popular
Photo by Hamish Brown

In Conversation: Lemn Sissay On His New Book About Re-claiming the Ethiopian Heritage Stolen From Him by England’s Foster Care System

In 'My Name Is Why,' the 2019 PEN Pinter award winner passionately advocates for children in the institutional care system, and in turn tells a unique story of identity and the power in discovering one's heritage.

It took the author Lemn Sissay almost two decades to learn his real name. As an Ethiopian child growing up in England's care system, his cultural identity was systematically stripped from him at an early age. "For the first 18 years of my life I thought that my name was Norman," Sissay tells OkayAfrica. "I didn't meet a person of color until I was 10 years of age. I didn't know a person of color until I was 16. I didn't know I was Ethiopian until I was 16 years of age. They stole the memory of me from me. That is a land grab, you know? That is post-colonial, hallucinatory madness."

Sissay was not alone in this experience. As he notes in his powerful new memoir My Name Is Why, during the 1960s, tens of thousands of children in the UK were taken from their parents under dubious circumstances and put up for adoption. Sometimes, these placements were a matter of need, but other times, as was the case with Sissay, it was a result of the system preying on vulnerable parents. His case records, which he obtained in 2015 after a hardfought 30 year campaign, show that his mother was a victim of child "harvesting," in which young, single women were often forced into giving their children up for adoption before being sent back to their native countries. She tried to regain custody of young Sissay, but was unsuccessful.

Whether they end up in the foster system out of need or by mistake, Sissay says that most institutionalized children face the same fate of abuse under an inadequate and mismanaged system that fails to recognize their full humanity. For black children who are sent to white homes, it often means detachment from a culturally-sensitive environment. "There are too many brilliant people that I know who have been adopted by white parents for me to say that it just doesn't work," says Sissay. "But the problem is the amount of children that it doesn't work for."

Keep reading... Show less
News Brief
(Screenshot from "Every Woman" video)

Check out Cameroonian Crooner Vagabon’s New Ode to Female Power

The singer dropped a video for new single "Every Woman" today, shot by fellow Cameroonian director Lino Asana.

Cameroonian-born singer-songwriter Laetitia Tamko, better known as her stage name Vagabon, has been spoiling us with delights as of late. First, the crooner teased us with two singles, "Flood" and "Water Me Down" from her forthcoming sophomore album, Vagabon, a work she wrote and produced herself. And today, she surprised us with a new single and video for "Every Woman"—a track Tamko claims is the "thesis of the album," as per a press statement reported by The Fader magazine

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Jeremychanphotography/Getty Images

Genevieve Nnaji's 'Lion Heart' is Nigeria's First Ever Entry to the Oscars

The Netflix original film has been submitted for the 'Best International Feature Film' category.

Last year in September, Netflix picked up Genevieve Nnaji's directorial debut Lion Heart and it became the first Netflix original film to come out of Nigeria's colossal film industry. More recently, the film has now been submitted to the Oscars in the "Best International Feature Film" category—Nigeria's first ever entry to the Oscars according to Screen.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Screenshot via Netflix Italia's Youtube page.

Netflix's Newest Original Series Is Tackling What It Means To Be Young and Black in Italy

"Zero" is the brainchild of Angolan-Italian writer and TV host Antonio Dikele Distefano.

A new original series from Netflix is set to give us a glimpse of another pocket within the global black diaspora.

Zero, created by Antonio Dikele Distefano, will be the first Italian series from the streaming platform to take on what it means to be young and black in Italy today. The series follows Zero—a shy, African-Italian who harbors a superpower that pushes him to learn how to open up to the world and to love others.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.