My brother and I found out that we were Bassa when we sent DNA swabs to a lab in the United States. When they returned, we showed a match of more than 95% with others who are Bassa.
To me Cameroon is still a foreign place. It’s a culture that I don’t necessarily identify with, at least on the surface, but I think metaphysically and spiritually there are tremendous similarities between the Bassa people and the characteristics that are strongest in my family.
My visit to Cameroon taught me so much about my history. The whole “Bassa-ness” that was birthed in this trip leaves me feeling more connected to my genealogy. I was welcomed into a culture that immediately saw me as part of the Bassa. There was this immediate inclusion and to them it’s obvious that I’m one of them. Right away I felt like I belonged. It was as if they had simply met their newest sister. I found it very emotional – they were welcoming me back.
When I was with the Bassa dancers in Dwalla, the community started cheering. It was overwhelmingly emotional because I had been lost, but now I’m found. It was just so incredibly immediate. No one took any time to consider it, there was no paperwork involved and they didn’t gather a committee to decide whether I was worthy; I was simply Bassa. I have never experienced that kind of inclusion before.
Anyone who has overcome any kind of trauma knows that the only way forward is through
In western cultures we have to work so hard to feel like we belong to something. It’s so much work to create community. There is so much discernment and so much trial-and-error. It’s exhausting. I will probably be less judgmental going forward. Mistakenly, I used to think that I was inclusive and empathetic and non-judgmental, but now I know that I’m not.
I am Canadian, and I am Bassa, and to me these are the most immediate influences over my life. I hope that I can create a clear connection to Cameroonian culture for my children. I would like them to know and respect the fact that they are Bassa.
There’s so much that I still want to do, but if tomorrow it was all over, I would still be quite thrilled with the life I have had. I have been through some challenging things in life: I was morbidly obese and then I lost weight, my aorta exploded and I almost died and I have lost two babies. There are a lot of processes there that require a tremendous amount of self-reflection. They were very difficult experiences and I think people looking in from the outside might wonder how I’m still standing. But anyone who has undergone grief or illness or faced any kind of juncture in life where you have to go one way or the other knows that the only way forward is through. I’m very optimistic today. Every day is a new day.