Between the World and Me

Kenyatta Matthews Character Analysis

Kenyatta is the partner of Ta-Nehisi Coates and mother of Samori. She and Coates meet at Howard University. Coates mentions that Kenyatta grew up in a majority white neighborhood and that for this reason she rejected the Dream early in life, leading her to have an enthusiastic sense of adventure.

Kenyatta Matthews Quotes in Between the World and Me

The Between the World and Me quotes below are all either spoken by Kenyatta Matthews or refer to Kenyatta Matthews. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Spiegel & Grau edition of Between the World and Me published in 2015.
Part 1 Quotes

She said to me, “You take care of my daughter.” When she got out of the car, my world had shifted. I felt that I had crossed some threshold, out of the foyer of my life and into the living room. Everything that was the past seemed to be another life. There was before you, and then there was after, and in this after, you were the God I’d never had. I submitted before your needs, and I knew then that I must survive for something more than survival’s sake. I must survive for you.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Samori Coates, Kenyatta Matthews
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part 2 Quotes

It was the briefest intimacy, but it captured much of the beauty of my black world––the ease between your mother and me, the miracle at The Mecca, the way I feel myself disappear on the streets of Harlem. To call that feeling racial is to hand over all those diamonds, fashioned by our ancestors, to the plunderer. We made that feeling, though it was forged in the shadow of the murdered, the raped, the disembodied, we made it all the same.

Related Characters: Ta-Nehisi Coates (speaker), Kenyatta Matthews
Related Symbols: Howard University/The Mecca
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
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Kenyatta Matthews Character Timeline in Between the World and Me

The timeline below shows where the character Kenyatta Matthews appears in Between the World and Me. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Black Bodies Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
...black person in the US through conversations with his family, his friends, and his partner Kenyatta, through reading and writing, and through music. Although the question is “unanswerable,” the quest for... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
...many of Samori’s aunts and uncles attended, and it is where Coates and his wife Kenyatta met. Coates draws a distinction between Howard as an academic institution and “The Mecca” that... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
The last time Coates falls in love at Howard is with Kenyatta, Samori’s mother. Kenyatta does not know her father, which is true of most people Coates... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
When the baby is born, Coates and Kenyatta call him Samori, after Samori Touré, the Guinean Muslim cleric who fought French colonizers in... (full context)
Part 2
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Black Bodies Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
Coates and Kenyatta travel to Howard for Prince’s memorial, where people speak of Prince’s deep religiosity, and some... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
In 2001, Kenyatta gets a job in New York and the young family move there together. On September... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
...this kind of rebirth is only possible when one rejects the Dream. Coates admits that Kenyatta let go of the Dream earlier than he did, perhaps because she was more familiar... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Black Bodies Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
When Kenyatta returns, she is in a state of excitement about “all the possibilities out there,” and... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
...age 37, Coates receives his first adult passport; before leaving the US, he admits to Kenyatta that he is afraid. He feels this same fear when he arrives in Geneva, able... (full context)
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Black Bodies Theme Icon
Captivity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
That summer, Coates and Kenyatta take Samori to Paris, in the hope that they will give their son a life... (full context)
Part 3
African-American Family and Heritage Theme Icon
Youth, Education, and Growth Theme Icon
Myth vs. Reality Theme Icon
...at school and gave Bible recitations at church. Coates notes that his father, Paul, and Kenyatta also found their “first intellectual adventures” in reciting Bible passages, and wonders if he has... (full context)