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Written by Kadeejah Kallo, BSc Economics and Geography
My father grew up in a village called Karako in the South-East region of Guinea in West Africa. His story however, is not exactly one that I would describe as ‘rags-to-riches’ although he went on to become the first college educated member of his family. But because he always spoke of his upbringing with such nostalgic fondness that I could never bring myself to call the place that made him, the land of my ancestors, anything but rich.
When I think of my father, I think of the light in his eyes when he talks about his favorite books, I think of the library he’s made of our home, I think of him teaching me how to read when I was 2, and I think of the thirst for knowledge and education he’s instilled in my sisters and I.
Surely it makes sense that I would end up here, twenty years later, because he has spent his lifetime fighting for this. We’ve all got where we are, failing and stumbling along the way and my family’s story is the same and failure has never been taboo in our household. Over the years, my dad has reminded me he’s “failed [my] baccalaureate three times”, and with what he thought was a funny story, he unknowingly created the safest space for me to share my shortcomings without fear or shame.
So when the world is moving too fast, and I feel overwhelmed by the countless ways I believe I need to prove myself as an African black woman, I think of him and I remember I should not be afraid to fail. No, instead, I should accept it and learn from it. And when I feel my voice isn’t loud enough, and my dreams are maybe too big, I hear his voice in my head telling me that my dreams could never be too big.
But perhaps what I love the most about my Dad is that he never gave me any reason to believe that being a woman should be an obstacle in my aspirations. Growing up with only sisters I have felt empowered long before I knew what empowerment was.  The memory of him saying to a relative “I have never taught my daughters to ask a man for permission” during a disagreement is one that stays with me in everything I do.
In my father I see resilience, determination, ingenuity — all these things that have continuously pushed him to realize his potential, and in doing so, unconsciously inspired me to do the same.