Omi, Najee & Niajee

A couple shares their strong and grounded values
intended for their newborn child

Interview by Katharine Hada

From left to right, Najee and Omi with their child Niajee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

From left to right, Najee and Omi with their child Niajee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

Q: When you think about Niajee as a grown man, who do you think he will be?

Omi: I hope he will be a better version of the two of us, and a better version of himself. Very passionate and purposeful person, self-determined, ambitious, and willing to make it on his own but knowing that he has family to fall back on who will help guide him with his growth.

Q: How would you like him to be?

O: I would like him to be himself. I don’t want to force anything on him or make him feel obligated to fill our shoes but, at the same time, be very well-rounded and accept the guidance we give him in his life.

“You know, all years are formative years, but if he has a good foundation and has learned good life lessons, hopefully that will carry through.”

Najee: I would also like to add that I would like him to be intelligent — and not just book smart where you know a lot of things — but wise where you can put your knowledge into action. I would like him to be geared towards creating a better way for the next generation as we have done and are doing for his generation. I don’t want to force him to do anything, but, if he does wish to, I would like to help guide him in our footsteps and the footsteps of our ancestors.

Q: How would you like him to view the world?

N: As the truth.

O: And just have love for the earth, love for the people, for animals. But at the same time don’t let anything take advantage of you. Make sure you’re protecting yourself.

Q: Do you worry that he will be viewed for what he looks like versus who he is?

N: Definitely.

O: I don’t worry about it, but I know that it is something that goes on. People are really judgmental and don’t really try to get to know others before judging them. But hopefully he’s able to put in people’s hearts that they don’t have to do that by just being himself and revealing his character.

Q: As it comes up, how do you foresee helping him combat or helping guide him through that initial judgment?

O: I would tell him not to stress himself out about it, because before you judge anyone you need to judge yourself. So I will tell him don’t worry. You know who you are. You know where you come from. As long as you’re doing what you’re supposed to do it doesn’t matter what people think of you.

N: I would make sure to create a community around him where he’s not judged by the color of his skin, but by the merit of his actions. And show him that this kind of community does exist and should exist, but we have to create it. And not only do we have to create it, but we have to maintain it.

O: Consistency and tradition. Giving him the opportunity to lead in his own, not always being overbearing or anything like that, but give him the opportunity to grow by himself and learn.

Niajee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

Niajee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

Q: How would you like to help him deal with social struggles?

N: Being honest with him. Being there, listening to what he’s going through, and try to give him advice about how to deal with specific circumstances and specific situations. So I’m talking after I come home, or I get up early or something, and sit down and listen to what he has to say and give him advice for that specific situation and how to deal with this specific person. Because I think a lot of it comes down to how you act towards a person’s actions. I think one of the keys is not to be reactive, but to be active. So instead of just reacting to someone’s actions, you should act in a way that you find in line with yourself, with your higher purpose, and you should act in a way that gets results. Sometimes when you are reactive, you get bad results. But when you can stop and think: “Hold on. If I do this then, I get this. But if I do that, I won’t get what I want and that person is going to continue this behavior. But if I take the time and sit down, I can educate them.”

Najee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

Najee — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

O: And just know that sometimes you don’t even need to act. You can just leave it alone. That person is not supposed to be in your path.

N: And being self-disciplined is very important. A lot of these people do something to make you react and look bad. If instead you keep your composure, their the one’s that look bad. You know, all years are formative years, but if he has a good foundation and has learned good life lessons, hopefully that will carry through.

Q: Do you think there is any benefit to your location with respect to how he will be raised?

N: I do think there are benefits in the Bay Area. Right now, there is a lot of finance in technology. But there is a lot of gentrification that comes with that, and a lot of our people are getting kicked out. So that is kind of the downside to that. But at the same time there are a lot of opportunities. There are a lot of open-minded people. There are a lot of people that are actually allies. I think that here — maybe more than a lot of other places — we have the opportunity for unity. If we can continue the work that we are already doing, then I think his path is already set for him.

O: There’s a lot of creativity in circulation here, and I feel like that’s really lacking in other places. Like if you go out to Arizona, there’s not that much music or live music coming out of there. It’s interesting that art and music go together with communication.

N: Even the Black Panthers, when they had gatherings, they had music there. The Grateful Dead played a lot of Black Panther shows because they were a really dope band that brought awareness to certain things and opened people’s minds to different ways of thinking. The Black Panthers, as militant as they were, knew that you could bring people together through the arts and through music.

Omi — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

Omi — Photo by Jesse Sutterley

O: Art, music and culture. That’s the Oakland Mind right there.

Q: What are three important characteristics you hope to instill in Niajee?

N: Honesty.

O: Creativity.

N: And integrity.

O: Well, integrity and honesty can go together.

N: That’s true. So.. integrity, creativity, and self-determination.

O: Yes, or really just determination period. If you’re determined then you’re able to be determined for yourself and your community as well. I want him to hold the community in his heart and just be there and be someone in the community that will help everyone strive. But it starts with self.