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Imagine the Life of an Ancestor

Every week, our Week in Rap Shout Out Contest gives students an opportunity to win a shout out for their school in the next Week in Rap. For this week’s contest, we asked you to write from the point of view of one of your ancestors. What do you imagine their lives were like?

The winner this week is Burnet Middle School in Union, NJ. Praise wrote about her grandmother’s life in Nigeria in the middle of the twentieth century.

Kedu! Afam wu Adaolie Grace Okwutu. Let me translate. Hello! My name is Adaolie Grace Okwutu. It’s 1955 here in rural Nigeria, and I am 10 years old. I live in Igbodo, Delta State with my grandmother. I am an orphan. My mother died when I was 3, and my father died when I was 8. But it’s not like I don’t have enough family around to fill those spaces in my heart. My 26 brothers and sisters are a handful. I’m one of the youngest, so it is difficult to cope!
     I am in the fifth grade, or Primary 5, as we call it here. School here in Nigeria is calabashes of fun. It may not be great by American standards, but we take what we can get. It’s enough for us. Nigeria is a colony of Great Britain, and we’re still developing. In school we learn math, reading, science, and English. We also have sports teams. We have basketball, soccer, and track. I’m the basketball and track star. I have won many prizes for my school, like school supplies and grants. The principal is very proud of me!
     After school, Nnem (grandma) usually sends me to the market to buy supplies and sell goods. When I get back, I help her cook lunch for the ENTIRE family. It takes quite a while! When everyone comes home from wherever they were, we sit in the backyard, pray, and then eat. You can’t imagine the sight. It’s Nnem, me, various aunts, uncles, and cousins, my 11 stepmothers (yes, polygamy is allowed in Nigeria) and my siblings scattered in assorted places around the yard. My father was a wealthy chief, so our house is huge, and the yard is gargantuan, fortunately!
     For me, the rest of the day is spent working. Whether it’s cleaning, cooking, or helping out at the farm, I’m pretty much on my toes. Everyone who’s not tied to a bed with strong cables chips in around here, especially me. The house constantly needs scrubbing because, where we live, the red dust is EVERYWHERE. And our titanic family has a voracious appetite that never seems to go away. The farm is an important source of income for our family. It not only provides us with food, it provides us with goods to sell, and since it’s larger than 5 city blocks end to end, that’s a lot of money!
     The whole family, with the exception of the little kids, stays up until about 10 pm. Of course, there’s no TV. We talk, laugh, and tell stories. I love, love, LOVE Nnem’s stories. They all have a moral, but they are also fun to listen to. The cunning tortoises and foolish foxes seem to draw me in. I try to remember all of them, because I want to be able to tell them to my own granddaughter someday. I just KNOW that she’ll love them, just as I do! YAWN! Today has been quite a day. I’m getting sleepy. Goodnight!

Congratulations to Burnet Middle School, and thank you to Praise for sharing that with us!

This week we’d also like to share this entry from Carlisle High School in Carlisle, PA. Ben wrote from the point of view of an ancestor living in Chicago in 1926.

I must say, living in America is far more exciting than I ever could have imagined. So much has changed since I arrived here in 1888, as a young girl from Ireland. Life here is absolutely thrilling. Chicago is a wonderful city, and they’ve certainly cleaned it up in the years I’ve been here, and my business is booming. Who would’ve thought that so many people would be looking for a nice hotel to stay in? Of course, it does help that I’ve got a steady supply of “grape juice” to provide them with. I simply purchase a couple bunches of grapes here and there from a few stores here and there, and mash them all up in the bathtub and let them, ah, sit for a while. Those Temperance ladies really don’t seem to realize how miserably their little Prohibition is going. I even have police officers stop in, to have something to drink with their dinners. Anyways, they’ve built a new park in the lot next to my hotel, with fancy electric lighting and everything, and I’m positive it will help my business boom. This whole electricity thing is so wonderful. I’ve even bought a washer machine, or whatever they call it, to make it easier to a wash my guests’ clothes. It’s certainly been easier on my back, and now I have more time to relax and play with Anita and Frannie, my beautiful granddaughters. Oh my look at the time, I’ve got to get back downstairs to make supper for the band of soldiers that checked in today. Until next time…

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest this week! Don’t forget to enter this Friday’s Week In Rap Shout-Out Contest for a chance to win a shout out next Friday.