If not for the vagaries of African politics, Sophomore David Huffman might now be living a life of luxury in the country of Chad.
Huffman’s mother, Sylvie Huffman, lived a privileged early life in Chad as the daughter of prominent political and military leader Negue Djogo. Trained as a military officer, Djogo was a general in the Chadian military before becoming a key player in the country’s convoluted politics. As a politician in a corrupt and often lawless government, Djogo had no shortage of enemies.
“Around the time [my mom] was eight, her dad was super-rich and a general…they had a super big house, but it’s Africa, and it’s very lawless and [Negue]’s got a lot of enemies. It’s an ordinary day and [all of the sudden]…their house gets bombed,” Huffman said.
Shortly thereafter, Djogo sent his daughters, including Huffman’s mother, to family out of the country to escape civil war in Chad. Sylvie Huffman, along with her older sister, lived with her relatives in France.
Huffman is familiar with his his mother’s roots in France. He maintains an email correspondence with a French cousin and has visited France three times. While visiting, he saw firsthand the complicated dynamics of his large extended family.
“My grandad had, [per] African tradition, five wives. So there were a lot of kids…I have a lot of family, but not all of them get along because [of jealousy between different wives],” Huffman said.
Huffman’s mother grew up in France and Chad, so how did she come to live in Purcellville, Virginia?
Sylvie Huffman met her husband, Michael Huffman, while he was on a missionary trip in Chad. The two returned to the United States to marry, where Huffman was born in January 2000.
Huffman notes that his mother’s parenting style is sometimes patterned after her past. She has definite opinions about respect and prefaces many of her reprimands with something along the lines of, “Back in Africa, we did it like this.”
Huffman discusses his mother’s past with a hint of wariness. He knows the stories about the Chadian warlord with five wives are intrinsically captivating. Those are his mom’s stories though, not entirely his own. His grandpa is a towering figure in his genealogy, but he’s his father’s son too. His middle name, Lee Djogo, reflects his dual heritage. He wants to stay true to his whole family tree, not just the branch from Africa.