MARIAMA'S STORY ~ HOLIDAY SEASON: BITTERSWEET

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When my classmates asked me where my father was during a school holiday festival, I made up a story that he lived in another country. Lying felt easier because I did not understand the truth.

My Daddy would always send me long letters from prison. I impatiently expected his letters every year for my birthday and during the Winter season. They were written neatly in cursive. Bold black text illustrating the stress and love of a father talking to his daughter. The letters were crisp and always smelled of perfume, like frankincense and myrrh was inside those envelopes. The fact that my daddy made the letters smell so good showed the smallest details of his love for me.

My Daddy was incarcerated when I was a little girl. Too young to understand why and old enough to feel anger and shame. When my classmates asked me where my father was during a school holiday festival, I made up a story that he lived in another country. Lying felt easier because I did not understand the truth. As I grew up and he still wasn’t around, I used to blame him for it. Later he was in and out of my life, caught up in the prison system. Our interactions always felt temporary.

At 24 years old, I am mending the bonds and creating new memories with my Daddy. Making up for the years we were apart. It is a difficult process not knowing a parent when you are a child and trying to understand them as an adult. But I am trying. We are trying.

Mariama Taifa-Seitu is a D.C. Native, a photographer, and visual artist. She is a recent graduate from The New School, receiving her MA in international affairs. She is a We Got Us Now ACTIONIST interested in criminal justice reform and economic development.