start inviting me to sit down and spend some time with them outside as they cooked? When did the request for me to sing my only Senegalese song and do my one dance step become a group activity?
When the sister-in-law of Mrs. S. handed me one of the twins (Awa) and asked me to carry her to the car, it hit me –Welcome Back Home My Sister. Heart to heart; spirit to spirit, the recognition had happened. I have felt like one of a pair of twins, separated at birth, trying to find my sister and hoping in time she will recognize me from my heart if not from my appearance. And it happened
And towards the end of the trip we and the kids just happily greeted each other as "Toubab." They were happy to see us and we felt the same way about them.