THE REUNION OF DAUGHTERS





Afia Tyus, Sidwell Friends '16



We live in a world where race can cause both pain and joy. Sometimes it is up to you which one you accept. A short reflection on experiencing your true identity.(Published: 2016)





She’s surrounded by old friends; her smile is contagious. She stands in the center, head

cocked slightly to the side, wearing a white headband, bright red lipstick, and sunglasses tucked into her shirt. It’s an odd outfit for a dreary Sunday afternoon, but I doubt she cared, it must have reminded her of home. This was her home for almost ten years, but she barely remembers this place. Her shirt, with the letters H-O-W-A-R-D, said she was coming back to study at the school of her dreams. Chin tilted up to the camera, I knew she was proud.


The red nose of the girl on the right makes me think she might be a little sick, but her

black eyeliner and purple lipstick says she still wants to look “cute.” Hair neatly tucked into a

beanie, she’s natural and proud, even if every black girl who walks by wears a weave, straightened hair, or a perm.


An artist, athlete, and student, I know everything she does reflects her creativity and

intelligence. She’s grown up on Martin Luther King Avenue in a community where she can walk

down the hill and visit the Frederick Douglass House. The girl on the left, just like her friend, the sniffles can’t keep her from smiling. A smile that reveals her dimples on either side. She’s wearing no makeup; I hope this means she feels beautiful on her own. The gold in her hair complements


"I SIT AND WATCH. I ASK MYSELF, HOW COULD THEY FORGET THE ONE MOMENT WHERE THEY COULD EACH BE THEMSELVES? THEIR ONE MOMENT OF SHARED IDENTITY. THEIR SHARED IDENTITY MEANT FOR EACH OTHER, NOT FOR THE WORLD. IT’S THE WORLD THAT CAN TAKE IT ALL AWAY."


her skin tone. All a part of her developing identity. Without losing herself, she strives to be the voice that unites her worlds. She is a product of her upbringing, combating stereotypes and embracing differences, and every conversation shows it. On the busy sidewalk, they scrambled to rearrange themselves. They ignore the feeling that the man walking by wonders if they’re sisters. Or that the woman walking behind them is asking herself, “Why do they wear their hair that way?” or “How does it stay?” They don’t answer the unspoken questions. It makes me proud.


Instead they want to mirror the iconic picture from when they were five. In their purple

dance outfits they stood side by side, proud of their performance. Little divas, they turned to the side, almost as if to put their hands on their hips – they didn’t. Each of them had their hair in individual braids with beads on the ends. Old times. There’s no way to recreate that moment, filled with love and others who loved culture. I wish I could recreate the moment for them. Glances of confusion tell me they think they’ve gotten the order right, but they can’t be sure. They smile for the camera. I click. Her smile is almost ear to ear. The others, all smiles, but truly exhausted, waited more than two hours for this moment to exist. For those two hours before, they talked about the world. One where they couldn’t be themselves outside of a select few. One where their parents told them to put on jackets because “they weren’t white.” They laughed. The comment meant little to them. They heard it all the time.


Proud. Resilient. Changing. They smile as they wonder when this moment will happen

again. They smile as they realize that they have a’cappella rehearsal, a plane to catch, and

homework to do. They smile and embrace as they realize the transience of the moment they

could forget tomorrow. I sit and watch. I ask myself, how could they forget the one moment where they could each be themselves? Their one moment of shared identity. Their shared identity meant for each other, not for the world. It’s the world that can take it all away.