What’s The Point of Learning a New Language?

When I was an elementary school student at Soul Clinic International School, a stout, fair-skinned woman was ushered into my sixth grade classroom and introduced. Her name was Madame Naomisi.

“This is your new French teacher,” the Headmistress told us.

She then went on to explain some things about how we were all required to study French, expectations about respect, and a host of other things that Headmistresses say to students that nobody ever really remembers unless it involved the promise of a prize or a whipping. When she was done prattling, she left.

Madame Naomisi stared at us and we stared back. You could see the boys in our class sizing her up. At 5 foot dead, most of them towered over her. I’m sure they thought they could overrun her for sheer virtue of their size, but we quickly learned she had a tongue that could shred steel.

“What are some of the reasons to learn French?” she asked.

I had no reason to learn another language, so I looked around at the smarter kids in class waiting to hear what their reply would be. We were forbidden from speaking “vernacular” – Ga, Twi or any indigenous Ghanaian language – on school grounds. Just a few weeks before a few of the kids from La had been lashed for speaking Ga on the playground. We were told we must speak English and English only at school. And now you wanted me to learn French?

No, no, no…

En Francais? Pardon! Non.

Eventually, a very short list of reasons was drawn up and put on the blackboard. The two that Madame Naomisi seemed the most adamant about were:

1)      Because Ghana is surrounded by French speaking countries and

2)      Because French was (at the time) the second most spoken language in the world

Since my travels only took me to America and occasionally, England, I felt very uninspired. I decided at that moment that I would only ever do enough to pass the class and not to master the language. What was the point?

It’s a decision I’ve come to regret in my older years. Jemila Abdulai, my co-sojourner in creative writing wrote something on her Facebook page about the importance of shared language. With her permission, I’m sharing an excerpt with you. She was out having breakfast when she had the following encounter with a stranger. He asked:

 

“Where are you from? I have a daughter who looks like you. She lives in London and works with Pricewaterhouse Coopers. My other daughter is a fashion designer.”

After I respond, Ghana, he goes:

“Oh Ghana! I’m from Benin. When I was in grammar school, we would do an exchange with students from Ghana at Achimota School, Tema Secondary School. One year they would come to Benin and the next we would go to Ghana. It was good for learning English and French.”

That’s great, I respond. Unfortunately I don’t think they do that anymore.

“No they don’t, it’s quite a pity. But they should. Do you speak French?”

Yes, I do, I answer.

“That’s good. It’s important and we’re right next door to each other. I’m a business lawyer and I did an internship in London; when my daughters were growing up I made sure they went to London every year for a month – now they are bilingual.

I tell them that because of them, I couldn’t change my car as often as I wanted. But I don’t regret it. The best investment one can make is in their child’s education. Everything else goes, but that remains.”

I answer, laughing: My dad says the same thing.

“He’s right,” the man responds.

She nodded in agreement and went about having breakfast.

languageHer encounter reminded me of several times when I’ve looked helplessly on as Spanish only speaking laborers have been yelled at by their American employers in angry English, or that time when an elderly Chinese woman missed her stop on the bus because she couldn’t explain to the driver where she was trying to go, or any of the other times when language has been a barrier to progress. If we were all better versed in other languages, perhaps we’d better at showing respect, kindness and love.

In recent years I have come to understand that there are two things that bond humans: food and language. You might not be able to relate to anything else in another person’s condition, but nothing solidifies a bond like a good joke and a great meal.

I think if Madame Naomisi had opened up our young minds to the possibilities of what the future may bring, we might have taken our French courses a little more seriously. Apart from those two aforementioned students, we all failed her class abysmally term after term. What was the point in learning this language?

Perhaps if she had told us we might find ourselves in America working one day with an Ivorian co-worker going through depression and anxiety, it might be useful to speak words of comfort to her in her own language.

Or she might have told us to imagine ourselves on an adventure in Monaco – perhaps as a Formula One racer – you would need to know French.

What about a career? You might find that you want to become a diplomat and travel the world. You can pick up several languages along the way!

These would all be better reasons than “Ghana is surrounded by French speaking countries.” She made it sound like a rash – some sort of imminent invasion in which we would all be swallowed up in a cloud of ‘r’ induced spittle. (I couldn’t stand the way she said cherchè…like her throat was going to rupture at any moment. She took it as a personal affront if we did not hawk phlegm when we pronounced our r’s.)

 

Is there a language you wish you had the opportunity to learn? Have you encouraged your children to learn your native tongue? Some people have shame surrounding their mother tongue. They feel it is not “genteel” enough. Discuss! ↓

 

Oh, and if you’re ever in the mood for a literary treat, visit Jemila’s blog at http://www.jabdulai.com. The woman is sick with the vocabulary. You will be amazed!

When Your Bully Suddenly Finds Christ

Don’t get too excited. Jesus hasn’t been a Xanax in Atanta, let alone a balm in Gilead for this wench. Now the tale of my victimization has taken a bizarre turn.

I suppose it’s fair to say that Yvette is desperate. She sees that her actions (by which I mean that mouth) have gotten her into a hole and now she has to save face before her inglorious, imminent, involuntary departure from her job. Now we all know why she no longer manages Mars and the Moon. It’s because of the MOUTH!

What I have discovered is that she generally waits until after 5 pm when all of the executives have left to poison the waters against me with my co-workers. Just last night she was bragging about how she was going to get me fired and what church she goes to. “Get the behind me Satan!” she reportedly shouted.

Ah ah. So now I’m Satan? Girls abr3.*

And my co-workers – being the demographic they are – just sucked the gossip and vitriol up. But she’s not as confident as she seems. Every time an executive asks her to “see them for a moment” her immediate response is “am I in trouble?”

Only someone with a guilty conscience automatically thinks of trouble or danger when a person in authority calls on them. When an exec asks for me, I know it’s because I’m about to get more work on my plate. End of story.

Did I report her, you ask? Why yes, I did. She’s creating a hostile environment for me and I’m not having it. I wish I could show you guys the email she sent around to my team yesterday, but I’m saving it in my Bully File Folder for later use. Plus, I may use its contents in a book one day and that would be a spoiler!

Should we sit down and talk like two adults? I thought about that. How is that even possible when only ONE adult would be showing up for the meeting! Besides, that’s not my mandate. The woman has a problem with me, not vice versa. I have no time to go on a fact finding mission into the labyrinth of insanity that she calls a brain.

 

*Abr3: Fatigue as a result of suffering

Office Bully: Crusade of a Rachet Recruiter

It’s 7:20 am and I should be getting my kids ready to go to school. However, I’m letting them sleep in because I absolutely have zero desire to get into the office early, let alone on time. Last week was extremely stressful for me, and stress is like carbon monoxide for me: long periods of exposure yield devastating results.

I work for HP, a boutique recruiting firm with lax rules about everything except productivity. If I’m correct, we don’t do any sort of background checks on the people we hire. There certainly isn’t any sort of personality assessment. We had one girl that was let go who said she was going to come back and kill one of our managers. And guess what? The idiot’s husband works as a security guard for the office building! Dummy.

So this is the caliber of individuals I work with. In this mix of former retail/grocery employees, truck drivers, property managers and stay-at-home moms, there are two individuals who have taken on the mantle of shepherding the group. These two people are Chanell and Yvette.

Our Company Structure

We recently had a hiring surge, and our office went from 20 people to 60 in two weeks. The room is set up like a maze of cubicles, with no sound barriers and very little white noise. It gets noisy in there very quickly.

Each “recruiter” is obligated to work 40 hours a week. However, each recruiter is free to structure their week as they see fit. This means you can work Mon-Thur for 10 hours a day and have Friday off, which is a very agreeable option for anyone in the 28-45 year old age bracket. Jean Baptiste, who I mentioned yesterday, has mastered this formula, and has conjured up a way to get out of the office every Thursday by 3:30 pm. I am not mad at the brother by any means! Unfortunately, I was told that when 6 o’clock comes, everybody needs to be out of the office…so that’s why I do. I kick out people and lock up at six. But why should I have to kick anyone out? We’re all “adults”, right? When 6 pm comes, you should have the courtesy to leave.

It has become apparent to me that Jean Baptiste is the only exception to this rule, and I am happy to leave him to his devices. He and I were on the path to becoming friends, up until The Incident.

 

The Incident

A lot of people use the office internet to stream video and music. This puts a great deal of pressure on the bandwidth and causes our system to periodically crash. On Wednesday last week, that’s precisely what happened. The entire system crashed, and half the office got up and began cavorting, cackling and carrying on. The computers were not working and neither were they. However, our sales guys were still on the horn AND we had a candidate in the office interviewing. One of the Project Managers came by and did not look pleased by any measure. So what do I do as a Team Lead? I send an email that simply said:

“Hey guys! Do you think we could have a conversation with our teams about moderating their tone? It gets really loud in here and I think we’re going to hear about it from management soon. Any suggestions?”

That was it.

Suddenly, Chanell and Yvette yanked their teams off the floor to have an impromptu meeting. I have no idea what was said, but they came out and were deathly silent. Weird, but whatever.

An hour later, Frick and Frack called the rest of us leads in for another meeting. They were “frusterated” and “annoied” by what was happening.

Chanell

Chanell

“Now everybody is scared to talk, and I don’t like that,” Chanell screeched. God lord. For someone so halfway attractive, she sure does have a voice from hell. No, like really. Her speaking voice is this high-pitched yelp, like a demon being tormented in hell. She has great breasts though.

That’s when Yvette chimed in. She’d spent the first half of the meeting with her head buried in her hands, nostrils flared, shaking her foot. She went on a tear.

Yvette

Yvette

If anyone can’t handle the noise level, then maybe this isn’t the environment for them! Asking people to not talk is about self. And you know what? I’m 44 years old and NO ONE is going to tell me I can’t talk. I’m going to sit in my corner, and I am GOING to talk!

Well, dumbass, you’re PAID to talk. I don’t think I mentioned anything in my email about anybody not talking…And how did she make her head roll like that with no neck? It was fascinating, like a miracle of physics.

Of course I didn’t say this, but I rolled my eyes pretty hard.

That’s when she got to talking about how she’s been in management before, and where, and why God thinks she’s the greatest thing since Jesus saved us all on the cross. But you know what? For all her “management experience” guess where she’s sitting? At HP with the rest of us, making way under $40K. And how were you a manager using made up words like “agreeance”?

Oh but it didn’t end there. Chanell had to get her piece in. She wanted ALL of us to know what she had managed at Fortune 500 companies, including – but not limited to – Mars, the moon and some distant fairy land. Again, no one cares. And to signal I didn’t care, I sighed. Hard.

The Banshee and the Troll didn’t like that one bit.

 

Escalation

“Could we look at this from the candidate’s perspective and what they hear?” I asked.

Combined, they form a most fearsome creature

Combined, they form a most fearsome creature

The words were barely out of my mouth when Yvette began to yell – with no reservation – that she had to conduct phone screens with Wesley, our president, in the background playing golf, chatting about lacrosse and yelling “Woohoo!!!” throughout the office. Keep in mind, Wesley was sitting in the office adjacent to the meeting room and the walls are paper thin. He heard every word, and was not pleased.

Finally, the meeting ended and the unpleasantness was over – or so I thought. Yvette, it appeared, had other plans.

She immediately went through the office whispering about me, spreading gossip and nonsense. It’s all made-up, because the woman knows nothing about me. Then she came over to my area to answer a question for one of our junior recruiters.

“I hope that wasn’t too loud,” she said mockingly in my direction.

Well bitch, I hope you die.

The most crushing blow was when she took Jean Baptiste outside and planted poison in his ear about how I had no right to tell him when to leave, and how I think I run things around there, and that I have a problem with him staying late. I have told him before that he could stay until midnight and I wouldn’t care one whit. But that didn’t matter. His demeanor immediately changed towards me. The only reason it hurts is because I had hoped that he and I would become friends outside of work in time. I am very selective with whom I call “friend”.

Anyway, the waters in the office have been poisoned, and I am regularly treated to cold stares by all the gay men (and you know how chilly their eyes can get), stony silence from the women, and sympathetic smiles from co-workers who still/do like me asking “girl, are you alright?”

 

Conclusion

Am I alright? I’m going to be just fine. I’m not going to let some underachieving, self-absorbed, grossly overweight cretin destroy my life. Over a salary under $40K? How possible?!

Now, it’s important to note that there are thousands of people across America, and indeed the world who are subjected to similar incidences if not worse ones. Sometimes, they don’t make it out, and sometimes, they take people out with them. Suicide and mass murder as a result of some douchebag being an asshole is real. People don’t realize what a devastating impact their evil ways can have on a person. In my younger years, I would have let Yvette’s action drive me to personal harm; but I have grey hairs on my vagina now, much too old…and I’m way past letting her feeble, childish antics cause me any real angst. At this point, she’s merely an irritation.

Sometime this week, I hope we can all discuss Karyn Washington and what her death signifies. The implications are an indictment against our culture and what we tolerate and foster in our community.

 

Have you ever been bullied in your office? ARE you an office bully? What makes a person think they have the right and privilege to treat another this way? Discuss! ↓

 

Workplace Bullying is, Like, an Actual Real Thing

Have you ever heard of ‘workplace bullying’? Did you scoff when you heard the term?  I’ll raise my hand and admit quite candidly that I did. Sucked my teeth, in fact. As far as I was concerned, there was no such thing as workplace bullying: only cowering, sniveling grown-ups who didn’t know how to get along with their co-workers and handle a bit of ribbing.

And then, as God in all His humor often subjects me to when I’m too quick to pass judgment, he plucked me out of my security and put in the place of those I was judging. That’s right folks, you heard it right. I have become the victim of workplace bullying.

I had to research the term to make sure my feelings of discomfort and disquiet were valid. Workplace bullying is defined by the department of labor as:

 A persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and on occasion can be subordinates. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in company culture.

Examples of bullying are:

  1. Unwarranted or invalid criticism
  2. Blame without factual justification
  3. Being treated differently than the rest of your work group
  4. Being sworn at
  5. Exclusion or social isolation
  6. Being shouted at or being humiliated
  7. Excessive monitoring or micro-managing
  8. Being given  unrealistic deadlines for projects

 

Last week, I found myself subjected to numbers 1-6. Can you imagine? Me?!?! A whole me! I was shocked. I was ‘bullied’ before on my cleaning job by Big Lou (you might recall the Real Housekeepers of Atlanta series I wrote last year), but I just chalked that up to her being a crazy old lady who truly needed to get a life. Fortunately, I did not see my days ending with a mop and broom in my hands, and I was well on my way to voluntarily ending my days as a toilet scrubber in the Atlanta metropolis.

I suppose I should give you a bit of a background to catch you all up on how I got here. As all of my friends (and I guess all the regulars on this blog know), I exited the workforce in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. I didn’t like my job and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise our kids, who my husband and I only really saw between 6-8 pm and on weekends. I took a few short term contracts whenever I got an itch for a “real paycheck”, but never anything long term.

This Christmas when I contracted meningitis and racked up a $43,000 medical bill, I decided that perhaps it would be a good opportunity to go back to work. After all, the kids were grown and essentially ‘independent’. It was the perfect motivation to head back to work and begin working on knocking down our debt.

So here I am at HP* (not to be confused with Hewlett-Packard), a boutique recruiting firm that I worked at once before. They brought me back as a team lead, which was thrilling and frightening, particularly since I’d been out of the traditional workforce for so long. However, my employer Wesley*, a really standup guy whom I’m sure suffers from adult ADHD had utter faith in my capabilities and so I set out to prove him right.

I was given a key to the building and our office suite, informed to lock up at 6 pm when the office closed, and told to go off and be a team lead. No training, no instructions…just a mandate to “go do”.

There were 5 other team leads at the company when I arrived. A sixth and seventh were added a few weeks after I arrived. One of those women promoted is Yvette. It is she and Chanell who are my tormentors.

trollYvette is an enormous, rotund woman who loathes humanity. She particularly dislikes children, by her own admission. I maintain that only who dislikes children is soulless and godless.

Chanell thinks she runs the world. The reasons for her intense belief in her self-anointed mandate to govern all who come into her path are unclear. She was pleasant enough when I began. I generally keep my co-workers on a hi-and-bye basis until I can get a better sense on where they stand on important issues. Needless to say, we aren’t even running on a cordial basis ever since the incident – which then morphed into a string of incidents – let alone trying to develop an office relationship built on mutual respect.

There is a third player in this, whom all the angst seems centered around. His name is Jean Baptiste*, and has been with HP for a little over 2 years.

Has that whet your appetite? Great! Give me a day so I can finish the rest of the story.

-To be continued! -

 

Why Camps and Cons Are Oh-So Thrilling

Don’t misread what I’m saying oo! I’m not talking about Concentration Camps and Con men. I feel like I have to clarify this at the onset because I have an (unjust!) reputation for being a cynic. No, Random Readers and MOM Squad, I am referring to something far more pleasant and saccharine than bullets and barbed wire.

In ancient days, there were always feasts and festivals over the course of the year. Have you ever noticed that? The Greeks would get naked and gather for the Olympics, the Jews would have their Feasts of First Fruits and Unleavened Bread, Ghanaians had (and still have) Aboakyer

Why?

blogideasBecause it is important to gather with your tribe – with people with whom you share common interests, goals and passions. Remember in the Bible when Elijah thought he was all alone in his dedication? God quickly checked him and thundered from the heavens:

“Look here, fool! I gots 7,000 prophets who ain’t bowed their knee to Ba’al!”

Yes. Those were the Almighty’s exact words, and if there had been a YahwehCon, perhaps Elijah wouldn’t have felt so alone. That was just poor planning on his part. 7001 and one prophets? Now there’s a party!

When you do something unique and out of the ordinary in the physical space that you occupy, it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that you’re all alone. That’s why camps and cons are so vital, in my view. Space and tech camps for kids, SXSW for geeks who love music, and Comic-Con (and its Southern younger brother, DragonCon) are gatherings and feasts of our modern age. They bring you, the isolated weirdo in your village, to a realm where you can congregate with like spirits. You feed off their energy and they nourish themselves off yours. And you know what? People at Cons and Camps are usually the nicest folks you’ll ever meet, because it’s in that environment that they can take off their masks and be themselves.

That’s why it’s KILLING me that I will not be a BlogCamp14 in Accra this year!

blogalong

Even as I type, the tweets and live feeds from people converging on the city are charged with expectation. One user said he didn’t know why he was so excited to be going. I refrained from pointing out the obvious: That’s it’s going to be freaking AWESOME, that’s why you’re knickers all on in a twist, my brother.

auditFirst of all, the event is at the Kofi Anan Center for Excellence. Second of all, there’s free Wifi – which is pretty much an anomaly in Ghana. And third – just wait for it – there’s free coffee All. Day. Long. Java fuels a blogger’s loins and fingertips. (FYI: Authors drink tea. They are in it the writing process for the long haul. That much caffeine would cause a pulmonary aneurism.)

blogcity

BlogCamp is the brainchild of Kajsa Hallbert Adu who is supported by an excellent cast of executives who have re-injected enthusiasm into the world of the digital arts. All forms of social media and the content produced therein are given equal attention at BlogCamp. Photography, Vine videos, Keek, Twitter content and the Grand Mammy-of-it-all, the traditional 500 – 1000 word blog are discussed, work shopped and honored at the end of the night.

Lawd, I wish I could be there. All those laptops and smartphones and cameras… I can hear it now:

“Chaley, my phone died! Any plug in this place??”

“Herhhh…I left my power chord. Can you believe it? What? I can use yours? Thank you!”

“Of course I’ll take a selfie with you!”

“Yo. Is that Kobby Graham? Oh no, I won’t ask him for a selfie. I’ll just take a stealthie…” *Click!*

blogfriends

I could waffle on, but you get the point. And besides, I have to shut down and prepare for an 8 hour drive to Ohio to pick up the kids.

Oh! Some of you on this end of the pond have asked if Mind Of Malaka won. It is with some angst that I must report that MOM did not make the shortlist for the awards, but that’s okay! It was great to be a finalist. That you Allison, MX5, Sister Deborah, Ms. Davis, Swaykidd and Alex in Wonderland for your votes and to everyone else who voted for MOM secretly. You guys are the best audience I could hope for and make every keystroke worth the while.

What is your tribe? Are you a Trekkie who is fluent in Java as well as Klingon? Or perhaps high fantasy is more of your thing? Perhaps you’re more into Steam Punk? What Cons and Camps have you been to or would most enjoy attending? Discuss! ↓

 

How Berenice Won the Internet This Week

Happy Frivolous Friday MOM Squad!

How has your week been? Mine was INSANE. I’ve become the victim of workplace bullying in recent days. No, no…don’t worry. It’s just your typical Black woman drama. I just am unaccustomed to it is all. I want to study and understand it, which is why next week I hope to treat you to a four part series called Crusade of the Ratchet Recruiter: Yvette’s Story

But we’re not here to talk about overweight, sexually frustrated, middle-aged mulatto women. Today we’re here to talk about Berenice, who took the internet by storm this week. Oh? You’ve never heard of Berenice? Quelle horreur! This is something we must remedy immediately!

First of all, I have to commend Berenice. If you are going to tackle any John Legend song, it means you’ve got a lot of chutzpa and balls of brass, right out the gate. John’s voice has a unique quality that only comes along once in a generation. John Legend is to Marvin Gaye as Pharrell is to Smokey Robinson. So when an individual, either male or female takes on the challenge of crooning one of their ballads, you have to give them credit for that.

That’s as far as the credit goes when the execution is this flawed, however.

My word! Did Berenice and her cameraman (and it had to be a man, because no woman would let her girl go out like this) know they had stumbled on 4:32 seconds of internet gold when they posted this video on YouTube? Let’s just analyze the basics, because after the ↓ I want – nay – I NEED to hear your thoughts.

  1. Why is the beach so dirty? I mean, couldn’t they rake the trash to the side instead of letting her roll around in it “seductively” as she screeched her way through this love song?
  2. Why does her face look like it’s paining her to sing? Is it because she can’t figure out what “curls and edges” are? Maybe I’m mistaking confusion for pain, I don’t know…
  3. At minute 3:14. The clumps of sand from her fingertips. No.
  4. Ei! Minute 3:40! Was she having a seizure on her feet? NO!
  5. I had to go back and watch it from the beginning. Why does she look like she lost her balance on minute 0:27? We’re only 27 seconds into the video Berenice. You can’t be falling down.
  6. And finally: No. Just NO.

Are you done laughing? THIS, ladies and gentlemen; this is how you win the internet. This is the kind of comedy you can’t dream up in a laboratory. You know why? Because it wasn’t even meant to be funny. Berenice was dead serious when she flopped around in the sand like a wounded captured mermaid and allowed this to be posted on the ‘net. It is *intention* that wins the internet, every time.

Please…discuss! ↓

I’m going to finish crying.

Things I learned Over the Weekend

All Ghanaians look one way

I happened upon a video featuring Sangu Delle, proprietor of Heel the World , this weekend. The interview was remarkable in many ways. From the host’s awkward intro where he clears his throat, mutters through an introduction, his stumbling offer to have Sangu take some tea and FINALLY his pronouncement that Sangu Delle “did not look Ghanaian”, there were many takeaways from the segment.

For my part, it was good to hear that a Ghanaian other than myself had suffered the insult of those dreaded words: that you do not look like what you are. I mean, what is a Ghanaian supposed to look like? Do Sangu Delle and I look un-Ghanaian because we are well-fed and properly groomed in public? What the heck, man!?!

Sangu Delle gave a brilliant, inspiring interview about youth and achievement. What I learned from his conversation is that we will all get further if we look at what we have and build on those things, instead of obsessing over what we lack and wallowing in the same.

 

‘Gator Bait

I had only heard this term in passing in the past, and never really took the time to study it. Somehow, it became a topic of conversation on my job. My co-worker asked me if I’d seen the pictures of Black babies that White Southerners would use as alligator bait.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. They used to tie babies up over a swamp and wait for the alligators to jump up and snatch them,” he repeated.

He suggested I look it up. It took me 2 days, but I finally did, and in doing so discovered this video.

How devastated would I be if some man scooped up one of my toddlers and brought their lives to such a violent, horrible end? This is why I believe in Hell.

 

Salty enough for the slave ship?

I dropped the kids off in Ohio for Spring Break at their grandparents, much to their delight. Spring Break was looking rather bleak prior to that. Now that I’m back at work, it would mean a week at our local daycare…and the kids didn’t fancy that idea at all.

Anyhow, I discovered my mother-in-law is in the throes of planning a Juneteenth Celebration in her town, and is also working on getting the Gammon House on the National Registry of Historic Sites. The Gammon House was part of the Underground Railroad. She talked about some of the fascinating people she’s encountered while working on the project, one of whom is a professor and historian.

“Did you know they used to lick the slaves before putting them on the ship to test how salty their sweat was?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. The reason high blood pressure is prevalent in the African American gene pool today is because of how they selected us back then. The more water you retain, the greater the chance you had of surviving the Middle Passage. They generally chose Africans whose sweat was the saltiest and stuck them on the boat.”

Look closely on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Look closely. There, on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Judging from the results of my ascent up Table Mountain last year, I certainly would have been one of those Africans slated for a 3 month cruise through Hell. However, knowing myself as I do, I would have found a way to end my life upon arrival in the New World. I couldn’t spend 12 Minutes a Slave, let alone live 12 Years a Slave.

 

Pharrell’s song does actually make you feel Happy

My father-in-law was drafted into Vietnam, which was one of the bloodiest, horrifying, useless and baseless wars of our lifetime. America had no business in that war, and Black men had even less business than that.

One of the most enduring memories that my father-in-law has of that war is the bodies that were piled up in the streets after the Tet Offensive. He said they “sprayed people in the streets like ants” and then brought in bulldozers to scoop up the bodies.

And then he saw ‘Happy’, the Saigon version, and was astounded. He was so pleased that those people had recovered, that they were singing and dancing in the streets – that they had smiles on their faces.

It made him happy.

 

What did you learn this weekend? Was any of this news to? The licking…the licking was the most eye opening.