My Senegalese last name is Sekk. In Senegalese culture, one’s last name is more important than the first name. When people greet each other for the first time – or when they haven’t seen each other for a while – they ask about the last names and then they repeat it throughout the greeting and conversation. Greetings are extremely important and can last for several minutes. So they keep interjecting the last names of the person that they’re talking to; for some people it becomes a game to be the one that uses the interlocutor’s last name the most.
Why? do you ask… My teacher explained that they use the last name in order to praise the family to which individuals belong. Individuals cannot do anything without their family. When success comes, it affects everyone, not just one person. The same applies to misfortune. In many ways, an individual’s identity is wrapped up in families.
Our cultural discussions this week have made me think about my family and what it means to be a member of the Porter and Wiskow families. The Porters were involved in the founding of America, they were pioneers, educated, tenacious, and hard-working. Likewise the Wiskows weren’t afraid to work with their hands, they’re intelligent, diligent and appreciate the earth. They’re softhearted, dedicated to family, generous and attentive. I’m thankful for my heritage, the lessons my parents taught me and the love that I have always felt from my family. To my family: I love you!