Born at the crossroads I am my parents dream

In part of a BBC World Service series of writers letters to Barack Obama, Aminata Forna

Aminatta Forna, author of “The Devil that Danced on the Water” and Ancestor’s Stones, responds to the coming Presidency of Barack Obama. The programme is part of the BBC World Service Strand series of “Open letters and poems” to Obama and includes Wole Soyinka and Derek Wallcott

Aminatta’s letter speaks to her being born, like Obama, “at the crossroads of race and culture”. She writes

The Crossroads – a place of danger, a meeting place where worlds connect and where all answers lie.

Are you British or African? Where is home? Who do you think you are as though different bloods were like oil and water were incapable of mixing.

At the crossroads there is no reflexive place of refuge, no where to run, no mask to wear. No place we can shelter in the anonymity of the herd. For we are always other.

Ours is the road without a map, the road less traveled. m With No orthodoxy to direct us. No tradition to sight. No rules to follow. We must search out our own values and in so doing we discover that people are more alike than unalike that fools and wise men come in every shade.

Like Aminatta I too was born at the crossroads of race and culture. My parents dream. Arriving at a crossroads always leaves us with a choice on how we can position ourselves. A choice between being the object of wo/man made value judgments designed as part of an exclusionary ownership and nationalism which is the basis of so much conflict. Alternatively we can choose to be the subject of our lives. Released from the constraints of nationalisms and cultural mores we are free to move wherever and to adapt to whatever we choose.