Today my 5-year-old son had to wear his “national dress” to school in celebration of United Nations Day. When I got the note early last week I asked him, “Keyan where are you from?” “Wisconsin!” he replied with enthusiasm and without hesitation. I must say: I was little surprised, but also amused. He was actually born in Washington DC; his father is from Wisconsin, and that is where we spend our summers boating, fishing, and swimming in Maple Lake. I am Americo-Liberian, with a naturalized American mother (who has lived in America almost all my life) and a Liberian father who raised me right here.
During the course of the week Keyan heard me tell his Daddy and two or three other people about his “Wisconsin” reply and wonder aloud what to do. This morning, in a simply amazing show of maturity, he came to me in my room, still in his Spiderman pajamas, and said—quietly and as if he had been thinking hard about how to reassure me—“Mama, whatever clothes you want to put on me today will be fine with me.” Just like that. Five years old! I gave him a big hug and told him he would wear an African outfit, but parade with the American group at the school program. He was happy with that, and excited about the America/Liberia flag lapel pin he would wear on his shirt.
At the program, Keyan and his little brother Tyne stood on stage with the other American kids (most of them born to Liberian parents) and listened while they sang The Star-Spangled Banner. They don’t know the words to that song yet, but Keyan does know Liberia’s national anthem. Maybe next year my little American Liberian boys will sing with both countries!