A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By Yeatie Morgan
She is one of a kind–one who breaks the mold, bucks against the tide and forges her own path. Her name is Irene.
Growing up, she did not ﬁt in; she never did what everyone else did. Aside from her younger sisters, she was the only African in her proper, clean-cut, English primary school. Her family was the only one with dark skin in the neighborhood. And to her, none of it really mattered. They knew they looked different but learned not to make it an issue.
One day, she came home crying from school. One of the boys in her class had called her a “Blackie.” Her mother embraced her and wiped away her tears. “Why are you crying?” she asked. Irene explained that the boy had hurt her feelings. “If they call you ‘Blackie,’ then you call them ‘Pinkie’,” her mother told Irene and her sisters, and that is exactly what they did. The next day at school, the boy began calling, “Hey blackie!” Irene and her sisters retorted, “Hey Pinkie!” The boy stared at them in astonishment. That had ended the ordeal.
When her father moved the family back to Sierra Leone, in West Africa, Irene found that she did not ﬁt in even with her own people. She had lived abroad her whole life and now spoke the native tongue like an Englishman. She was unaccustomed to the traditions and culture. She was an outsider. Still, Irene moved forward, always remembering what her parents had taught her: “Always be better than the best. If they taunt you, let them taunt you for being the best.” In secondary school, she attended Prince of Wales Preparatory School, a highly competitive boy’s school. Only a handful of the top scoring girls in the country were invited to attend. Irene was one of them.
Later, she was accepted to and enrolled in Furabay College – one of the most prestigious universities in West Africa. She studied and worked hard to become a marine biologist– a career in which she had been interested since the age of 6. By the time she graduated from college, the rules of tradition dictated that she, a young woman of twenty-two, begin her search for a husband. Her mother began encouraging her daughter to seek out gentlemen suitors. Yet, she did not understand why after working so hard to earn her degree she should then look for a husband. Irene bucked against the traditional path that had been cut out for her to follow. Instead, she dedicated herself to working for the country’s government in her respective ﬁeld. Irene chose a career in science instead of medicine, and then chose a career over a husband; yet, for these sins, her family would not quickly, if ever, forgive her.
Irene spent the next 7 years working for the government and traveling to Ghana, Morocco, and other countries in Africa. After some time, she did meet a gentleman– Beale Morgan. He was a Sierra Leonean doctor who had been practicing in Germany at the time. As she spent more time with him, they fell in love. She agreed to move with him to Germany, and there they married in 1980. Their ﬁrst child, a daughter, was born to them in 1983. Their second, a boy, was born in England in 1984. The family then moved to Saudi Arabia where Irene’s husband found a position as a surgeon. There they settled.
In an environment where women have few rights, Irene created a warm and loving home for her family. Her world became her children. She ﬁlled her children’s lives with love, stories, and dreams. Irene made sure that the children were introduced to the culture of Arabia, teaching them the meanings of traditional dress and the religious holidays of the people. Because there was no formal schooling for Christian children, she took on the role of teacher as well as of wife and mother, but most importantly, Irene made sure that the children cherished and understood the meaning of Christmas. In a Muslim land where there was no Christmas, Irene took care to educate her children in Christianity without offending the followers of Islam.
Even though the Arabian society created a culture of dependence of women on their men, Irene found her own quiet way to maintain her independence and her identity. With other mothers, she created a school for children. She sang, read, and gardened, and instead of waiting for her husband to come home after work to take her to the store, Irene would walk, with her children, everywhere.
Civil war broke out in her home country of Sierra Leone in the late 1980’s. Irene’s original plan to take her children home to raise them was shattered. The war ravaged the country and left it in ruins. The richness with which the country had once been thick had now been stripped bare. The land was dead, and it’s people were scattered to the four winds.
Though one dream had been destroyed, Irene did her best to make sure her children knew the proud people from which they came. She and her husband spoke English, along with the traditional language, so that children would learn to understand the tongue of both languages. She showed them pictures and gave them books and toys from her homeland. And when it became safe enough to travel, Irene took them back to visit.
As her young daughter grew older, Irene realized that living in Saudi Arabia would begin to cause problems. Already her daughter was beginning to need to wear the hard, body coverings as she had already received a proposal to be betrothed. Irene and her husband decided to move her family to America. To ensure that the family had enough money to create a new life, Irene’s husband stayed in Saudi Arabia while she moved her family to a new and unfamiliar land. All on her own, she put her children in school, built a house, and went back to school herself to earn a higher degree. One degree turned into two degrees, and two degrees turned into three. Her third, and ﬁnal degree, was her Doctorate. In all, she managed ﬁnances, went to school, and kept her children involved in sports, music, and other activities to keep them safe. Eventually, her husband came to join her. Her children grew up and went away to college, but they remembered all that she had shown and taught them.
I am one of her children, her daughter, Yeatie Chodaesessie Morgan. I am the daughter of Chodaesessie Irene Katherine Morgan. My mother is the most inspirational woman I know. Not only has she taught me that there are no boundaries governing what it means to be a woman, she has also taught me that there are no boundaries limiting humanity. On her strength alone, I have grown up to be the woman I am today. There have been some very hard times in my short twenty-two years. My mother has shown me how to persevere through the difﬁcult times while holding my head up. She has also taught my brother how to be a man. In a time where there seems to be so much mistreatment of women, the lessons of grace and honor that my mother taught my brother and I have stuck with us through our college years.
My mother has taught me that I can live a fulﬁlling life without a man, and if and when I choose to marry, I must ﬁnd a man who will respect and honor me as a woman. I will carry the wisdom and knowledge that she has shared with me throughout my life. Currently, I am a member of SISTUHS INC, an organization that is dedicated to the growth of women’s abilities and opportunities. I am also interested in the Ophelia Project which mentors preteen and teenage girls through their most difﬁcult years. I am not a feminist, but I very strongly believe in the strength and ability of a woman. I will forever be grateful to my mother for showing me what that means.