A Literacy Memoir: Multilingualism and Modality

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Note: This literacy memoir is coupled with Ligia Mihut’s blog post as part of our “Beyond a Single Language/Single Modality” Blog Carnival. Click here to read Mihut’s framing of this memoir, or proceed to the first recording.

My first best friend was Malcolm X. Oh, the sweet discussions we’d share, Malcolm and I. He told me, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”  I too wanted to own tomorrow. Besides, I never owned much to begin with, but I knew now, I could only do it through reading.

“Lawd jesas, Angie!! A wah mek you a grow d pickney so strange! D bwoy a ongle 6 an you buil library gi d pickney?”

Translation: Oh my God, Angie! Why are you raising the child so strangely? He’s only six years old and you’ve built him his own study!!

She faced much ridicule for how she raised me, she never said it aloud, but I felt it, I could feel the depression and confusion in the way she would mindlessly stare at me. My first birthday present was a book; I was a full reader by age two. They all thought she was an oddball, but I never cared much about that.

The question then resurfaced in my mind, “Who am I?” What did I know of my history besides what I was told? More and more questions flashed through my mind as I tried to gather my thoughts; “What if all I know, all I’ve been taught, was a lie?” It was all coming back, her soft hand wiping my tears. “If you ever want to keep something hidden from a black man, put it in a book.” It made sense now, I knew what I had to do. I was determined not to become comfortable in ignorance; I was prepared not to be the black man in my mother’s thought.

The teacher’s quote had come from the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who had been crowned as a National Hero of Jamaica and was well known for his Pan Africanism. I then began to read the works of Marcus Garvey; I believed he had the answers I sought. His words would shake my entire being; his astonishing and interesting ideas sparked a flame. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. (…) His writings inspired my black consciousness, so much so that I began telling my friends of our true history, encouraging them to find their roots, but they all laughed and said I was strange for thinking that way.

About Author(s)

Jehrade McIntosh, current undergraduate student at Barry University.