Why Are So Many African Artists Such Willing Participants in Their Own Degradation?

mammyOn Feb. 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel took a long, solitary walk from a segregated table in the back of the Coconut Grove Hotel to accept her Oscar award for the Best Supporting Actress category for her role as Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’. She was the first Black actor in history to receive the prestigious award. The fact that she was allowed in the hotel in a capacity other than as a Black woman in service was a triumph and a feat that required no small effort, as Coconut Grove, like every establishment that catered to white clientele around the country had a strict ‘No Blacks Allowed’ policy. Although these establishments had no qualms with Black performers coming in to entertain their white guests, they were required to enter in through back entrances of said establishments, never permitted to stay on the premises as guests, and certainly were not allowed to use any of the facilities like the bar or lounges. Nevertheless, these Black performers were at least given the courtesy of having their faces and voices seen/heard on TV or radio broadcasts as they executed their craft from time-to-time.

In time, one of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement would be the end of segregation, allowing these artists freer access to private establishments and all their comforts.

Ironically, 51 years after the end of segregation in America, African artists are being shown the backdoor to receive recognition for their creativity and craft by Black Entertainment Television (BET); and what’s worse, these same artists are glibly gliding through the proverbial kitchen and galley for the benefit of a pat on the head from the guardians of this media outlet. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration: Every year, ever since the inception of the Best International Act: Africa category, African artists receive their BET Awards off stage, off camera, many hours before the larger televised ceremony. At least white folks let Hattie on TV to give her acceptance speech. BET hides the African element from the viewing public like it’s a bad rash. Many have drawn parallels between the treatment that African artists receive from BET and the Black American community at large and that which Black people themselves once received from openly racist white American society.

If you are one of the many Americans who was not even aware that there was an African Artist category on the BET Awards, don’t fret. You are not at fault. It’s not well publicized in the least. The speculation for the secrecy is varied, but at the core, most people agree that it is because Black Americans – or at least those who consume the entertainment fare that BET offers – are ashamed of Africans.

I find this peculiar, especially since so much of what Black Americans enjoy and boast of culturally and musically has its roots in Africa. To that end, (Black) American entertainers have no misgivings about co-opting African styles and melody for their own career advancement… just reservations about showcasing it on television or radio.For example, the bassline for ODB’s ‘Ghetto Superstar’ mirror’s Brenda Fassie’s ‘Vulindlela’ note for bloody note. In addition to that, the entire genre that BET is built on – hip hop – owes a nod of gratitude to Africa as well. Simigwahene Gyedu Blay Ambolley has long asserted that he is the originator of rap and not the Sugarhill Gang who have been crowned with that honor.

“I am [the originator of rap] in the whole world not only Ghana. [But] if you go into the Guinness book of records they said that the Sugarhill Gang originated rap, and if you check the date, their date was around ‘78, ‘79.”

Ambolley first began performing and distributing rap commercially in 1973.

From fashion to music, Black Americans have long drawn inspiration from Africa. This is not to deny that there hasn’t been a trend in the reverse, especially recently, but the flow of cultural exchange has been trended heavily with Africa providing the influences. Lest we forget, the entire thrilling sequence to Beyonce’s “Who Run the World” video was choreographed by and originated with  lesser known Mozambican dance troupe, Tofo Tofo.

In light of this open secret, it can’t be denied that BET’s treatment of African artists is nothing short of appalling. Several artists have made their feelings known in the issue, including Fuse ODG and Whizkid, both of whom were nominated to receive awards, but who, to their credit, refused the second class treatment they were offered.

As usual, there will always be apologists for the poor treatment of Africans and as usual, they exist in blackface. One of such purveyors of this rubbish mentality is the disgraced, former “ace” broadcaster, KKD, who had this to say:

kkd nya

This is crap, because as anyone who follows pop cultural trends knows, the people don’t get to decide what they like: they have their appetites decided for them. From as far back as the Ed Sullivan show, entertainment moguls have long made it a point to individually bring ‘new and exciting’ acts to the viewing (and paying) public and thus direct their enthusiasms and tastes. That was how America was introduced to The Beatles, Ike & Tina and Nat King Cole. The public didn’t decide to make them stars: the industry did. If BET was really avant-garde and in the business of innovation, they would jump at the opportunity to introduce new acts to a hungry public in search of the next big thing. The BET Awards were established in 2001, and in that time, I have never heard of any other minority or ‘fringe’ group – be they from the Caribbean Dancehall cadre or cello-playing Esperanza Spalding – having to receive their recognition off camera just after breakfast or play to an empty auditorium because the ‘American public isn’t used to it’. You mean the kid in the hood can dig an American chick playing strings on a wooden box, but not an African guy rapping flawless in English? Which is supposedly more familiar to him?

What a stupid excuse. The American public wasn’t used to the Moonwalk either, but when MJ debuted it on Motown 25, it was one of the greatest moments in television history. How many possible great TV moments have been passed up while Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and Tiwa Savage have been grinnin’ n’ gigglin’ like grateful (segregated) African urchins backstage year after year?

That’s the point: these artists are not just some of Africa’s finest, but the finest musicians, lyricists and performers in the world today. They do not deserve this type of treatment, and they certainly shouldn’t be facilitating in their own dishonor. So that what? So that people who don’t see them as equals may (hopefully) come to recognize them as such? That they will in time get a “well done, thy good and faithful R&B songstress” from the likes of Diddy? This was the same mistake that African/Black Americans made with they traded the scraps of white mainstream integration for glory of economic independence and self-determination.

Do you remember Tiwa's performance at the BET Awards? No? That's because it was PRE-concert!

Do you remember Tiwa’s performance at the BET Awards? No? That’s because it was PRE-concert!

I hope that next year no African artist will voluntarily debase themselves by paying for their own airfare and lodging to go and pick up an award from a ratchet organization that is as invested in collective Black advancement as presidential candidate Donald Trump is today. BET is owned by Viacom, not your brother. Trust me when I say Viacom don’t give a rats a** about putting your Ghanaian one “on the map”.

 

We better recognize.

Do you think it’s a good idea for African artists to participate in awards shows that treat them like second class citizens? Are the possible long term benefits worth this disgrace? Why/why not? Discuss! ↓

Misconceptions about the Lives of House Negroes

On January 23, 1963, Malcolm X gave a speech at Michigan State University in which he described two camps of Negro: the house Negro and the field Negro. In that speech, he goes on to lay out the differences in the characteristics of the two. The house Negro presumably loves and adores his master. They eat the same food and live under the same roof. He uses the plural “we” in his conversation with the master, ostensibly to identify with the master’s condition.

“Yes, massa, we have food.”

“Massa, is we cold?”

The field Negro on the other hand is a treated as a repugnant minority, an undesirable and inferior in terms of his humanity but the engine that made genteel life and society run smoothly nevertheless. In Malcolm X’s analogy, the field Negro hates the master. If there’s fire in the big house he prays for breeze to facilitate its destruction. If the master was sick, he’d pray for him to die.

This was a powerful analogy, and the peculiarities from the imagery it excites are something we still use as a reference in pop culture and politics today. For instance, in a conversation with Wanlov about the recent treatment of African artists at the BET Awards (something I hope to tackle later on), he had this to say about the artist’s willing participation in the demeaning ceremony:

 

There’s a lot of history and many parallels to draw between what is happening in Diaspora relations today and post-Emancipation and Jim Crow America and blackness/Africaness, but I want to stay on topic and discuss the house Negro trope, even though my insides are burning to take that rabbit trail.

It’s never pleasant to disagree with one’s heroes, but I think in this instance, Malcolm X was wrong in his diagnosis of the house Negro condition and the circumstances they lived under.

I recently read an article on Vox that tackles the plight of the house Negro in part. Margaret Biser, a plantation historical tour guide and the article’s author, describes the myriad of questions she sometimes gets from white members of her tour group. They are staggering in their presumptions and ignorance.

“Did the slaves appreciate the care they received from their mistress,” one young mother asked haughtily.

“House slaves had it pretty good, didn’t they?” one man asked, looking for validation of his presumptions.

Biser hints that she makes it a point to show the printed notices for bounties on runaway slaves, the majority of whom – shockingly – were house slaves. Life in the Big House was not as cozy as we’d all like to imagine it to have been.

frederickFrederick Douglas, who was himself was the mixed race product of a plantation rape, was brought into the Big House at a young age to serve its members, one of whom was his father. He was contracted out to work at a neighboring home, where he learned the alphabet from the mistress of the home. Her husband soon put a stop to it, but Douglass would go on to pick up the fundamentals and then master literacy by shadowing white children in the neighborhood. He would later famously write:

“To educate a man is to unfit him to be a slave.”

Frederick Douglas’ story is not unique, as hundreds of house slaves would subversively learn to read, write, and gather news of current events while they were in service in the Big House. Although it was dangerous, they would then pass some of that knowledge to their compatriots in the field. One can only imagine the incredible burden and the tightrope act these men and women had to walk to preserve their lives. In waking up every day to pretend you were dumber than you were just to survive. There are stories of child slaves who were severely punished for blurting out the answers to quizzes while in service to their young masters/mistresses as they received tutelage. In most cases, they were sent to the field to work to shield them from access to knowledge.

Harriet Tubman worked as both a field hand and a house slave from the time she was 8 years old. She describes preferring field work to the horror of the house. As a young child, she was contracted to a neighboring farm to serve as a “nanny” to a white family. The mistress was an unreasonable – and in my estimation, plain crazy – woman who would whip Harriet horribly if her baby should happen to cry. The psychological and physical abuse of the house Negro is something that rarely gets talked about, but it should only make sense when you are in such close proximity with your captors and tormentors.

For instance, we rarely talk about the sexual violence that both male AND female slaves who worked in the Big House routinely faced. In an effort to protect white female virtue, chastity and purity, male slaves who worked in and around the Big House (the butler, the gardener, the driver) were frequently castrated. This made them docile and robbed them of their virility. Of course, stories about of Black slave women who were themselves the product of rape who would go on to bear offspring who were the products of rape. Sally Hemings, the “mistress” of Thomas Jefferson who bore him six children may be the most noted of these. What is really sick about this “relationship” is that Sally was the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson’s wife. Black women who worked in the Big House in any capacity were never afforded any agency over their bodies and could find themselves under sexual attack from the master, his sons or any privileged guest who entered the home.

The violence that house Negros faced was not always meted out by men in power. White women were frequently purveyors of some of the worst pain imaginable. In a slave narrative recounted by Henry Louis (Skip) Gates on PBS, he describes how a young girl new to the kitchen made a series of small, but inconsequential mistakes, much to the anger of the mistress of the house. One day, unable to bear the arc of the girl’s learning curve, she picked up a coal pot apparatus from the oven and in a rage, flung the embers at the young child. An older slave who had worked for the family a long time jumped in front of the child and shielded her from the fire with her forearm, sustaining horrific burns. From that day, whenever the white mistress came into the kitchen, the older slave would roll up her sleeves to remind her of the demonic fit and latent penchant cruelty. Whenever she was asked what happened to her arm, the old woman would reply quietly “Ask Missy.” Her retort was a solemn, but defiant act.

You know what’s sad? In a stunning display of supremacy (perhaps motivated by shame, but probably more so by privilege), Ben Affleck has sued Skip Gates for revealing his own family’s slave owning past, leading PBS to temporarily cancel his show. Now, these and other stories are at risk of going uncovered and untold.

The truth is, life in the Big House was horrible. House slave at the end of their rope sometimes sought to poison their owners or would grind up glass in their food or would put a little Shug Avery pee in their lemonade if they didn’t want to outright kill them that day. I believe it is a falsehood to confer upon these ancient souls the blanket of joyous obsequiousness that pop culture has woven for them. Perhaps the most undeserving of these stereotypes is Uncle Tom.

Fact is, most folks who use the term “Uncle Tom” as a pejorative have never read the book and never will. These people will be shocked to learn that Uncle Tom died protecting Black female life at the hands of a crazed and cruel white slave owner. Tom refused to divulge the location Cassy, a woman who Simon Legree had purchased to be his sex slave whom Tom encourages to run away. In the book, Tom is beaten to death. In the movie version, he is hung up like raw hide and his body split in two with an axe after his beating. There’s your Uncle Tom house Negro.

It saddens me to think that we continue to perpetuate these sorts of divisions amongst ourselves (we, meaning Black people), when all it does is work in the service of white supremacy. History is literally being re-written before our eyes, or bleached out at the very least. To hear some white folk tell it, slavery was nothing more than a contractual agreement between blacks and whites for the benefit of the human species. “Cooperation”, I’ve seen some call it.

Long.

Blank.

Stare.

I urge everyone to read up more on Black life. Pre-slavery, post-slavery, current events. Let’s honor our ancestors by educating ourselves, rather than assigning them rude appellations and making assumptions about how they made it through. I worked as a maid for a summer two years ago, cleaning some of Atlanta’s biggest (and most humble) homes. I’ve endured the stares, the scrutiny, the condescending conversation. And even though I got paid, trust me when I say working in de Big House is no walk in the park.

starching

Shola Emmanuel Shines in his First Atlanta Concert

On Saturday morning I decided to take a break from my social media networks because I felt overwhelmed by all the news and opinions that were being flung from all angles. Mary, Kareem and Joseph, were there ONLY two issues going on in the world?

Gayness and racism, gayness and racism. Ahmba!

As one user put it: “My timeline looks like the confederate flag got into a fight with a bag of Skittles!”

I’m sure there is a more ‘civilized’ way to express my exasperation, but not one of you who truly know me believes that you come to MOM expecting me to exhibit the qualities gentility and/or decorum.

Anyway, I shut everything down – including the blog – (apologies to those who were not able to log on) for an unspecified length of time so that I could seek adventure outside of the virtual world. I do this at least once a year, but never before has it paid off in the way that it did this weekend!

I picked up my phone and scrolled through my contacts. Few of my friends live in Atlanta, and I was determined to use this sabbatical to hang out with someone I rarely get to interact with in person, but who is pretty cool online.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, me? Nothing ooo. I’m just at home with the kids.”

“Ah ha. I see. Listen: I’m taking a social media break. I’m taking my life back to 1993…so I’m calling people to see if they want to hang out. You know – in person. Like we did when we were kids!”

The person on the other end of the call sounded appalled. She gasped. How could I have shut down everything?

“You know you can take a social media break without deactivating your accounts?”

“Yes, Tosinger, I know. But if I keep them up, I’ll be tempted to go back. Anyway, what are we doing to hang out?”

Tosinger, my lucky victim, informed me that she was going to be performing with Shola Emmanuel, a saxophonist whom she described as “big time” in Nigeria. She asked me if I would like to accompany her on Sunday afternoon. Not knowing what to expect, I laughed inwardly at the description of “big time in Nigeria” and I readily agreed. Do Nigerians ever do anything “small time”?

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My knowledge of and experience with Afrojazz begins and ends with Fela Kuti’s ‘Best Best Of’ CD set, so it should come as no surprise that Shola Emmanuel is (or was) unknown to me. Adding that I live in Atlanta where Crunk and Trap are King with Soul/R&B vying for seconds in the spotlight, there are few opportunities to get live exposure to Shola’s genre of music. There certainly isn’t much broad appreciation of it; less than half of what it deserves. Shola Emmanuel is a genius.

Like all African functions (yes ALL), the concert began late, though it was no fault of Shola’s or his band’s. One attendee arrived at 9:30 pm, asking if the show was over! It was to begin at 5:30 pm. At 7:31, Rasheeda Ali Duo played a rousing version of an arrangement she had compiled, while Maya Angelou accompanied her in the background with a recorded reading of Phenomenal Woman. I for one had no problem with the late start to the show, because it gave me the opportunity to speak briefly with Shola Emmanuel about his craft and his foray into music. If I had heard him play prior to our conversation, I would have gone into unabashed groupie mode and been hardly able to form one coherent thought. The man is just that good.

“So, Shola!” I said with the familiarity of a long-lost friend or a headmaster interrogating a pupil. “Tell me everything.”

His eyes danced with amusement. “Everything?”

“Yes! How did you get your start in music? Can you play anything besides the saxophone?”

“Any musician can play more than one instrument.”

I could not tell if he was being smug or just stating something matter-of-factly. I gave him a side eye in response, therefore. Shola asked me if I played any instrument. I replied that I didn’t…I couldn’t.

“Is it because you can’t or because you haven’t tried?”

“I just don’t have the capacity for it,” I admitted. “Maybe if I had training, I could but…”

Ugh. Now was not the time to divulge that I grew up under the economic duress of a Good Times caricature, and how my family’s limited funds could not afford me the luxury of music lessons, even if I wanted them. Nigerians don’t respect such people at all!

I would go on to discover that the quiet, unassuming man had been working and earning since he was 16. Shola Emmanuel is a true creative, in as many ways as the imagination can conjure. His uncle began selling Shola’s paintings and artwork in his gallery while he was still in secondary school. He then went on to take over the graphic design responsibilities of his uncle’s agency in Nigeria. He lives a nomadic lifestyle that has seen him settled in France, parts of the US and of course, Nigeria. He had always been musically inclined, so he turned his discipline towards mastering the saxophone. He wouldn’t tell me what else he could play, but I discovered that the piano was one of his conquests after I jokingly admonished him for not breaking out into some rendition of “Malaika” when I introduced myself.

“Do you want me to play it?” Shola asked with a half-smile.

What a question. Emphatically yes, I replied! Tosinger hopped onto the mic and then this happened.

Knowing that I couldn’t monopolize the attentions of the star of the show the whole evening, he begged his pardon and I released him with my gratitude. An hour later, the concert opened with Rasheeda, followed by Tosinger who sang Pata Pata, Summer Time and a song from her new album ‘Organically Singing’. Something about cracking snail shells and eating fireflies. The Shola and his ragtag band that he picked up around the city just that week took the carpet. Did I mention the concert was in a studio? There was no stage. It was intimate and cozy. You were so close to the music that you could feel every note – and every note was like a new friend.

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The concert was called Nine Lessons, but as Shola Emmanuel would confess towards the end of his fifth song, he did not like to give his audiences moral guidance.

“Telling you this is right, this is wrong…I don’t really like it,” he mused. “I have learned/heard that there are two tribes in this world: The Good and the Bad. You have to pick your own tribe.”

Gosh, I wish I had the vocabulary to explain what I witnessed that night. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain the feelings that music evokes in the human soul, in understanding that very song that night had been arranged in the head of a true genius who hears sound at a different pitch, and to have six other people read a musical composition and execute it with the tightness of an 18 wheeler parked inside the lines of your local Wendy’s. It was amazing. And that Shola. Hei! He oscillates through so many personalities when he’s on stage, playing like a man possessed, delivered and toying with fire again.

photo(18)

Shola closed the night by thanking everyone in the room by name, and culminated the performance with Fela’s ‘Lady’. It was tremendous fun.

 

If you live in the ATL and are feeling like you’ve missed out, never fear! As always, I am here to save the day. Shola Emmanuel will be holding monthly concerts for the short duration that he’s living in the city. You can email rhythmsax@yahoo.com for more information. Fellas: if you’re looking for new tricks and way to impress your girl, try something out of the ordinary and add this to your arsenal! You’re welcome.

 

 

As a Christian Living in America, the SCOTUS Ruling on Gay Marriage Doesn’t Bother Me in the Least

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage and many people are in their feelings about it. The media would have you believe that the only people who have a problem with this ruling are backwater, semi-literate, Bible thumping, snake wielding traditionalists sweating out their angst in the middle of the American heartland, but an honest conversation with your neighbor will show that this is not the case. People of all faiths – or NO faith – do not approve of this ruling. Hispanics, Jews, Arabs, Blacks and whites do not approve of this ruling. Heck, even some gay people have expressed reservations about the method in which the right to marry was achieved. Like Roe v Wade and Brown v The Board of Education, whenever you have a federal ruling mandating a major social shift like this instead of allowing it to happen “organically”, the results are frequently disastrous. In America, Blacks often bear the brunt of that calamity. Our schools are in shambles and our unborn in the womb are under constant attack. Time will only tell what this SCOTUS ruling will mean for Africans living in America.

Much of the hand-wringing that is taking place over this ruling is going on in the church. When the news that there would be a federal decision on the matter broke, churches around the country were implored to pray for the judges and that God’s will be done in the end. I don’t know if this is God’s will or not, but I know that God was not surprised by the outcome and neither was I. Not because I’m a soothsayer, but because like the Almighty Herself, I am well aware that this country was never built on righteousness or the word of God.

Let me make that plain: the ONLY people truly suffering apoplexy over the issue are those who have accepted the falsehood that America was built on “the word of God”, justice and fairy dust.

America’s foundations are sodden with blood and made solid by the destruction of native peoples. America was literally acquired by theft, and that theft was justified by turning it into law. The halls in which congress would govern and make proclamations about freedom, justice and rights were built by slave labor; men, women and children who were brought to these shores by men stealers. Even the food Americans eat today is grown and harvested by people who have been exploited by this spirit that made America. That spirit is Greed, and not the Holy Spirit as so many would suppose. So does this ruling bother me as a Christian? No. Because in the grand scheme of things, America has much to atone for in the areas of corruption, slavery, dishonesty, theft, murder, sloth and any other deplorable sin you can think of. Gay marriage is not the beginning of America’s turn away from God. America’s face was never toward God.

I know, I know. I can hear you hollering America WAS built on Christian faith, Malaka! The Pilgrims came here with Honey Baked Ham and paperback copies of the New England primer to share with their “Indian” neighbors. But let’s be honest: the Bibles and Bible based books that many children learned to read from weren’t so much of a function of a desire to be godly, but rather because Bibles were already being printed in mass. Why draw up a new curriculum when there was already something in print. If America was really built on the Bible and the teachings of Christ, the conscience of this nation would never have permitted half of the atrocities that took place here. To quote Malcolm X: “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”

America’s system on government is based on the Roman system of democracy, not Judeo-Christian philosophy. In a theocracy, there would be no senate, congress or Prime Minister or President. In God’s plan (according to the Bible), God’s people would be governed by judges who heard from God and directed the people accordingly. The Hebrews didn’t want that. They wanted a king, and they got Saul. It didn’t work out too well for anyone.

Because America is structured on an anti-Christian form of government, it would only make sense that it would bear its fruits in the long run. Almost everyone in Rome was in a homosexual relationship, particularly in government. Senators and the ruling elite had sex with men and boys for pleasure and with women for the sole purpose of procreation. White gay men have always been the most powerful bloc in the history of mankind, and they have centralized that power to themselves and used it to destroy entire communities. From ancient Rome to Washington, DC, the rights and privileges of others have found themselves subverted in favor of white gay men. Seriously, Barack Obama can get gay marriage signed into law, but he the best he can do for the protection of Black people is to get behind a pulpit and hoop – albeit it eloquently – even as we’re shot unarmed in the streets and in our houses of worship? He can’t fix the school to prison pipeline where Black and Brown youth are visibly herded from their desks to a cell for things white kids do with impunity, but can ask celebrities to rally behind #NoH8 and other social media campaigns? Who else do you so this for but for the powerful?

Let me tell you what’s coming down the pike next: The Pulpit to Prison pipeline. They are already calling parts of the Bible “hate speech” and several pastors have spoken openly about being threatened by the government if they do not change the tone or message in their sermons. We never thought there would be a day when we’d see Black kids being scooped up from their schools and thrown in shackles for doodling on desks or for science experiments gone awry. Sit here and delude yourself into thinking that feds or the police won’t haul your pastor from his pulpit for reading Leviticus 18. But again, this would only come as a shock if you really thought that America was a nation that “loves God” or whose foundation was the Bible. Gay rights advocates are already persecuting anyone who refuses to sell them flowers or bake them a cake.

There is one thing I need for gay people to stop doing today, right now however: Stop trying to make people in history gay when there was NO proof of this. I heard that there is a theory that David and Jonathan shared a homoerotic relationship because the bible says in 1 Samuel that “There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David.” What? You never met someone that you struck up an immediate friendship with? Stop thinking with your genitals and try the love of God for God’s sake. And STOP trying to make George Washington Carver a “gay Black hero”, based on faulty evidence (like the fact that he never married). George Washington Carver never talked about anything but science and gave all his credit to God. But he was a sickler as a child who was raised by a white family. Do you know what they did to Black males – like butlers and house servants – who shared quarters with white women in those days? They castrated and took their virility from them. Listen to his voice for the evidence. Don’t you dare pour bleach on Mr. Carver and the horrors of our past to service your present day agenda.

I saw this cartoon floating around on Facebook and was amused by the jubilant reactions by my friends. The image of the Confederate flag going day and the gay flag coming up does not excite anything in me but displaced anxiety. While one was an assault on my Blackness, the other represents an assault on my religious freedom.

confedgay

“Oh no,” you say. “We come in peace!”

So did the Spaniards. You see how well that worked out for the Mayans.

Congratulations to the supporters of gay marriage. I hope that we all can get along, and that my people won’t suffer too much in the face of whatever unintended consequences are coming down the line. But as far as Christians and the destruction of the soul of this nation are concerned, there shouldn’t be any anxiety at all. America has long been the devil’s playground.

The Pathology of Black Absolution and White Indifference

I have officially reached the breaking point. I knew I had gotten there when I told a Swedish woman that white people just need to leave us the f*** alone if they can’t find it within themselves to treat Black people humanely and with some common, human decency. There was no imploring for discourse, no intellectual opining on the matter…there was only a simple request to treat me and my race like we are human or get the f*** on. Get the hell out of our way. Stop being so meddlesome and destructive. It’s not that difficult.

white warWhy it gotta be a race war?

white war 2Really? You’re going to focus on my response, not the catalyst?

The reasons for my ire were not this particular woman’s fault. I was simply left stunned by the obliviousness of her questions and her lack of introspection. That, and she just happened to catch me at the wrong moment – because I am SO tired, y’all. So, so tired. I am 400 years (and counting) tired. I know that many of you feel this fatigue too. You share the burden of this oppressive weight, the confusion of being set on a winding path built in an unfamiliar labyrinth, the blinding, splitting headache that comes when all your senses are assaulted at once. I am tired of whitness and white supremacy. Like Baldwin, I want to flee and escape it just so my children and I can breathe. The funny thing about white supremacy is that it has an uncanny way of following you like a bad stench. It flourishes like poisonous fungus under the right conditions.

Through Black eyes, this is what Blackness looks like when it comes into contact with white supremacy.

slaveslave2slave3slave4slave5

But white eyes can look at the SAME set of circumstances and see something completely different.

whitelens whitelens2 whitelens3

This guy just happened to rape an entire orphanage in East Africa because Black kids don't really feel pain like white kids back home do...according to his penis.

This guy just happened to rape an entire orphanage in East Africa because Black kids don’t really feel pain like white kids back home do…according to his penis.

That view then leads to dimwitted declarations like this. Poor, unlearned child.

That view then leads to dimwitted declarations like this. Poor, unlearned child.

What then is the motivation to change your conduct if you’re white and everything looks/seems/appears to be okay with the world…with the world YOU created with your ships, (broken) treaties, policies and societies you built and administrated over? There IS none. And that is why white people have never asked for or craved Black forgiveness and yet somehow, we continue to give it.

Last week’s shooting in Charleston was my tipping point where the policy of preemptive Black forgiveness is concerned. Conservatives, Right Wing pundits and Christian Negropeans have labelled it an “attack on religious freedom”. Only cowards and those in a stupor believe that Dylann Roof’s vicious massacre of 9 Black people – in a church – was motivated by anything other than his racial hatred. Churches have long been targets for racial warfare. It’s the one place where Black people have gathered in numbers to acquire strength, to seek spiritual guidance, to go to the feet of our Father to console ourselves in the midst of centuries of grief. The relationship between Black folk and the church and the message of salvation manifests in a way that is unique to US. It has been a refuge and a sanctum for our people literally and figuratively. To burn, bomb and shoot up a Black church sends a powerful message. It is an attempt to desecrate the Black spirit. There is no mistaking that this Confederate flag waving, Rhodesia patch wearing terrorist was well researched in the heinous act he executed.

And yet, this is an act that Black people continue to forgive. Blacks in America – and globally – have pardoned unspeakably cruel acts and policies spawned by whiteness and white supremacy. Much of what Black people suffer today is as a result of this dogma. White supremacy thrives because of it. As usual, it comes down to a misinterpretation or ignorance about history and the Bible. Christianity and Christian doctrines are the defaults that Black people in America operate under. It’s a consequence of our forced migration to and enslavement on these shores. Somewhere along the line, the message of ‘forgiveness’ was drilled into us. My husband disagrees. He thinks it’s a West African trait, rather than a Christian one. He points to Ghanaians and our knee-jerk fa ma Nyame (trans: give it to God) reaction to anything that gets too hard to comprehend or combat. Whatever the origins, it’s now gone too far and we need to pull it back. It hasn’t helped us. In 500 years, forgiveness in advance has yet to save us or change outcomes.

In the face of whiteness and white supremacist outbreaks of police brutality, public executions, unfair housing policies, failing schools, blocked access to healthcare even while our bodies continued to be used to test and experiment for drugs, Black people are admonished to remain “peaceful” and to “forgive”. That is because that is what German Jesus and MLK would want us to do.

False.

When Jesus hung on the cross, his body sodden with sweat, battered and whipped and drenched in blood, his decree to the people who had broken and chastised him were not that HE had forgiven them. He looked to the heavens and appealed to the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they do.” Absolution was in God’s hands to give. It was in His power to do so. But Christ had to ASK Him for it on our behalf. In the interim, we now have the opportunity to turn from OUR wicked ways and receive salvation. Forgiveness is a two way street, not a Boy Scout derby track.

When has whiteness and white supremacy been given the opportunity to turn from their wicked ways? They have never been taken the initiative or interest in doing so, because whenever there is offense or pain caused, Black forgiveness and dismissal of those transgressions is assumed. It is assumed that we will not retaliate. It is assumed that we will endure. It is assumed that we will get along and get by…until the next crime against our humanity. This cycle is on repeat.

Now, when it comes to MLK, his legacy, methods and message have been bleached down so that they are barely recognizable. Whiteness in his era did not hate MLK with the vehemence that they did because he was not a threat to the pro-white establishment. The only difference between him and Malcolm X is that in our generation, he proves a much more palatable and digestible figure for the quest for racial equality; the ONLY reason being that Malcolm X is and forever will remain un-bleachable. MLK , the non-violent movement and forgiveness have been hijacked by white supremacy in order to keep us docile.

Luvvie wrote a piece about Black forgiveness that captures everything else I want to say about the matter. She was right on point with her analysis of the way things are as they stand. Please make time to read her post. It’s not long at all.  At the end of the day, the ball is in whiteness’ court. By “whiteness”, I mean those nice white folks who may have never had a slave trading ancestor, but who benefit directly from that trade. I mean those expats in Africa who collect four times more salary than their African counterparts for doing the same job with the same (or better) qualifications. I mean those people who think they are saving the world from danger because they are married to or sleep with Black men. You have not dismantled any systems that work in your benefit and to our detriment. You are simply participating in them with rose colored glasses.

Finally, I saw this on FB this morning as I was preparing to write this.

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Jonathan Byrd gets it. This is the kind of interrogation and introspection we need from the white establishment, not the habitual and accepted course of monitoring and mitigating Black reaction to continued oppression.

Discuss.

My Best Friend, the Daddy Body Snatcher

What if your dad was so awesome that someone tried to steal him from you? 
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“What is going on here?!?”

Two pair of saucer shaped eyes stared back into mine. I had caught them off guard.

“Malaka…look. It’s not what it looks like…”

“It’s exactly what it looks like! The two of you are on the floor – on OUR favorite rug – playing ludu. Daddy…how could you?”

I gripped the back of the wicker threaded sofa to keep from collapsing. How could they do this to me? My best friend and my dad; the two people I trusted and loved most in this world!

Alex tried to explain. His voice was like a chainsaw to my psyche. I wanted to throttle him, crush him beneath my heel like an ant, set the dice he was shaking in his hand alight.

“It’s just that you’re never here, and Daddy gets so lonely sometimes. We honestly didn’t think you would mind.”

The nonchalance with which Alex made this confession sucked the breath from my chest. Sure, I didn’t mind if he came over and visited for a while, but he was sitting on my favorite rug, elbows nestled on my pink fluffy pillow, playing my dad’s and my favorite game! This was a line that should never have been crossed.

Clackity-clack

“Six me ludu!” Alex exclaimed joyfully.

“How long has this been going on?” I demanded.

Alex and my father glanced at each other and shrugged. It had been about six months, they guessed. Maybe seven. It was hard to tell…they enjoyed each other’s company so much.

“Daddy. Almost half of the year? I never had any sign…any warning. Why didn’t you say something?”

My father shrugged. “Well, you’re always busy. And Alex is here when I need him – NO MATTER WHAT. Isn’t that what a dedicated child is meant to do?”

“But, Daddy. I’m not just busy…I’m at work. I’m working! I’m trying to save up enough money to do all the things we said we were going to do when the kids got older and my husband had more time. Remember? The fishing trip in Lake Victoria? Exploring the pyramids in Egypt??”

Alex and my father averted their gazes, staring at anything but me. The walls, the ludu board, their hands. I feared the worst.

“What? What is it! Something happened, didn’t it?”

“It’s not a big deal,” Alex said, attempting glibness. “It’s just that Dad and I took a fishing trip last week.”

The sofa wasn’t strong enough to hold me. I dropped to the floor, my knees throbbing in pain.

“When?” I asked weakly.

“About a month ago,” Alex confessed quietly.

I thought back, piecing together dates and events. The memories came back like a flood, their indiscretion now becoming clearer.

“A month ago? When you told me you were going out of town on business? And YOU, you Daddy! When you told me not to come by because you thought you had caught something and might be contagious?”

The two men nodded.

“Where did you go?”

“The Florida Keys.”

The Florida Keys…the Mecca of sport fishing? These two had no couth.

Sensing the depths of my despair, Alex scrambled to his feet and tried to help me off the floor and onto the sofa. I slapped his hands away, violent in my desire to get him off of me. My father was incensed.

“Now, Malaka,” he said sternly. “There’s no need to act like that. Weren’t you raised better than this?”

His sharp rebuke cut me. How could he deny me the right to act out my angst in such a critical moment? I whimpered under the strain of his verbal punishment. I was injured by his betrayal, and my father didn’t care.

“But Daddy…Marshall and I would have loved to have come fishing with you!”

My father scoffed. “Marshall doesn’t drink. Who doesn’t drink when they go fishing? Your husband is just too dull! And look. When I quote Chaucer, he looks at me with dead eyes. You should see the way Alex leaps when he hears literature.”

My father stood to his feet and wrapped his arm around Alex’s shoulder. Alex beamed at the physical contact. My father instructed to me to look at my friend. See how happy he was! His own father had never treated him this way. Why couldn’t I just be happy for Alex…for the two of them?

“Daddy! Alex has his OWN dad! They live in the same house…because Alex is unemployed!”

Shocked by the vehemence of my assertions, my father’s tone turned chilly. “We’ve dragged this out long enough, I think. Alex and I are going to find some goat meat. You are welcome to come along if you want…but I think it would be really awkward of you did.”

“Who is doing the spreading? Alex is unemployed!”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but we are using my retirement fund.”

“Daddy…”

My father raised his right hand and signaled for silence. He had a request. It was time to change the nature of our relationship.

“I think you should call me Mr. Gyekye from now on.”

Then he put his mighty feet into the calfskin slippers Alex had helped me pick out in the market 2 years ago and signaled for his ‘son’ to follow him. Alex obediently complied, reminding my father to take the N1 to the butcher’s shop rather than go through Medina. My father remarked that he was so smart and so thoughtful to remember. Then he slipped out of the door without turning around to bid me so much as a goodbye.

“I’m sorry you had to find out this way,” Alex said softly.

The Black American half of me was set alight. “Nigga!!! This ain’t over! You bet’ believe it ain’t!”

“Yes. Yes it is, Malaka. I have your father now…and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Stunned, I watched his back advance further and further away from me, leaning and dipping with every step he took like a Denzel wannabe on PCP.

Was this really the end? I looked at the abandoned ludu board and prayed that my wayward father would find his way back to his daughter’s loving heart and arms. In the meantime, I swore to fight for him. Nothing but death could keep me from it!

 

****

 

Please. My father is faithful. This post was just written as a humorous musing over what it might be like if a side chick (or in this case, side dude) came along and stole your father. My dad is witty, funny, hard working and most of all, my good friend. How many women get to say that about their dads? I can joke about someone “robbing” me of our relationship, because I know it will never happen. He has already told me as much.

If some of you are planning to steal someone else’s father, don’t be a witch. God is watching!

150 Years after Juneteenth and Anti-Blackness is Still a Global Phenomenon

Today is Juneteenth, the day some of us in the Black community celebrate – or at least recognize – the ending of slavery and the beginning of emancipation. What hopes and dreams those newly freed Negroes must have harbored in their hearts on the day the news was read to them (two years after emancipation was officially declared) on that day. To be finally free! It must have been breathtaking, frightening, exhilarating.

What we know now, and what those poor souls couldn’t have imagined then, is that that freedom wouldn’t extend to them full citizenship or human rights or even the benefit of whole personhood. An African born in America was to be counted as 3/5th of a person, would have specific laws ratified to govern their existence and mobility; would be socially and economically marginalized and then have their poverty criminalized; would be brutalized for sport; and then to add insult to injury, find themselves admonished by the guardians and the beneficiaries of the system that left them in such a piteous state!

Haiti

The irony of the 2015 Juneteenth celebration is this: If we had the ability to resurrect a soul emancipated in 1865 and placed them in front of a “magical glowing picture box” and showed them the events taking place in the Dominican Republic, the sidewalks of New York, a poolside in McKinney, TX or the front doors of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, he/she would be shocked that in 150 years, so little had changed beyond technology. The same anti-blackness that colored the lives of our ancestors is rampant and thriving today. We are living under the same threat of terrorism. Our collective emotional scars and trauma have never had a chance to heal. We go from one church bombing to one prison assault to one street lynching to the next. We can’t catch a break…and then we are asked to be “peaceful and prayerful” about it. We’re asked by unintentional racists to moderate our tone in our anguish. We’re berated if we wince and cry out under the sting of the whip.

Dr. King wrote this in a letter from a Birmingham jail:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

I look at my Facebook feed and CNN and see how little has altered in this approach to our emancipation and quest for full personhood in this country.

I wish I had something eloquent and thought piercing to say about all this, but the AME shooting and the looming ethnic cleansing in Haiti have rendered me disoriented. Besides, all the think-pieces have already been thunk and all the manifestos have already been penned. My question is: what do we do NOW? Right now…today.

“Go/Come back to Africa”

This is a sentiment held by a number of people, some well-meaning and some not so much. The idea and proposition that one can (or should) just uproot your entire life in the face of turmoil is frankly infantile. Let’s take the situation in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Most of the people who died in the surging flood waters were Black. Most of the people who didn’t evacuate were Black. White America was baffled and indignant. “It was their own fault for staying behind!” they caterwauled. That is because white America assumed that everyone has an SUV and $100 to fill up the tank to get out of town when trouble rolls in. Likewise, many of the white folk posting memes in red, white and blue (like this one from an actual Facebook “friend” of mine) directing us to leave the country if all this hostility was not working out. Oh, if only the Native Americans had taken this sage advice and applied it!

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Well-intentioned but condescending Africans on the continent have also sneered at those of us who are Black and/or African in America, insinuating that we are directly responsible for the terror and grief we feel.

“You have a place you can come home to. Why sit there and let them shoot you. You are a fool.”

Again, if only it were that simple! It takes years to transition your life, especially if you have a family and a profession, from one end of the globe to the next. It takes planning. It takes money. You can’t just miracle your life from one existence to another! More importantly, it takes a support system and by and large, Africans on the continent are not prone to supporting foreigners/returnees unless they can see a direct benefit (or potential benefit) for themselves.

So what do we do? For years we’ve heard the rallying cry for Black people to “come together”. I finally am getting a sense of what that means. We have to look out for ourselves. That much is evident. No one else is going to look out for us. The destruction of the Black family is a global agenda. The demonization of the Black male is burned into the world’s collective psyche. The inferiority and expendability of the Black female is assumed and accepted. The loathing of Black children is made evident daily. Our bodies are fetishized, experimented on and bestialized…and then glossy magazine covers and exclusive interviews are granted to the sick people who are the executioners of our torment or the appropriators of our pain and culture.

We HAVE to look to ourselves to save ourselves, wherever we find ourselves. That means supporting each other’s businesses and teaching the next generation skills sets. That means employing each other. That means acquiring property and enhancing its value. That means showing love and deference to one another. That means going back to the roots that made the Black communities like Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Auburn Avenue in Atlanta and Rosewood in Florida so successful. That means talking to each other. Some disputes can actually be solved without calling the police, you know? All it takes is a little bit of maturity. And for God’s sake, let’s begin to love each other. Truly, honestly, love each other! We can do that in Accra or Atlanta or Port-au-Prince.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m hoping that from today forward, we start seeking and implementing some. I’m just so tired of being tired. I’m tired of feeling like my heart is on an anvil, waiting for the system to strike it again. If history has taught us nothing else, it is just a matter of days before our hearts are rent asunder again.