My story; African or African American
African or African American do I have to choose? My parents are from Liberia, Africa and have been living in the United States for over 30 years. As a child, I have experienced two cultures and two different ethnicities. Living in the States has been difficult for me to enhance my African culture. I have been faced with many challenges when I entered the school systems. Racial slurs and ridicule from my peers have been just a few. Living in two different cultures and experiencing racism has had a profound effect on my life.
My mother and father came to the United States in 1976, to earn their college degrees. While attending Kent State University, in Ohio, my parents met. They had no idea they were both from the same country. My parents courted for 3 years before marrying in 1979. They later moved to Chicago IL, for better opportunities. My dad drove cabs for extra money while attending Illinois Institute of Technology, while my mother braided hair to help my dad support their foundation for something special to come. This union has brought forth 3 lovely children, 25 years of marriage and counting along with cultural enhancement for the family as a whole.
On July 4, 1980, my parents first child was born, I Jartu Selli am the eldest of 2 siblings. I was born in Chicago IL, on the birth of Independence, which to me is a coincidence? The birth of Independence is unique, not only in the immensity of its later impact on the course of world history and the growth of democracy, but also because so many of the threads in our national history run back through time to come together in one place, in one time, and in one document: the Declaration of Independence.
That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. In June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in Congressionally imposed secrecy.
In anticipation of a vote for independence, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to compose a document declaring the colonies’ independence from Britain. That committee then delegated the task to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration can be viewed online at this Library of Congress exhibit. Also on display are fragments of a “Dunlap Broadside,” one of twenty-four surviving copies of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, done by John Dunlap in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. While, Liberia after the struggle for liberty in the American Revolution, free and enslaved African Americans faced continued hardship and inequality. A number of white Americans, for a variety of reasons, joined them in their efforts to resolve this complex problem.
One possible solution (advocated at a time when the assimilation of free blacks into American society seemed out of the question) was the complete separation of white and black Americans. Some voices called for the return of African Americans to the land of their forebears. On July 26, The Liberian Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed. In it, Liberians charged their mother country, the United States, with injustices that made it necessary for them to leave and make new lives for themselves in Africa. They called upon the international community to recognize the independence and sovereignty of
Liberia. Britain was one of the first nations to recognize the new country. The United States did not recognize Liberia until the American Civil War. It is amazing to me how wars change people’s lives and make them meaningful. The birth of America and my cultural background is what makes me realize I have a purpose in life.
As a child, I was very sickly. It was not until I was 6 years old; I was diagnosed with Sickle-Cell Disease. Sickle-Cell is an inherited condition of people of mostly African heritage in which there are abnormal configurations of the red blood cells that appear as sickles instead of doughnuts. They tend to clump in vessels causing tissue infarcts and anemia and are triggered by hypoxic conditions causing what is called ‘a crisis’, during which the person has severe pain and incapacity. The condition can complicate the management of serious decompression illness and can be another cause of aseptic necrosis of bone. With this condition, I felt jealous of my brother and sister because they never got sick and I felt abnormal compared to them. I wasn’t able to play a lot, nor participate in sporting activities as they did.
To abstain from my jealous behavior towards my brother and sister, I began to focus more on my academics. Throughout elementary and high school my grades were outstanding. My grades lead me to college-prep classes in my junior year of school and many merits. Although my grades were good, I considered my friends to be even better.
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