Derek Terell Allen
Hæ! I'm Derek Terell Allen, and I work as an Icelandic literacy teacher as the Tin Can Factory, one of the major language schools in Iceland. I would identify myself as African-American-Icelandic, being that I was born in the US to black American parents who come from a long line of slave descendent black Americans, and have since moved to Iceland and became extremely well-integrated into the country and language (and have also gotten citizenship). I have never hated languages, but I fell in love with them after deciding that I wanted to understand drama and mess of Holland's Next Top Model and started learning Dutch. Ever since, I have been on a huge journey with languages. I also have been involved in activism and look forward to doing more of it in the future. I am recovering from a chronic illness, so my life has been kind of bland as of late, but I'm in the process of getting my life back and couldn't be more thrilled.
Last year, I opened up to conference goers about my complex identity as an African-American-Icelandic man and how language has helped to shape this. I expressed that I have often felt barred from using language on my own terms due to the restrictions society places upon me as a black man, American, Icelander, etc. Therefore, I made the decision to learn Yoruba (one of my ancestral languages) in order to “reclaim” my heritage as well as take ownership over my use of language. I soon discovered that I was on my way to “reclaiming someone else”, since there was an apparent distance between me and Yoruba culture, so I just chose to be myself linguistically. This resulted in me feeling simultaneously liberated yet also even more alienated. As a “hail Mary” attempt to bridge this gap between me and my ancestral homeland, I will be traveling to Yorubaland in August. My talk in Budapest would be a brief summary on my talk in Cholula, revisiting major themes like language politics in the US and Iceland. My talk would then discuss my trip to Benin and how things relate to my last talk. Would my expectations be met? Would I fit in or stick out like a sore thumb? Why did I go to a country with only a relative handful of Yoruba speakers when there is a country right beside it with 40 some million? All of this and more would be addressed in my talk entitled “Meeting Me”.