Tichaona Chinyelu


Tichaona Chinyelu

Tichaona Chinyelu
Cambridge, Massachusetts,
December 16
I am earth: plant something in me I am sky: stop dropping bombs from me I am fire: next time, next time, NOW I am water: now flow with me.


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JANUARY 17, 2013 4:53PM

Daughter (a continuation of Chloe and Yvonne)

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Being the family secretary all correspondence passes through my hands. It never ceases to amaze me how I never have a name in my parents’ letters to each other. It is always my daughter, your daughter, our daughter, she; anything but my name. It makes no sense; especially because my parents take naming very seriously.

However, that’s standard. What’s not standard is my mother saying I can go to Hollywood after high school. That is so startling I immediately decide to take advantage of it. On Monday, when I return to school, I’m going to sign up for the drama club.

I’m used to being the sole drop of chocolate in a sea of vanilla. After-all, prisons aren’t exactly located in the hood. So it was no surprise  that only white faces looked at me when I entered  the room set aside for the drama club. However, it was surprising that the girl from the prison visiting room was there. Not only was she there but during introductions, I found out she directed most of the school plays.

The next one scheduled was Othello. When I heard that, I burst out laughing. Who on earth are they going to get to play Othello? The only brothers I’ve seen in the school are firmly oriented toward sports. Chloe nodded her permed head at me  and all eyes turned in my direction. It was scary for a minute but then I decoded what was going on. They want me to play Othello!

I could  hear my mother in my head: “Not only do they want to deny your womanhood but they also want you to play a miscegenator? Do you have to kiss Desdemona?” I could see her point but a role is a role.  Or is it? I told Chloe that I would have to think about it. Then I picked up my things including the script and left. I could hear her calling after me but I didn’t stop. She can wait.

Dear Sewafe,

Your daughter came home today with a look on her face combining both guilt and defiance. I didn’t get a chance to ask “what happened?” before she spilled the proverbial beans. That drama club wants her to play a black man in love with a white woman; not just any man, mind you but Othello, the original OJ Simpson. She tried to mitigate it by telling me that the director of the play is a girl whose father is in prison with you there. She said she saw the girl when she last visited you. Do you know the father? What can you tell me that will help me to help her navigate this. Self-determination applied individually, is, sometimes, a hard concept to unite with.

Yain Kain

Dear Yain Kain,

The father participated in the Scourge economy. In here, he articulates revolution but I’ve been down long enough to see through a con. If you need visual representation, check out a television show called OZ. There was a character on that show that captures him perfectly: Adebisi except he doesn’t involve himself in homosexual behavior. The mother has been up here a few times.  According to the grapevine, their visits never go well. Now she just sends the girl.

Yes, self determination is a hell of a concept but I think it’s time we loosen the reins before she starts calling us the oppressor. We have to trust that we’ve educated her sufficiently enough for her to make the right decision(s).


Yet again, it is as if I have no name but I do!  Let me introduce myself. I am Moyamba Funmilayo Sewafe Salma Yain Kain Yaa Asantewaa Nzingha Ida Lisabi Alice  Claudia Nomzamo Winfreda Wangari but everyone, except my parents that is, calls me Funmi.  

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short fiction

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Wow - now I want to know "what's in a name" . . . seriously . . . I hope to keep reading this story . . . so please, keep writing!
Hi Owl! Thanks for reading and commenting. The length (and idea) of her name is based on a quote by Miriam Makeba (who had an even longer name). Here's a part of the quote:

"The reason for its length is that every child takes the first name of all his male ancestors. Often following the first name is a descriptive word or two, telling about the character of the person, making a true African name somewhat like a story."

I definitely will keep on with this. I want it be like a serialized novel until it finishes itself.
Count me in with the Owl.... I too want to keep reading this...!!

Wonderful, Tichaona! Thanks for sharing that explanation by Miriam Makeba...a true African name being somewhat like a story. That is really beautiful.