The mantle

Explaining my journey and purpose is impossible without my origins. I was born to a crack-addicted Black mother in Richmond in 1989 with the given name Kimmoni Okearah Wallace and a given crack addiction. My intestines never developed correctly, so I routinely have issues of varying severity. After a short time in baby rehab, child protection services came because no one could speak for me.

My mother would have 5 children, all half-siblings. We each grew up in a different home. I was adopted as a toddler after a time in foster care. My home was stable. We had food on the table every day, family vacations, lively holidays with gifts and relatives – I was provided for. In my adoption, as with colonization, provision is conditional.

My biological mother is and has been a victim of the crack epidemic in 80s California Bay Area. It took me a long time to recognize her struggles and that she’s a survivor because of the way I was personally colonized. “Colonized” may sound unappreciative or ungrateful of my foster parents, which is not my intention – It is how I feel despite my love and appreciation.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known I was adopted. My parents told me when I was 4 or 5 years old, but I knew before then. All of my sisters are much darker than I am (a theme in both my adopted and biological Blackness). None of us look like each other or my parents, though I was often thought to be their biological son. My adopted father, a Black Honduran man of the African diaspora, and my adopted mother, an American of British-German ancestry, raised me in a small California mountain town with my two adopted sisters called Foresthill.

We were one of the only Black-involved families in town. Foresthill has a recorded population of 1,483. For 16 years of my life, the development years, it was the only home and society I knew. My identity was not shaped by this experience – it was controlled.

My parents shortened my name to Kim. I remember asking my mother in the first grade why they made this decision, and the answer I received is that my name was too ethnic, it was for my protection. A futile effort – I was referred to as “Kim Slavid” by my hometown peers from the time I was ten until I stopped talking to them well into my twenties.

The core

“Kimani” is a Kikuyu name meaning descendant of a great ancestor. “Okearah” is a person who influences mass beauty in the changes around them. As I am now, I am firmly embraced by my name and identity as Kimani Okearah.

My identity was defined and provided. In my environment, I was convinced I had to socially exist as a character first. With adoption, I was removed from my own ethnic and biological identity. All I’ve ever heard through my life from everyone around me is how good this was for me. People from my parents to friends to scout troop leaders posit me with hypothetical situations of how my life could be so much worse. What I came to understand is that the people who were telling me these things wanted me to withdraw from curiosity. They wanted me to be smaller than I am. They would tell themselves and each other that encouraging my ignorance towards my own identity, origins, and culture would make me happy. Kim David, or Kimani Okearah?

I was a light-skinned Black kid that didn’t understand why I looked so different from my family, my friends, and I didn’t understand why I felt like I was supposed to be different. From head to toe, I was supposed to be a different person. This expands beyond my family identity and to my ethnic identity as well. I’m an ethnic African that was exclusively taught European history, language, religion and to view my own identity through the lens of white supremacy. I don’t naturally belong to this land. My mouth is not biologically shaped to speak English. I know very little of my true family history, I know very little of pre-colonial African history, and imperialistic Christianity (which I was raised in) justifies all colonial violence and expansion in the name of the biblical God.

The adjacency of my adoption to colonization has allowed me to deeply examine what it means to be “adopted.” European mythology treats the brutalization and ethnocide of the African and American peoples as adoption. Over 400 million Black Africans and over 600 million Indigenous Americans died to establish “colonial rule.” Most people carry themselves through every day without having to think of that fact. I see the blood in the asphalt, I see the skin in the concrete, I see the decaying flesh of my entire ethnic identity on every dollar bill.

I see how identity is affected through inauthentic representation. From my earliest years, I was told that my biological mother was probably dead. She isn’t, but imagine hearing that as a young child. Your mother gave you up for drugs and died for them, and that’s all you were given to know about the woman who brought you into the world. Imagine how that affects your confidence, your development, and your self-worth – all from a dictation, a whisper of death on careless lips.

As a conquered people, ethnic Africans in modern America are treated as adopted children in the context I’ve described. I’ve seen chattel slavery referred to as ‘imported workers’ in a textbook. The Afrodiasporic community in the USA is discussed, consumed, accessed, and erased by those that see us now as a humanitarian rehab project. The community has so many nuances and intersections to unite before truly defining its identity, so imperialists have done what they do best and colonized our self-defining agency. Imperial Europeans and their descendants approach Blackness with a mix of shame, lust, disgust, and self-loathing as evidenced by their constant and consistent need to take authority over and participate in our storytelling spaces. When the body is oppressed and the mind is authentic, but the voice is foreign, reductive and oppressive, the oppression is self-generated.

In order to fight inauthentic representation of Africa and our vast diaspora, I’ve joined Ezibota. Ezibota is the primary social and thought platform for African and Afrodiasporic people. The vision and activity at work is a constant source of inspiration, love, history and home. I am truly privileged to be a part of the Ezibota energy.

Kimani Okearah
Kimani is digital griote in the African diaspora. A visual storyteller and African authenticity advocate, he strives to represent an appreciation for the depth of diversity in Global Black identity in his art and writing.
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4 Comments on "Author Behind the Name: Kimani Okearah"

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Buerkie Klokpah

i feel like all our parents try to practice parenting in a version they believe is better than their parents and therefore put us in ‘safe’ spaces to confine us…sometimes to our detriment. im sure having an adopted child can lead to a different experience. esp when you feel like u dont fit in there. the way u described it…i definitely felt it and can appreciate that pov. thanks for sharing kimani!

Deana Bolumbu

Welcome Kimani! Great to learn more about you and your origins – because like you said it is all part of the journey and purpose. And is it is like that with all of us. We cannot, nor should we, deny our pasts but share them so they cannot be used against us – for it can propel our future if we recognize the pieces. I can’t wait to read and engage with more of your writing – looking forward to it!

Lambert Akwa

I’m super excited for more of your writing Kimani. I think we all have a lot to learn from you as well all aspire to be our most authentic selves

Clementine Burnley

Beautiful. This was gripping and authentic. It left me with questions that do not need to be answered now but that I think will unfold through further writing..

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