More than Slavery
In a roundabout way, history as taught in Jamaica led Tanika Williams to collect the stamps of Africa. “In Jamaica, all I learned of my heritage was slavery and sugar plantations,” the 31-year-old immigrant recalls. “I knew it was skewed. I knew there must be more than slavery.” But her education short-changed her. She would have graduated high school thinking that Africa has only six countries, all ravaged by the British slave traders.
As a child growing-up in Jamaica, Tanika saved stamps—“the pretty ones” that caught her eye—but she “only threw them in a drawer.” Immigration to the United States and new, stamp-collecting friends re-directed and focused her collecting. Always seeking to fill the void left by her education, she first collected the stamps of Jamaica but then turned to Africa. “The stamps of Africa opened my eyes to my own history. It’s amazing. In them I see my color, my people, the landscape, the diversity.”
As a life-long learner, Tanika finds important information in stamps. In studying her collection, for instance, she observed that the stamps of Africa illustrate the shift from colonization to independence, providing further insights into her past. “I noticed that the early stamps always pictured the monarchs,” she says, “but the modern stamps show the continent’s cultural and geographic diversity.” Besides history, Tanika loves animals, and she looks to those of Africa for life lessons. “Elephants, though the most powerful,” she has observed, “are not abusers of power.”
Now an active stamp club member, Tanika credits stamps with having answered many haunting questions. “Stamps offer me,” she smiles, “an informal way of learning. I’m living a life with my stamps that I could not live without them.”
Favorite: 50c Elephant, Liberia, 1976