On children, and what we give them…
Each generation gets closer to the dream that their elders’ thought was impossible. But that growth also moves children, and grandchildren farther away. This is a constant source of worry for grandparents. They don’t regret exposing their children to things they never had access to, be that language, higher education or other cultures. But each accomplishment, financial or educational is bittersweet.
After spending their life raising well-rounded children they wake up one day to realize that those children, and their children, have very little in common with them! These differences are most obvious in their music and food options, but even when they’re speaking the same language the words make no sense. It feels like they live in two different worlds. They lament not being able to fill the awkward silences; those silences should be filled with the sharing of values, heritage, and stories… they are plagued with questions.
How do I uphold my heritage? Values?
How can I pass these things down to my descendants?
How do I compete with things, and ideas that I don’t understand?
I argue the key is to start distributing your inheritance while alive.
I am not proposing that you start writing checks, I am proposing that you actively distribute the knowledge you have amassed, and the values you wish to see your descendants uphold. This can be done in many ways but you can start by investing your time, and money, differently.
The same questions were bothering me as I navigated being an aunt to three boys. My youngest nephew Jadiel is sickly boy, making me very protective of him. When he was 4 months old he became so ill that he ended up in the emergency room where he was diagnosed with meningitis. He ended up in the ICU for five days where he cried through a spinal tap, and numerous blood tests. His mom was exhausted so I took over the night shift on the fourth night. In between lullabies the fear of losing him shortened my breathing. I knew he was on his way to recovery, but I couldn’t shake that fear. There was so much he needed to know, so much I needed to tell him about our family.
Because my chronic illness makes a traditional job impossible I stayed with Jadiel for a week after his release from the hospital. That week I sang to him, in Spanish and English; I told him where our people came from; what our elders were like; how we were a blend of Africa, Europe and Tainos (the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean). He had no idea what I was blabbering on about, but I felt an urge to share everything with him. Those moments we shared during that week are my inheritance to him.
Ojala Threads is how those gifts live on.
Ojala Threads creates baby bodysuits that honor heritage, values and experiences. Our baby bodysuits feature unique designs inspired by Hispanic heritage. Through bold designs we give purpose to baby bodysuits. We currently offer three designs Folklorico, Chacabana and Diosa Luna. Folklorico pays homage to our love for music, and the blend of Africa, European and indigenous. Chacabana is a love letter to grandfathers and is inspired by the shirt by the same name that is found throughout the Caribbean. Diosa Luna honors the Taino goddess of the moon.
Each parent, and baby, that receives one is introduced to a culture that isn’t their own, or one that they have drifted away from. While Tainos populated Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica, and Puerto Rico many don’t realize they too share in this heritage.
I came to understand my lineage through genetic testing, and think anyone wanting to better understand their history undergo genetic testing. There is true power in connecting to your history! Our bodysuits similarly empower families.
I gift wrap each bodysuit, and include a poem that explains the inspiration behind the design. This makes babies, and parents, more culturally conscious. More importantly, it creates the space for the exchange of stories. It is those stories that your descendants will value when you can no longer tell them.
Because our mission is to do more than just dress babies, Ojala is a values driven brand! We handprint in the South Bronx using non-toxic, water based inks. While this is the pricier option we refuse to contribute to waterway pollution, an unexpected result of dyes used in the fashion industry. Our fabric is a blend of premium cotton and spandex because babies born in America tend to put on weight at a quicker rate. This fabric choice means our pieces wash better, and get more uses!
Numerous companies make baby clothing, and bodysuits. But you have the option to support brands that are aligned with your values. Ojala is just one example of the many companies that are now offering gifts that are culturally sensitive, and committed to social entrepreneurship. When looking for gifts, and experiences remember that your money talks, louder than you do! Make sure you are supporting brands that uphold your values, and communicate them clearly to the recipient. Always ask yourself what you want to give to your descendants, not just leave behind.
Hopefully these tips help you identify brands that will allow you to ensure your descendants inherit your values. It might take a few extra minutes to find the brands that are aligned with you, but doing so ensures that your legacy lives, while you do!