I was able to serve as chauffer for my granddaughter yesterday so that she could rendezvous with a childhood friend. We met in Wadena which is half way between where her friend lives with her husband and baby and our home.
Alissa’s friend, Amy, introduced us to her husband Dion in the coffee shop where Alissa was able to get real coffee – a double shot cappuccino (our Folgers drip doesn’t cut it). They carried with them their little 3 month old prince, an adorable child with big brown eyes and a quick heart-capturing smile. We learned as we visited on the couches of the coffee shop that Dion is from Liberia. I am grateful for the bit of history that I know for I was able to tell him that I understand Liberia began as a colony to which black slaves in America could go to live in freedom. Liberia, whose name is liberty, Lincoln at first saw to be the solution to the slavery problem. He assumed that the freed slaves would naturally want to go back to Africa from whence they came. Had he been correct, the history that followed would have been quite different. But, he was not correct, of course, and his thinking changed before the end of the war.
When Alissa asked Dion about the language of Liberia, he said that the people speak English which they spoke since coming from America, but there were the indigenous tribes who had languages of their own. It reminded me of Guatemala where the main language is Spanish, the language of the conquerors, but the indigenous groups each speak their own languages. It was true here, too, with English being the language of the conquerors and the various Indian tribes, at least in the beginning, each having their own languages. It is interesting to note that the sign language that Indians are known to have used was the way different tribes communicated with one another.
I asked Dion about the reaction of the indigenous people when these former Africans came and set up camp among them, claiming their land to create a new nation. He said they were pretty bitter, just like the Indians here. There is still tension between them. The returning slaves became the Europeans of Liberia. I found this fascinating, especially because of the fact that the founding fathers of Liberia were of the same race as the oppressed people. So for all the historians that claim that the European conquest of the Americas was about race…well, here is something else to consider. Listening to Dion, I realized that the whole concept of colonization itself was a powerful movement in history. I am not sure when colonization began. Perhaps it was always a part of history. After all, wasn’t the story of Moses and the Hebrews a story of colonization? Some colonization is about claiming the wealth of a foreign land, but sometimes it is about the effort of oppressed people to find refuge.
We left the coffee shop to go to a restaurant for lunch – the Boondocks Café. I had to explain to Dion what Boondocks means. There Amy had a chance to talk for a while. The café was full of grandmas and grandpas that threw lots of attention toward the baby. Dion did the manly thing and grabbed the bill.
What a sweet and interesting encounter. It was a gift to be part of it.