In many cities across America Black parents are struggling to raise their children in circumstances that are not friendly. In some cases there are failing educational systems, low employment, contaminated water, violence, racism, crime, police brutality and many other issues that weigh heavy on the hearts of caring parents. These concerns are often the reality in low income sections of the Black community. But, not all Black children are subject to these problems.
In Indianapolis, Indiana the Mabilijengo family lived a different reality. Living with their mother were two children (Bilal and Fatimah, twins now 16 years old) and one teen (Nailah, who recently turned 21). They were raised in a rural area on the southeast side on Indianapolis. They were home schooled, deeply steeped in Black culture, and well trained in agriculture, home building, entrepreneurial skills, martial arts and music appreciation.
These children are articulate, courteous and profoundly talented beyond the vast majority of children their ages. One would think that all that they know and can do, would be enough to make any mother comfortable with their expectations for the futures of such children.
But their mother has much more planned for their lives then most mothers would ever think to. LeTava Mabilijengo is a mother of eight. The older children are already doing their own things in the world, but Mama LeTava (as she is called by many) had special plans for her three youngest children.
In early January of 2017, she and her children boarded a plane to fly over 2000 miles away for a new life in Belize (an independent country in Central America). They have been planning on the move for several years. The reason for Mama LeTava’s determination to relocate was to remove her children from a failing American society that has institutionalized racism to a point that it is inescapable regardless of what community one lives in. But more importantly, she wanted her children to be able to become world citizens who would use their skills and talents to grow socially and intellectually beyond what is possible in the United States. She wanted them to have citizenship in a country where the majority of the people look like them.
Belize is a popular tourist destination because of the many Mayan Pyramids and ruins throughout the country. The population is largely Black, and the Mabilijengo’s have settled into a small temporary home while they prepare to physically build their own home.
Within the three weeks since moving, the children are adapting well to their new life. Daily activities include walks into town to the market, developing new awareness about the rural area they live in, continuing their educational studies, practicing their music and martial arts and working on the property where their new home will be built. They also regularly share their personal experiences online at www.sisterletava.com, a site set up by Mama LeTava so that the Black community around the world can see their progress.
In some ways the Mabilijengos may represent a future trend in international migration away from America. As more of our households are exposed to other parts of the world through mass-media and internet access, more will want to live in other parts of the world. Many of our children will become world citizens virtually because of social media, and a few will actually because of parents who make the sacrifices and move abroad.
James C. Anyike lives in Indianapolis, IN. He is a community activist, United Methodist pastor and author of African American Holiday.