This is my mother. Her name is Yemarshet Sissay. She was twenty one. I first saw the picture when I was twenty one. I was fostered through a social worker called Norman Goldthorpe with Wigan social services. One foster family, four childrens homes and eighteen years later I was given a letter when I left the “assessment centre” on leaving care. It was from eighteen years earlier. She wrote “How can I get Lemn back? I want him to be with his own people, his own colour. I don’t want him to face discrimination.” At eighteen I began my search for her with that letter.
The picture was given to me from her college. On returning to Ethiopia she married a vice minister under Emperor Haile Selassie (1969) but had to flee when the revolution overthrew the Emperor in the early seventies. I found her in West Africa. She had fled there from Ethiopia working for the UN and never returned to Ethiopia. I was twenty one years old. I was similar in age as my father when she met him for the one and only time. In other words the last time she saw him was at my conception – a shock for her. A few days ago we met in New York. We’ve met about twenty times in all. Has it been easy? No. Does it get better? Yes. She is an incredible and extraordinary woman. I met my mother for the first time through this picture which was taken a year before my conception.