Monthly Archives: April 2012

How Each Brick of Good Intention Leads to Desolation

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The saying simply means that good ideas or thoughts lead to negative consequences that were unintended. A person begins with good thoughts, promising to themselves to do the right thing, however, priorities in life change, time becomes a limiting factor, and alas, the good intentions go astray.

But how could that be? If ones intentions are good and honorable, surely the expected – and obvious -outcome would be positive and desirable…right? Wrong! It took me 30 some years to get a general understanding of what that adage meant. Once I started my own charity and working with other charities, I finally understood it completely.

For the last few weeks I’ve watched a friend struggle with raising funds for a project that he’s working on. He’s one of those ‘do-gooders’: people that think that they can change the world with their caring and philanthropy; who cry at the top of their lungs against social injustice wherever and whenever he encounters it. You know the ones…those cut from the same cloth as that KONY2010. Silly chap. He ought to know that trying to bring justice and order into this world will drive you mad, or at least leave you high on prescription pills and madly masturbating alone in your vehicle after the entire globe has rebuffed your efforts to end an atrocity in a particular corner of the world. (He’s only 32. He’ll discover this on his own soon enough.)

The project that he’s on seeks to create social awareness by asking people how they can become a transforming force in their environment. He wants to chronicle their responses and film their interactions for a short documentary. He only needs to raise $2000. Once he sent a heartfelt email to trusted friends and advisors, support started flowing in.

“Oh! You can count me on board!”

“I believe in YOU and I believe in this project! Put me down for $300!”

“You go boy! What an awesome job!”

With spirits lifted, he waited patiently for the promises of donations to come in. They never came. So he sent out another email a few days later to coincide with pay day. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that the person making the loudest declaration for the largest sum had suddenly gone very quiet.

I felt for my friend, because I’ve been in the same position. Unlike me, he has not given up on his vision. I’ve been on stage, begging bowl firmly in hand, spouting a sob story about children in Africa and how a donation of $50 would radically change their lives. And for a little while, it worked. Some people gave a one-time donation and many more pledged to become monthly donors…the key word being ‘pledged’. I waited and waited for those pledges to come through so that I could transfer the funds to the hospital my team was supporting in Accra. I waited in vain until I finally gave up waiting.

My friend has yet to give up.

Perhaps he will when the next phase of building the road to Hell is enacted. When those laden with good intentions peek in to see how the erstwhile beloved project that they vehemently believed in (but never funded) is going.

“So! How’s it going?” they ask breathlessly, hoping that you were able to raise all the money you needed, sans their promised support.

“Oh. Okay…I guess,” will be the do-gooders quiet response. “I fell short of my goal by a couple hundred dollars.”

“Oh really? How many hundred?” is the hopeful inquiry; hope which is fueled by the desire of success so that blame cannot be laid at their feet.

“About fifteen hundred.”

The negligent financier looks crestfallen (or in our age, takes about a day to respond by inbox on FB).

“I’m sorry to hear that. I really wanted to support you, but some things came up. You understand.”

Of course, you want to be understanding, and being the bigger man or woman you reject the opportunity to throw in this individuals face that they are full of sh*t. Why would you make a pledge of support when you knew in your heart that you had no intention (there’s that word again!) of honoring them? Ahhh, but the disappointing party DID have intentions of honoring them, just not the fortitude to carry out those intentions!

I think it all boils down to integrity. One should never make promises that they can keep  but are just too lazy to do so. If you have access to the internet at home, a smartphone and a car, you can honor your commitment to a friend to make a donation. It might not be the $300 you promised, but daggonit if you can’t get by without a caramel macchiato – just this once! – and redirect those funds to a good cause.

It’s only $5.00. Besides, when you make a promise to seed into someone’s vision and fail to do it, you not only poison the vision with your inaction, but also poison a fairy in an enchanted realm. Do you really want to be responsible for killing fairies?

Within a matter of weeks, George Zimmerman’s website received $200,000 for his support fund.

Two. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars.

How much money have the lawyers representing Trayvon Martin received? I am certain that if it neared anywhere close to this ridiculous sum, we would have heard about it by now. But noooo. All these people with their ‘good intentions’ and Justice for Trayvon t-shirts rally and picket in parks and then go home to dinner. Meanwhile, the family still needs to pay legal fees! If all those thousands upon thousands of people just gave ONE dollar…just imagine.

I’m sure they intend to get to it. Most of us usually do.

 Are you a brick layer on the road to hell? Repent! It is not too late to redeem yourself! Confess right here in the comments section and all shall be forgiven!

Sexy Chocolate!

I lost 8 lbs about two months ago. I was elated. I celebrated that feat with a bar of Green & Blacks Almond chocolate. The celebration continued for 8 weeks, one week for every pound lost. I am now 3 lbs heavier than I was before I lost the weight. That’s a net of I-don’t-really-give-a-crap-because-at-least-I-gained-the-weight-eating-something-I-love pounds back on my hips.

My ardor for chocolate will never fade. I have discovered there is a direct relation between my age and my passionate feelings for chocolate: as my age increases, so does that love.

Some might categorize my feelings about chocolate as “inappropriate”. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t think there is anything more natural and healthy than a relationship between a woman and an inanimate object. The key is knowing when to curb this relationship before it takes on the aura of crazy. I helped a friend move houses a few weeks ago, and in the middle of conversation she pulled open a drawer and showed me her collection of dildos…a venerable treasure trove of personal pleasure. I smiled nervously as she fingered one of her favorites: a glass obelisk with a dramatic upward bend.

“Isn’t it lovely?” she asked.

“Yeah. It’s…something,” I replied with hesitation.

Now put chocolate in this same scenario. It would have been perfectly appropriate for me to offer her a piece of my chocolate; but it would have been absolutely abhorrent for her to offer me a piece of one of her dildos. (I don’t even know if it’s physically possible to offer someone a piece of dildo; but you get the point.)

My husband indulges my love/love relationship with chocolate. Outside of his affection, it’s the one thing that truly gives me pleasure. And unlike Samantha Brick, I do succumb to it, and often. She credits her refusal to submit to the power of chocolate for making her the most “beautiful woman in the world”. Whatever. She has no clue what she’s missing out on.

I love everything about chocolate.

The look of it.

The smell of it.

The way it melts against my tongue when I nibble on it. Sometimes I take my time a savor every bite.

Sometimes I shove it into my mouth with enormous bites…hard and quick bites because just need it IN me.

Lawd have His good mercy, I do love me some chocolate.

*You should all know that my husband did not approve of this final picture but he took it anyway. He is my biggest enabler, and I love him for it.

*Oh dear God. I’m looking at this picture again now and it’s just WRONG. Oh well. I’ve already hit ‘publish’.

Just Don’t Slam the Door, A’ight?

Some days you know your day is going to be shot to hell before you even open your eyes. For me, it all started with a bang.

It all started when Stone, my nearly 3 year old son, walked into the room this morning – which in itself was an innocent enough of an act. In the soft morning sunlight, I could make out the flash of a sleepy smile as he greeted me and thumped over to my side of the bed. He paused and went back to the door. He’d forgotten to do something, his two-year old self said. He reached up and slammed the door shut, causing the walls to rattle and causing his little sister to wake up with a start. She let out a long loud shrill cry of protest. It was only 6:30 am.

My husband got up and went into the shower, leaving me to decide whether or not the baby (who will be 2 in June and not really a ‘baby’ at all any more) would be getting up this early. I ignored her and went downstairs. This was the wrong decision apparently. She would make me pay.

It’s hard to describe Liya’s cry. I’ve tried to many times on this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever successfully captured the essence of it. It’s a cross between an electric chain saw, a dying werewolf and a newborn piglet all rolled into one. There are so many textures to her scream that it penetrates every decibel known to man. It’s like an arrow being shot through your skull. I did an about face and went and got her out of her crib, just to make it stop.

Part of the difficulty of having two children so close together and so young is that you generally can’t understand what in God’s holy name they are gabbing on about. While Stone should be fluent – or at least nearly so – in English, he has been afforded the luxury of remaining at the toddler phase of the English dialect by virtue of the mere presence of a younger sibling. You would imagine that the pair of them might exhort each other to grasp the Queen’s English and execute it proficiently, but instead they are perfectly content to babble and giggle with one another while unleashing mayhem upon my poor crowded house.

Once I carried Liya down the stairs for breakfast, Stone soon followed. That’s when the screeching began anew.
“Shheerios! Shhheeriosss!” Liya howled in a sound that was both guttural and pitchy.

I poured her some Cheerios. That’s what I assumed she wanted. She knocked the entire bowl onto the floor and squalled in displeasure.

Noooo!! Shhheerios!!!!!

%##&*@# little girl! I gave you Cheerios! What else do you want!

When I gave Stone some Rice Krispies, she made a dive for his bowl. Ohhh…. “cereal”. She was speaking in generic terms, not exact. I should have known. But can I be blamed? She should have a better grasp of the English language by now. Her eldest sister certainly did.

Speaking of her eldest sister, I had to turn my attention to her by fitting her head with a crown we’d made the day before out of cut up Cheetos packets and a DSW bag. We had to come up with a costume made entirely of recycled material.

“I don’t have a shirt to wear, Mommy,” she said with concern.

Crap. I’d forgotten to put that load in last night. You mean out of all the clothes I’ve washed there wasn’t a single uniform shirt among them? As luck would have it, there was not.

Fortunately, their school is celebrating Earth Day all week, and since they are being asked to recycle, I pulled out a uniform shirt that is no longer on the approved list. Now that’s recycling.

With the bigger two off to school, I turned my attention back to my smallest pair. They were fighting over a fork with which to eat their cereal. Why couldn’t they understand that the mechanics involved in trying to get a Rice Krispy onto a narrow fork require more skill than either one of them possess at this stage? I took the fork from them and offered them each a spoon. That’s when Liya responded by dropping the entire cup of “shherios” onto the ground. That’s when I knew she had to go.

With every muscle of her sinewy 27 lbs frame she fought me, but I managed to lay her back in her crib. The solitude made her calm and blissfully quiet. But the effects of that door slam would wear on into the day.

Taking advantage of the quiet, I got into the shower to try and wash away the film of sweat that was covering me. I was in mid-scrub when I heard a faint tapping sound. Kind of like glass against glass. Would could that be? Sopping wet, I got out of the shower to behold Stone tapping my drinking glass of water against my television.

“No!” I gasped. “No, no, no!!”

He giggled and hopped into my bed, throwing the covers over his head. His diaperless but cheeks rubbed against the pillow case, leaving all manner of chocolaty surprises for me to discover later, I am sure. When he leapt out of the bed, he called for his sister to join him in my closet (when did she get out of the crib?) so that they could play “tunnel”. She began her play by pulling at my husband’s work shirts. I ignored the sound of a quiet rip and finished my shower.

It is not yet noon and I’ve already cried three times this morning. I feel as though I’m defeated before I’ve even had a chance to cook lunch. The sad part is, I can’t even take them to daycare because Liya’s hair is undone…and I just don’t have the fortitude to wash it this morning. Have you ever wrestled a talking wildebeest?  And the pundits want to say this is not a “job”.

Bah!
M.O.M moms – how’s your day going so far? What have your kids done to make your day miserable memorable this morning?

Screw That: Yes, I Want to be One of the 1%

I just got finished reading and article called Don’t blame the 1% for America’s pay gap on CNN Money by Nina Easton.  The article was so stunningly simple, it was mind blowing. In it, she recommends that instead of vilifying the 1% wage earners in this country, we ought to take a look at what they are doing right and emulating it.

DUH!

I devoured the article. The qualities of a top wage earner are few, but impacting:
•    They hold advanced degrees (education)
•    They work long hours (stellar work ethic)
•    If they do raise families, they do so in a two-parent household    (pooling and conserving resources)
•    They bring rare talent and skill to local and global economies (innovation)

That’s it. If you want to be a top wage earner, the blue print is staring you in the face! So why aren’t more of us richer? What’s holding you back? What’s your excuse?

I don’t know about you, Reader, but I don’t want to spend my whole life working just to stay poor. That’s not what smart people do.

And yes, that is the end of today’s post. No long t’ing needed.

Is FGM by Any Other Name (or Method) Any Less Criminal?

Dear Oprah,

I pray by God’s grace that this letter finds you well. Are your labia intact? Is Stedman enjoying them? Then we praise God! You have been fortunate to have been spared the tragedy that is the theme of my letter today.

I am an African who is passionate and dedicated to the cause of ending Female Genital Mutilation, better known as FGM. FGM as you may know was previously known as female circumcision, and is carried out in various extremes, depending on social/ traditional background. FGM is carried out in countries practicing Islam, Christianity and Animism and there are four major types:

1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals) and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (the labia are “the lips” that surround the vagina).
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
4. Other: all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Most of the women who are subjected to FGM are not women at all. They are mainly girls who may be infants up to the age of 15. The reasons for FGM are varied, including the assertion that it curbs promiscuity, masturbation and a propensity towards lesbianism. This is of course absurd, but these are the entrenched views none-the-less. Many of the people carrying out FGM are illiterates in the bush, but some do include educated city dwellers in nations all over East and West Africa and parts of Asia and India. While we would want to end FGM, we know that we must take a gradual and more sensitive approach to ending this practice.

We are proposing that FGM be carried out only under the care of trained professionals and medical staff, who will use medication and sterile instruments to carry out the slicing off and sewing up the bits of flesh left behind after this elective procedure. As you may be aware, Africa is far lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to medical care. We hardly have the tools to treat or prevent malaria, and many of our medical facilities are overrun and understaffed. That is why we are writing to you to today to make a donation of $3 million so that we can set up clinics to humanely maim these girls.

Please, Oprah, this is no laughing matter. Every moment you delay, another girl risks dying in the bush! Many of these girls are cut with scrap metal, broken glass and sharpened stones. Don’t you think this is worth the investment?

Unlike slavery, honor killings, cannibalism and infanticide – all issues with entrenched cultural views based on superiority – we cannot take a harried approach to FGM. Sure, the battle has been going on for 50 years or so, but we estimate it will take much longer. You can’t bulldoze over someone else’s tradition and culture, after all. That would be rude and racists. We must use tact and pragmatism to address this.

Kindly send your check to ‘Africans Kinda Against; FGM But Not Really’ in the self-addressed envelope enclosed with this letter.

Oh! Before I forget: would you ask Maya Angelou and some of your other celebrity friends if they would like to endorse our efforts? We could really use some star power to bolster this proposal. I’m sure that there are some influential Africans on the continent that you can persuade to see our view as well. Your $3 million seed will go towards building roads from the villages to this proposed hospital, pay for transportation to the hospital, pay for plumbing, power supply, bedding, feeding, nursing and transport back to their villages after they have received mediocre medical care.

In time, FGM will most likely lead to a life of discomfort, with periods lasting up to a month or with the girl suffering from bladder infections, fistula, difficulty urinating or sepsis – but what will be important is that at the onset of all these issues – the mutilation that caused it all was done with medical and humane hands that were sensitive to her culture!

With your support, we can then carry out c-sections for all these girls after they have been impregnated (but only after much difficulty). We cannot expect that these girls give birth through a canal the size of a matchstick, can we? Why, this is why maternal and infant mortality rates are so high in Africa as it is!

Oprah, I have to implore you not to be dissuaded by all that human rights nonsense as it relates to FGM. I mean, it’s not really ‘assault’ if this is done at the hands of a medical practitioner, is it?

Alternatively, we could apply economic sanctions on/and jail the perpetrators of this barbaric custom (as the law mandates) while educating the current and next generations; but as I said, we want to be culturally sensitive. It wouldn’t do to see grannies and aunties locked up over something so trivial as a girl’s vagina, would it? These are well meaning people, and there are dowries and family pride at stake!

Sweet Oprah, I hope you will consider our plea and help to fund this project. Think of it this way: You were violated (raped) at a young age, and I’m sure that was traumatic for you…but wasn’t it better that that violation came at the hands of someone close to you…your cousin’s boyfriend to be precise? Surely you were grateful that it was in your own home and not in an alley somewhere!

We eagerly await your reply.

Sincerely,
AA(FGM)BNR, Inc.
*****

Surely you are sitting here asking yourself “Dude. Malaka. WTH???”

But don’t laugh just yet! There are some people who want to take FGM, this barbaric act that is a violation of human rights and ethics, into the medical field and normalize it through medicine in the name of cultural/traditional tolerance. It has no benefits and only harms the girl/woman. But that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s only harming disposable girls in rural areas. Why the need for urgency?

There is no coming back from FGM. A girl doesn’t just get to grow a new clitoris or labia. It’s not hair.

I nicked myself with a dull blade while shaving with a Bic Stick a few years ago. It took me a week to heel, while my clitoris emitted some strange discharge that stuck to my panties. It hurt like hell. I GET IT. I have been on Twitter all weekend going back and forth with a number of individuals who just don’t seem to get it. They don’t seem to understand that normalizing this practice by making it ‘safe’ through a medical procedure (and I use the term loosely) is only the beginning of the harm done. What if the parents of this child are displeased with the results? What if they decide that simply removing the clitoris of this girl is not good enough…do we send her back to the hospital to have her entire labial folds removed and scar tissue sewn up? The Hippocratic oath is to do NO harm…not the least or most convenient harm. Does it matter if the stitches of a butchered vagina are neatly done in a straight line with surgical thread, or if they are done with the thorns of the acacia trees in Kenya? Is mutilation at the hands of a doctor or a village cutter any different? I say no!

I was going to post a picture of a mutilated vagina to drive my point home, but the images were too grotesque even for me. To all those who think we can take a gradual approach to FGM, here’s the litmus test: If your daughter, sister, mother was kidnapped and had her vagina shred asunder, would you be so casual about it? Would you be willing to let her be a martyr for this cause while the rest of the world took a cautious and sensitive approach to this, or would you ferociously fight like a Spartan against an invading horde?

Male or female, it doesn’t matter. Your answer to this question will tell you a lot about yourself.

Of Cakes and Clitorises

I had an Egyptian friend who was an artist, who left his country about 17 years ago because the views of his countrymen were too “myopic”.

“They are too bound by religion,” he snorted with disdain. “Religion has done more to harm my country than it has to help it.”

“I can see that,” I nodded. I mean, it’s true. The abuse of religion and atrocities in the name of whatever God one might ascribe to in any geographic location has only served to set humanity back a few decades.

“That’s why when I went back to Egypt I did an art show using the Qur’an,” he continued.  “I ripped pages from it, painted them red and smeared cow dung all over them.”

“What the hell did you do that for?” I asked indignantly. “Why would you desecrate a holy book like that?”

“You see!” he said triumphantly. “That right there! What makes the book ‘holy’? Why should you have such a visceral reaction? It was done in the context of art, and art is meant to provoke thought! It’s just a piece of paper!”

“So what happened after your show?”

He was pensive before he spoke.

“I had to leave Egypt, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back…at least not to where I’m from.”

*****

I never forgot that conversation with Khalid, and that was well over 10 years ago. He was such a sweet guy, but I just never understood why he would have the need to do something so hurtful in the name of art. Sure, religion has held progress back in some ways, but it has also been the catalyst for a lot of good that has been done in the world as well. Defiling it to avenge some personal discontent is just as deplorable an act as those who use religion to propagate their own evil causes – like war and rape. I’ve always assumed that he was the victim of or witnessed some wrong that was committed in the name of religion, but he never confirmed it. He did state in no uncertain terms that he harbored a personal disdain for Islam, which probably made his sacrilege even more rewarding. I was disappointed in my friend.

These old feelings rose anew in me yesterday when I got wind of the image of a ‘Nigger Cake’ that was circulating around the web. (In the unlikely event that you have not read about this story, you can catch up on it here ) Makode Linde is the ‘artist’ responsible for the work, and is described as a man of African descent. He is clearly mixed race, and obviously identifies more with his European heritage than he does with whatever alleged part of Africa he is supposed to share DNA with. His contempt for his African heritage is obvious. Why else would he seek to make a spectacle of and trivialize this very real issue that affects thousands of African girls and women on the Continent today?

As deplorable as the actions of the (laughing) Swedish officials taking part in the mock mutilation of a minstrel painted African woman, another bigger issue is hardly getting any attention, and it is that issue that concerns me more: The participation of a Black man in this abhorrence.

As I’ve said here on M.O.M. before, it seems like every few months Black women are the subject of some pop culture attack. I sat down for a few minutes yesterday and tried to conjure up a timeline that I could point to to refute this assertion for objectivity’s sake. I failed.

I believe that every Black or African woman can point to an incident in their life when they realized that they were the least valued being in existence, and particularly when pop culture presented them with that truth. Perhaps for some it might have been the illustrated caricatures of Aunt Jemima or Venus Hottentot from decades back. I grew up with Aunt Jemima, and I never equated her image with anything culturally off. However I imagine that an 8 year old girl growing up in the south 60 years ago would like at the pancake icon and say “that doesn’t look like me or anyone I know!” In truth, the Aunt Jemima we know today bares scant resemblance to the woman on the original boxes sold over 100 years ago.

For me, the infamous Don Imus incident was what seared this perception into my consciousness. His remark that Rutgers University’s female basketball team was a bunch of “nappy headed hoes” only served to keep ancient the canon ball that assaults Black female dignity rolling.
From Mammie, to Aunt Jemima, to Venus, to Sheneneh, to Nappy Headed Hoes, to Satoshi Kanazawa and his “study” declaring that Black women are less physically attractive, to this preposterous FGM ‘nigger’ cake…whew! Aren’t you tired after reading this? Imagine how I feel living it!

Now, you would imagine that there would be one group of people best able to identify with the struggles of a Black woman, and that would be the Black boys and men raised by them. Sadly, Black men are more often than not the cause of the ills that Black women face.

Whenever the attack comes, I listen for the voice of our men. This time they will come to our defense! I supplicate inwardly. This time they will come out and roar, saying this far is far enough!  However as usual, after Jesse and Al have been told to hold their peace and stay in their place, the collective voice of Black men goes eerily quiet.

You might recall that during the Don Imus incident, Fox News assembled Dr. Lamont Hill, Patrice O’Neal and some other guy on Sean Hannity’s show. Given that Patrice O’Neal was there to defend Imus’ disgusting utterances, he was given the courtesy of speaking uninterrupted by the host. O’Neal even went further to invite Dr. Hill to join in the jest.

“Nappy headed hoes – you know that’s funny!” Patrice declared.

Lamont Hill did not think so, and later on in the show told Patrice that he was up there “soft shoeing” for the majority. Well, Patrice didn’t like that one bit! Are Patrice O’Neals actions and attitude towards my women isolated? Hardly. In fact, they constitute the norm in the Black intra-racial experience.

Look at the African continent and look beyond the issues that get the most media attention – like poverty and access to education -that plague women. Makode Linde chose to bring attention to female genital mutilation, a very real issue on the continent, but by ridiculing it and inviting a bunch of people who have never had to suffer through this painful ordeal to participate in that ridicule. Had he gotten up from the table and said “Look folks, this is a very serious issue, let’s give it some respect”, we’d be having a different conversation. Instead, he lay underneath the table in blackface and let the Swedish Minister for culture feed him a piece of freshly sliced clitoris. But it’s supposed to be okay, right? Because it’s art -“Black” art.

But why the need for FGM in the first place? The only reason young girls are being mutilated is because men, African men in particular, refuse to grow up. They believe that removing a girl’s clitoris will make her less promiscuous, thereby reducing/eliminating the presupposed baggage that promiscuity brings. It’s the same reason for breast ironing, which is “the pounding and massaging of a pubescent girl’s breasts using heated objects in an attempt to make them stop developing or disappear. It is typically carried out by the girl’s mother in an attempt to protect the girl from sexual harassment and rape, to prevent early pregnancy that would tarnish the family name, or to allow the girl to pursue education rather than be forced into early marriage. It is mostly practiced in parts of Cameroon, where boys and men may think that girls whose breasts have begun to grow are ready for sex. The most widely used implement for breast ironing is a wooden pestle normally used for pounding tubers. Other tools used include bananas, coconut shells, grinding stones, ladles, spatulas, and hammers heated over coals.”

 Why the need to desecrate African women and girls’ bodies? Because men refuse to practice self-control, and NO ONE is willing to force them to do so. They get free pass after pass. Instead of requiring that they practice restraint and dignity, we’re cutting into the intimate areas of babies with razor blades! And why would anyone think that a Black woman’s body was worthy of such mutilation? Why is that okay? For the very same reason my friend smeared cow sh*t all over his Qur’an: it is not respected. It is treated as an object of disdain; and there are no repercussions that really matter.

 The assertion that Makonde Linde’s work is not “racist” because the artist as Black is as asinine as the assertion that slavery was not “painful because many of the slave raiders were Black Africans as well”. When an atrocity is committed, the only perspective that matters at all is that of the victim. The victim doesn’t care who hurt her…only that she was hurt! Racism has nothing to do with the color of the person meting out punishment, and ONLY to do with their perception and prejudices against the subject of their hatred. So yes, Black people can be racists.
I am offended, but I am not surprised. We are dealing with a small boy, and a group of cultural illiterates after all.

Linde is just one speck in a collective of Black that needs to grow up and become mature citizens. Black men need to learn how to be men for their own sake, but more so for the sake of Black women as well.

Dinner with the Man Who Taught Me ‘Silas Marner’

For every living being on Earth, there is another who has left an indelible mark upon them, whether negative or positive.  Take a moment and think. Who is that one person who makes you feel the powerful emotions of warmth and safety? Who is the person who makes you feel unadulterated hate and disdain? It could be a parent or co-worker who sparks these emotions in us. For many people, it’s a teacher.

If you’re reading this blog and enjoy my writing style, then you owe thanks to Mr. Isaac Quist. He was my literature and higher English teacher in sixth form, and was (is) nothing short of brilliant. He took my love  and passion for writing and redirected it into a skill.

“Not good enough!” he would write very simply on the bottom of an earnestly written report.
“You did not show any original thinking,” he’d write on another assignment.
“Come on! Do you even know the meaning of this word?” he’d rudely inject in the middle of my foolscap paper.

With the sound of his smug, British-like drawl trawling in my sub-consciousness,  I’d go back and re-work my essay until his red pen finally wrote the words I so craved.

“Much better. Well done.”

Mr. Quist could take a work as tedious as Mill on the Floss or Wuthering Heights and make it come to life. The lively discussions and debates we had in his class surrounding the antics of protagonists, antagonists, villains and heroes are still fresh in my mind. He is a big part of the reason that hundreds of Ghanaian men and women in their 30s and 40s will sit glued to a late-night showing of Madame Bovary and watch it with the intensity of a World Cup Soccer match; never mind that we are all privy to the protagonist’s ultimate arsenic-y  demise. It’s always like watching it for the first time.

It’s not hard for me to explain how I feel about my former instructor. For some people there is Oprah; for me, there is Mr. Quist. That’s why I was so delighted to hear that he was coming to Atlanta.

I quickly arranged for Leigh and Alan, the two other high school alumni living in the city, to meet up with him for dinner. Marshall and I went to pick him from his hotel since we were closer to it. When we arrived he was pacing in the parking lot. I had promised to be there at 7:15. We got there at 7:32 pm. How African of me to be late!

“Oh that’s alright,” he said dismissively at my profuse apology. “A true Ghanaian would have said they would be here between 7:00 – 7:30 -8:00 – 8:30. You did just fine.”

I tittered loudly. I must have sounded like a goof. I laughed at all his jokes, whether he was making one intentionally or not.  Before we got into the car I lunged towards him and engulfed him in a big bear hug. He was shorter than I remembered, but that might have been because I was in heels and we were parked on a sloped driveway. I decided that he was just as statuesque as my last memory of him, despite what my eyes might have told me that evening.

At dinner we discussed everything from travel in Africa, to politics in Africa, to juju in Africa. I recounted a story I’d read in the news about a 17 year old girl who’s been sent to a witch camp after being accused to stealing her classmates brains because she was so clever.

“What do you mean there is a witch camp in Ghana?” he asked incredulously.

“I promise you, there is!” I said matter-of-factly. “It’s somewhere that starts with a ‘g’.”

I pulled out my iPhone to look it up.

“Ga-gaam-baa…” I struggled.

“Gambaga?” he said with a mild sneer. He snorted.  “These people are not serious. If you have someone with the capacity to steal someone’s brain, why not recruit them to your advantage? Why send them to a witch camp?”

“Oh, Mr. Quist, you are thinking like a witch!” I shouted (probably too loudly) with a laugh.

We could have carried on all night, but he had a lecture to attend the next morning and the two other alums had to drive back into Conyers. Leigh invited us all over for Sunday dinner.

“Bring the babies,” she instructed. “My mom will be cooking.”

I was giddy at the prospect of seeing him again, and prayed that the weekend would go by quickly…which of course it did. We got to Leigh’s house late, but it was alright because Mr. Quist had not yet arrived. This gave my children a chance to get acclimated to the new scene and burn off some excess energy. I wanted them to make a good impression on my teacher and not clamber all over him. Who was I fooling though? He’s read the blogs. When he arrived, he was offered a beer and sank into a seat. He looked tired, but he was congenial and engaging. Leigh’s youngest daughter scampered up to him, demanding to be held.

“And which one of these is most like you?” he asked looking over my brood.

I pointed at Nadjah. Mr. Quist broke into a sly grin. He said something to her and she mumbled something back. I missed the whole exchange because I wasn’t close enough to hear. Whatever it was she said make him chuckle. At last dinner was ready and we went inside to eat.

Leigh’s mother had prepared two types of rice, chicken stew, plantain, cabbage and kontomre (or whatever the Sierra Leone equivalent is). Since we were all old acquaintances there was no need for forced formality or genteelness. We decimated the food.

Dinner conversation was more of the same, with each of us catching up on what the other was doing or revealing what we knew about old class mates and teachers.

“Nana is doing very well. She’s in Nigeria now.”

“Did you know Abdi is building rockets for NASA.”

“What was the name of that Chemistry teacher? The one who said that in his next life he would want to come back as a White man or a cockroach…anything but a Black man? Where is he?”

All very good things – until Leigh brought up an old rumor.

“Mr. Quist, you know there was a rumor going on about you,” she said mischievously. “I was said that you used to jump the wall at night to go and visit Ms. T.”

Ms. T was my dorm warder/house mistress/whatever name they had back then. She was cool people and all…until we discovered that she was taking girls into her confidence and raising little spies to report to the authorities. Then she wasn’t so cool anymore. I liked her a lot less by the time I’d graduated.

Leigh’s mother, who had been vigorously chewing her food stopped in mid bite.

“Ah! Why would he go and jump a wall to visit a woman?” she objected indignantly.

“Why indeed?” asked Mr. Quist, laughing at the absurdity of the idea.

“Well, that was the rumor!” Leigh giggled. “That the two of you were in a relationship and you used to jump the wall to go and see her.”

“Oh nonsense,” I scoffed. “Mr. Quist, I can tell you that as far I was/am concerned, you were a virgin and nothing short of chaste.”

He looked at me as though I had two heads. I nodded emphatically and took another bite of my rice. Somehow, the conversation was steered onto something else and there was no other talk of teacher relationships and wall jumping…until my family was about to leave.

As I was rounding up my children, putting shoes on their feet and stepping over urine puddles (Stone had peed all over Leigh’s hardwood floors), I heard Leigh exclaim on the topic one last time.

“Wait! You never confirmed if there was a relationship or not between you and Ms. T!”

I was busy putting on a shoe and not paying much attention.

“Well, there was no wall jumping,” I heard him say, “but there was a relationship.”

Of course there was a relationship! A profe- Wait. What?

I turned away from my child and looked at the face of  my highly regarded teacher. His eyes were fixed on the floor and there was an odd look on his face, as though recalling a distant pleasant memory.

“Oh God! Oh God no!!!” I screamed again and again. “Are you serious? Ms. T?”

“And what’s wrong with Ms. T?” he sniggered.

“Well…nothing…I guess,” I began, not wanting to offend him. “But I like the idea of her alone, and the idea of you separate…not together. And certainly not in a relationship!”

I closed my eyes and stamped my feet like a petulant child. I had to protect my mind. If I went into M.O.M mode, I would see Mr. Quist doing things to Ms. T that only grown people do. I didn’t want to see him like that! Mr. Quist watched me struggle with my emotions with amusement.

“Oh Malaka Gyekye,” he scoffed. “Get over yourself… and get a life,” he added.

This is not something one simply gets over! I felt lost. I felt betrayed. I felt wronged…like someone had spread chocolate sauce all over my favorite pizza. I tried to compose myself and gave him a hug. I can’t remember if I wished him a safe journey back home or not. I was entirely too focused on NOT imagining him (possibly) naked with my former house mistress.

The sprinklers outside of Leigh’s house came on, and my children made a dash for them.

“Water! Water!” they cried, sweeping their hands and legs through the stream.

“Come on children!” I barked. “Get out of the sprinklers! And get into the car!”

The sounds of Mr. Quist’s and Leigh’s laughter bid us farewell. Somehow, it was the perfect literary metaphor to end the evening. I felt like someone had pissed all over my idyllic childhood memories. I don’t know why I was so upset. He is a MAN after all; and men have NEEDS. But do they have to fulfill them with someone at work? Someone I happened to live with?? I think that that was rather inconsiderate of him – of them BOTH.

Who was your favorite teacher? Were you lucky enough to have someone change your life? Have you had a revelation about them alter your view of them in any way?