My name is Chinyere Grace Okafor.
I am from
Children of Beauty
The strong ones
I am very happy to be here this evening to meet with an all American family coming from different parts of the county because of one purpose; that is to reunite with their relations. It is therefore important that I thank you all for spending your time, effort, money, and other resources for family, for everyone to affirm their being part of a big extended family.
I was very happy when my colleague in the department, Ms. Carolyn Williams, asked me to be a guest speaker at this occasion, because ‘family’ is a topic, concept, and practice that is very dear to me. I come from a large family, my mother having nine biological children and she and my father adopting many others. My concept of family includes the small family unit but is not limited to it. It is large and I’ll begin to explain it with a story or rather, stories.
There is an eighty six years old
woman who lives in
Another story is about a friend’s
father. My friend lives in
“Do you think that life was so rosy for your mother and me? It wasn’t.”
The mention of his dead mother usually draws his son’s attention.
“We were committed to the family and family came before every other thing. This helped us to stay together even when things were too tough.”
Another sentiment that he uses on his son is this:
“If you break up, your mother will think that I have failed her. I will be ashamed to meet your mother when I die. Please allow me to settle this matter in your house.”
This is about a couple in
How do we dwell together in unity? I believe that the same bible gives us the key by laying the commandments and I’ll like to emphasize the fourth one – Honor thy father and they mother, which concurs with verse 23 of the Koranic book:
“Be kind to your parents … address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them thy mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.”(17:23 – 24)
Respect is culturally coded and culture specific, so I’m not going to go into details of this for you. However, let me cite examples from my background. Respect includes not calling my parents by their names. It also means that younger siblings should append the sign of seniority when they call my name. Every culture has its own signs of respect. Allow me to emphasize those holy words ‘honor’ ‘respect’ and ‘cherish.’
In our modern life today, the strength of family is not just the people who will lend you money when you are broke or help find you a job. Family is more fundamental that that. The psychological, anti-stress, esteem-value of family has been noted in many studies. Individuals from cultures with strong family ties have been known to withstand more stress than individuals from fragmented family systems (Kellner 2003). This does not mean that family members do not have disagreement, but that the spirit of family or what Igbo people call usokwu (children that were nourished in the same mother’s kitchen) is always paramount. This underscores the importance of what you all are doing today – communion as children of one family.
Every religion acknowledges the importance of family. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in their holy books – bible, Tora, Koran – hold that the Ultimate Spirit created the first couple, blessed them and told them to maintain their family. Abraham was a devoted family man, doing everything to keep the family that consisted of his wife, Sarah and himself, before God blessed them with Isaac. In the New Testament, the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is presented as the ideal. In Islam, the family of the prophet Mohammed is used as the example. Let us not forget the family that grows from the organization of worship - the church – which has grown to function as family for many believers who use faith as the bastion that hold them together. Jesus created a large family of apostles and disciples, some of them he renamed to suit the purpose of the new family (Simon renamed Peter (rock) - Mark 3: 7-35).
Although many of us may feel that we cannot appoint family members like Jesus. This may be true, but let us not forget the larger family that we create as we go through life’s journey. Some of us live in cities where we don’t have any member of our biological family. But we can create a sociological family. I have many sociological families in different places where I have lived – Nigeria, Swaziland, England Italy as well as a number of states here such as Portland ME and Washington DC. I believe that if they nurture the love of family in you, you will find it easy to create family wherever you find yourself and this will help you to navigate the customs of the place. This is how I come to find myself in this family reunion. I am neither a Rolfe nor a Williams, yet I am here at our family reunion, the Rolfe family reunion.
Thank you for inviting me and thank you for listening to me.
Last update: November 12, 2009
Web page by C. G. Okafor
Chinyere G. Okafor