By Abby Adams-Smith
Bowling Green High School
For Henri Aboah, family goes beyond blood or borders.
Her parents are from the West African country of Liberia, and much of her family still lives there, including her father and five half-siblings.
“Everybody on my dad’s side… and a lot of my mom’s side lives there, too,” said Aboah, a first-generation American, born just months after her mother’s immigration.
Last summer, the 17-year-old went to Liberia and met her father for the first time.
“My mom took me to Liberia… to meet her family,” she said. “Then, I went to see my dad… and I met two of the five [siblings]. I met the other three over video chat.”
Since her relationship with her Liberian relatives is limited, she said, “I still consider myself an only child.”
Instead, Aboah has found her strongest familial connections among Louisville’s Liberian community.
“The ones here in the States, they’re not blood-related, but we still consider each other family because they’re all from Liberia,” she explained.
“In our culture, everyone is family.”
Her mom has made sure her life in America is enriched with Liberian traditions.
“I go to Liberian parties, listen to Liberian music, and my mom always makes sure I know that I’m Liberian even though I was born in the States,” she said.
Liberian food is another big part of Aboah’s life.
“I’ve eaten Liberian food all my life. I prefer it over American food,” she said.
Her favorite? Dry rice.
“It has okra, white rice, and then what you guys would call Spam…” she said, laughing. “I know it doesn’t sound good, but it’s really good. It’s kind of like fried rice but better.”
Aboah is completely comfortable with her dual upbringing.
“I feel evenly connected to both American and Liberian culture. I’ve never really felt more drawn to one,” Aboah said.
She was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, but moved to Louisville as a toddler so her mother could find work.
Aboah said she doesn’t admire a lot of people, but her mother is an exception.
“My mom flips houses, so she buys old, dusty houses that need lots of work, and then she renovates. Even though it’s super, super stressful for her, she keeps doing it.
“She’s a hard worker, a single parent, and she’s always provided everything I’ve needed.”
Aboah is a staff member of Louisville Male High School’s student newspaper, the Brook N Breck.
She was introduced to journalism her sophomore year when she took a class on the subject. She originally saw it as an opportunity for an easy class with a teacher she liked, but began to enjoy the subject over time.
“So I kept with it, and my junior year, which I just got finished with, I realized I really loved journalism,” Aboah said.
Running, an earlier interest of hers, has morphed into a way to use her journalism skills. Last year, she created a hype video for the men’s track team.
“It took me a month to shoot, film, and edit…It came out pretty well, so that’s probably the [project] I’m most proud of,” Aboah said.