Sometimes a person grows up with a name or an identity and, as the years go by, they come to realize that they are estranged from that part of themselves. It is common in the military to have an identity “before” joining and a different sense of self “after” joining, and that is especially true of someone who’s been deployed. You look at things differently, even though you’re still the same physical, biological person– it’s just that your perspective has changed.
Jamal’s father was a pretty normal kid of his generation; the arrival of Alex Haley’s novel “Roots”, in 1976, and the subsequent TV miniseries in 1977, sparked a lot of interest in African-American history. The story of the family of Kunta Kinte, in “Roots”, was from a West African region known as the Gambia, but the Zulu warrior nation was well known and had the attraction of having won some impressive battles against the British forces stationed in South Africa. Jamal’s father, as a young man, felt an affinity and decided to identify with the Zulu nation, going so far as to change the family name from “Williams” to “Kajama”, for Senzangakhona kaJama (ca. 1762-1816), son of Jama, chief of the Zulu clan from 1781 to 1816. He made zero attempt to research if any of his adopted backstory was true, which would have saved his son Jamal, who grew up immersed in an identity that was not really his, some further sense of awkward displacement.
There is a genetic research company called “Family Tree DNA” that was founded at the time of this story (2006-2007 time frame) that specialized in researching the DNA history of African-Americans; the company alluded to here is based on that.
I mentioned once before that Sergeant Kajama’s wife was from Germany, which he thinks is great since it means his “….in-laws are on the other side of the planet”. We saw him reading a children’s story to Michael while on leave but this is the first time we’ve met his wife.
I hope everyone is having a happy Thanksgiving in the USA, and that in all other places in the world people have reasons to be thankful as well.