Katie Kaye (I)

She was incongruous. She was born in 1916 to a Ghanaian father and an English mother. Her father died when she was 8 and her mother sent her to grow up with nuns. She was a true believer, salvation lay with the Lord and she needed to be a true believer to retain her cheerful and open spirit living in racist unforgiving early 20th century England

Her mothers family rejected them both, a half negro child was more than they could deal with. So she never knew her grand parents or her aunts and uncles and they never asked about her. The schism was final and irrevocable. When her mother died many years later they wouldn’t come for the funeral but she didn’t care, she brought all her Nigerian husbands relatives to fill the church pews and the grave side seats.

She was an exceptionally bright child and she did really well in school much to everyone’s surprise. Because she was half black it was generally expected that she would be half witted too. As a result she was constantly tested and scrutinized for some mental flaw, intellectual deficiency or nervous predisposition, constantly compared with the white children she went to  school with.

Rather than dampen her spirits the scrutiny made competitive and she studied ahead of her class so she could prove to them that she wasn’t intellectually or mentally deficient. When she prayed for God to use her to shine the light upon her teachers and her fellow students, to help them see through her that black people were not different from white people after all.

When they teased her and called her names in the shower she restrained the urge to swing wildly at them with her fists, that was after all what they expected of her. She fought down the urge to call them stinging awful names that would cut them as deeply as they cut her. Instead she would go to the chapel and kneel down and pray for God’s grace and mercy.

During weekly confession she would pour her heart, telling the priest all the wicked thoughts she had and he would admonish her wickedness and tell her to do penance.  She was told to be extra good and extra nice and extra forgiving and fight the evil that resided in her.  She did wonder at times what sort of evil resided in her school mates and whether they confessed and did penance for their wickedness too.

By the time she finished school she was quite exhausted.  They left her in no doubt she was black and she knew that if she wanted to live in peace she would have to move to Africa. One of the nuns had told her about many schools being built in Africa and encouraged her to apply to one of them as a teacher. There was even one in Ghana, where here father had come from. Maybe there she would be at home and find a family to accept her.

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