For my mother
I. If you see me praying in the living room, never sit in front of me. You are not God.
II. When we go to a restaurant and I don’t know any foods on the menu, never order me a meal that is spelled with silent letters. I came to eat, not to explore.
III. You didn’t make food. No. God, did. You cooked food. Watch your English. Watch your faith.
IV. Your Krio is offensive. When you speak, you sound like Shabba Ranks. Your accent is funny, but keep practicing. It is the only way we will be able to gossip in peace while at the supermarket.
V. Try to learn the language of your lover and his family. They could be smiling to your face and getting ready to trade you for 6 goats and 3 mules during your first trip to their homeland.
VI. If anyone stares at you for too long (more than 5 seconds), start speaking an imaginary language while maintaining eye contact. They will be the first to look away.
VII. Consider the consequence of purchasing human hair wigs, second hand clothing, and used furniture. Maybe you will feel beautiful, and also save money, but you never know whose bad luck or misfortune will be sitting on your head, body, or in the home in which you sleep. Buy what you can truly afford.
VIII. Your father’s Muslim, so you are too (1989-1993).
I am Christian, so you are too (1993-2012).
I am Catholic now, but you keep praying (2012-present).
IX. You laugh at me now. Like I laughed at my mother. Like she laughed at hers. Like your daughters will laugh at you. And I will live long enough to forgive your folly.
X. Just make sure to pray.
Yalie Kamara is a first generation Sierra Leonean-American woman and native of Oakland, California. Prior to becoming an MFA candidate at Indiana University, she worked in the service of youth and adults all over the state of California in the areas of educational access, nonprofit management, and community-based art facilitation.