I think it’s apt that I’m listening to Wale’s new jam “Black is Gold” while I write this, seeing as I’m thankful for two black women who played a pretty significant role in shaping the foundation of my worldview on women and my relationship with them.
I was born the fourth child of four children (stop all the “oh he’s the last born” jokes right now). Two sisters and one brother. The elder sister, Tope(full name Temitope means “mine is worthy of thanks”), is eight years older. Thanks to that fact, and her personality and temperament, I pretty much went through childhood viewing her as a demigod, second only to my parents in the T.K. Sawyerr family pecking order. She was your quintessential first born child: very respectful, strong sense of responsibility and discipline, intelligent, loved (and still loves) God, kind and caring while still being firm. She started school the earliest out of all of us. She was such a force to reckon with in literature; adored the classics and had the most incredible reading speed I knew of as a kid. There’s a standing family joke that she learnt how to read before she learnt how to walk. It’s therefore no surprise that she was the one responsible for making me fall in love with books and reading. In the early days she literally had to punish me to make me finish the first book she ever gave me to read. I believe it was Enid Blyton’s “The Adventures of the Wishing Chair”. Today, I LAUGH when I think about the fact that it took stopping me from going out to play with my friends to motivate me to actually read a book.
Tope was also one of the people who got me into the world of Physics. I was ten years old when she went to university to study Physics for her undergrad degree. Through watching her and my brother over the years, I had already fallen in love with science and learning how things worked. So from hearing stories of her program, what it was about, its challenges and possibilities, my young impressionable mind formulated its own future career path. I wavered from that path a few times before eventually coming back on my own terms when I was older and more knowledgeable about who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Funny how now, of all of three of us siblings who got STEM degrees, I’m the only one working in a STEM field.
The second sister, Busayo (full name Oluwabusayo means “God adds to my joy”), is three years older. She’s the female spitting image of our dad, and probably just as strong-willed. Definitely took after him by making English her undergrad major. I like to believe she was the “unofficial last born” when we were kids, because for the most part I got the short end of the “last born” stick (low key, a lot of folks who don’t know ask if she is the last born, because she’s the smallest of the four of us and she looks way younger than her age). Basically all my siblings could tell me to do stuff and I couldn’t say no, because “They’re all older than you”. Plus several times as kids, Bussie (as she is fondly called by family and friends) would do stuff, and rather than punish her like he would the rest of us, my dad would give “pardons” that covered everybody. Then there’s the fact that of all four of us, she’s the only one who never had to work for my dad. Speaking of working for my dad, the reason I started working for him when I was eight years old is because, during my summer holiday I did something stupid (I did a LOT of stupid things as a kid, let’s blame it on my curiosity) and Bussie told on me. Yup, she was the snitch. I was the loud mouth who would let stuff slip by mistake, but she was the one who would intentionally report to the parents when you did stuff you shouldn’t have done. As a result of all of this, I grew up believing she was my dad’s favorite; but that opinion kinda changed after all the years I spent working with my dad, and getting to know him on a deeper level as a person and a father.
As a kid, my relationship with Bussie was one with lots of ups and downs. I remember we even fought physically a few times; not as bad as throwing punches or anything, but definitely a lot of shoving involved. But the older and more mature I got, the more I appreciated her as a sister and, more importantly, as a person. Her love for me showed in the way she cared about my life, me being a responsible man, my relationship with God, and my relationships with my friends. We may not always see eye to eye, but her wisdom and perspective on things is one I definitely respect a great deal.
In certain respects our house was your typical one with gender roles, but in some of the ways those roles were treated it wasn’t. Yes the men did the mechanical things and the heavy lifting, but general chores, like doing the dishes and keeping the house clean, were shared irrespective of gender. Grocery shopping and certain kinds of errands were responsibilities that involved everyone, and ownership of those responsibilities was passed on to each sibling once you came of age. And even though cooking was the mostly the responsibility of the women, my brother and I also had to learn how to cook. Ultimately, growing up with sisters and hearing them share their perspectives on life definitely helped me be a more rounded person. In hindsight, I feel it set me down the path to enlightenment and appreciating that in the world we live in today, navigating life as a man is very different from doing so as a woman. The journey of unlearning sexist norms and learning a lifestyle of empowerment, particularly of women, is definitely an ongoing one. But because of how my formative years were shaped by strong, godly, intelligent, beautiful and loving black women, I am confident that I will continue to make progress down that path.
So today, I am thankful for my amazing sisters. Temitope Lajorin and Oluwabusayo Ofili.
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