“Mu’n ye e` eke`e nji leh e` ntum’aa buy eh ntee ye` a` k’am ngangmia`a.” He who doesn’t know his identity is like a tree without roots. This is what our father always reminded us throughout our childhood.
The Ndamukong family comes from the Chamba ethnic groups of the North West Region of Cameroon-Africa where ethnicity played an important role in language and class distinction. The structure was a polygamous family made up of couples from different ethnic backgrounds. My father’s family, the Ndamukong family, is from the Chamba ethnic group speaking Mungaka language, while one of the wives (our step-mother) is from Tikar ethnic group speaking the Ngemba language. In Cameroon, one’s identity is easily perceived through language and ethnicity both at tribal (ethnic) and linguistic levels. At tribal levels, people are identified through ethnic groups such as Bamileke, Tikars, Shuwas, Bantus and the Chamba, to which the Ndamukong family belong.
The Chamba is composed of six ethnic groups; Bali Kumat, Bali-Gham,Bali Khontan,Bali-Gasho,Bali-Gansin and Bali Nyonga speaking the Mungaka, which Ndamukong family practice and are proud of speaking. It is also the language of Gloria Anzaldua. At linguistic levels, identity is seen through acronyms such as Anglophone and Francophone. These linguistic and ethnical variations stem from the country’s colonial master Britain and France that did partition the country during the era of colonization. Geography and history thus have an impact on Ndamukong’s family language practices.
Figure 1 Cameroon Map showing the geographic location of the Chamba ethnic group-Nord Ouest (Family Archive). As such, the people of Houston should be able to learn and appreciate the existence of multiculturalism within the community. Thus, the music coming from a someone’s car, a person dress code or language should not be question, subdue by others or under look simply because it doesn’t sound American as explained by Gloria Anzaldua in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” but rather should be treated as gifted sociolinguists as explained by Nelson Flores because Houston stands to benefits from it in the globalize world.
Figure 2 my sister Florence (middle), Beltine (left); Fritz and Claude (right) (Fritz Archive)
Gloria Anzaldua in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” talks about American ethnicity and is preoccupied with the existence of many borders between nations and ethnicity. That’s why she talks about being hurt if one talks badly about her language. Since language and ethnicity are commonly used in identifying a person, Anzaldua is therefore very concerned about ethnic division, especially in U.S. where people are made to feel ashamed of their own tongues. There existed a sense of shame at being caught listening to our music. Today in America people are made to feel ashamed of their ethnicity like the Hispanics, African Americans and American Muslims. The Ndamukong family sometimes also feel ashamed of speaking the Mungaka language or exercising their ethnic practices. For example, during Kehmia graduation in Dallas in May 2016, we had a party during which a Mungaka music title “Nahsala” by Bobgala Didier was being played for us to dance. Some of us felt ashamed dancing it because of the negative comments that were made by some of our invitee from different ethnic groups who felt uncomfortable with the music because of the language used and the genre of the music. They were looking for American music. I also feel ashamed listening to our Mungaka music. My African American co-worker I gave ride to after work shamed the music I was playing in my car because it was not American. I did not blame her, but rather the system of education she received. This educational system made my co-worker not to see any other different music as being good but rather view only American music as being the only music worth playing in a car in America. She failed to see the existence of multiculturalism in Houston which I tried to teach her by exercising my ethnic practices through music. I did continue playing the music which shows Ndamukong family exercising ethnicity, a reflection of Houston multiculturalism.