Monthly Archives: November 2012

Still on Turkey Lane

Ravi Zacharias once told a story about that I found hard to believe. He said when he was a young boy, his mother gave him a sweet treat and sent him outside to play. As he was walking down the sandy roads of his neighborhood, an eagle swooped down, clawed the side of his face, and stole the treat from his hand with its greedy talons. Went he went home in tears, his mother scolded him instead of offering comfort. She admonished him, saying he should be more aware of his surroundings. Had he not been so caught up in the rapture of his treat, he would have noticed the eagle’s stealthy approach.

Although I wasn’t there, I can imagine the grief he must have felt at being so unceremoniously robbed, for while at my sister’s house, I too was robbed by a circling hawk who swooped in and plucked a succulent piece of meat from my hands with her long, felonious fingers.

Chris had been in the backyard grilling steak and chicken for dinner. It didn’t seem right to have steak at Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t my house. I decided to allow him to serve red meat. A Kansas City native, Chris is unable to prepare any meal that does not involve a grill. Cereal, cream of wheat, pouring a bowl of peanuts – these are all out of his depth. I didn’t expect much out of him when he said he was going to grill, therefore. However, I discovered a new level of respect for his culinary prowess, once I actually got a chance to put his meat in my mouth.

“Ummm! Oh my gawd! This is delicious!” smacked A-Dub as she bit into a piece of steak.

She held out her hand and offered me the other half. It was glistening and was covered with unrecognizable seasonings. As I lifted it to my lips, a manicured brown paw reached down and yanked it from my fingertips. I looked up and saw Tee smacking her glossed lips in appreciation.

“Dag on. This IS good!” she said, talking over the food rolling around in her mouth.

I was enraged.

“You rat! You thieving…RAT!”

She laughed in my face and kept eating. A-Dud offered me a conciliatory taste of another piece. Somehow, it just wasn’t as satisfying. This might seem like a small infraction to you, but Tee and I have a decades’ long relationship built around eating that involves me protecting my food and her doing her best to fleece me of it. I confess: on that day, she was the winner. I’m sure you have a friend who does something similar to you. That chick who goes into your closet and wears your new jeans before you get a chance to. You know the one. Yeah Tee. I know you’re reading this. You meat stealer. I ain’t forgot!

But as I was saying.

Soon guests began to trickle in. Dinner was at 4 o’clock. Everyone had arrived by 4:15 at the latest. This is no small feat in the African American universe. Chris’ aunt/cousin Erica was one of the first to arrive. She was an older woman with pretty brown highlights in her hair and a pair of librarian glasses perched on her nose. Tee held out her hand to greet her.

“No, no honey. Nuh, uh. I don’t do that,” Erica objected.

She answered Tee’s look of confusion by pulling her in for a hug.

“That’s funny,” I cackled. “I thought you were some sort of germophobe or something!”

Erica looked at me contemptuously. She didn’t smile or giggle. Jeesh. Some people just can’t take a joke. You know, it just occurred to me that she just MIGHT have been a germophope. Ooops.

Finally it was time to eat, and feast we did! But not before Chris was asked to pray. It was his house, after all.

“Uh…rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen!” he grinned.

“No. Do it again. This time mean it,” someone said.

It took Chris 3 minutes to come up with an appropriate prayer, which is an eternity in anticipation time. Damn shame. The boy is so far removed from God that he couldn’t even thank Him for getting his guests there safe, on time, and for the food they were about to share. I shook my head and set about making 5 plates.

Since it was my sister’s first time hosting Thanksgiving, she wanted to infuse as much tradition as possible.

“We need to do what we’re thankful for,” she repeated over the din of adult conversation.

“Yes, yes! Let’s do that,” Tee and I agreed.

Marshall and Erica were in the midst of a geek-off, one arguing that Windows 5 was running off DOS and the other vehemently asserting that is was actually MS-DOS that the operating system was running on. I tried to diffuse the situation by saying it didn’t matter.

“It’s like heating a bowl with a candle versus a Bunsen burner. It’s all heat, isn’t it?”

They didn’t appreciate my analogy, and again Erica looked at me with scorn and greeted my analysis with silence. It didn’t matter. I was nursing a belly ache from having eaten entirely too much. Someone had to do it. We hadn’t made a dent in any of the food.

“I’ll start off,” said Marshall. “I’m grateful that I know when to stop eating!”

He shot me a side glance and took a sip of water. Whatever. I decided to take the high road.

“I’m grateful that I have a husband with a good job that covers all our needs,” I said sweetly. “’Cause I sure ain’t working!”

Amen’s! and Alright’s! filled the air.

Then it was Tee’s turn. She said she was grateful for good health, a job, and something else.

“Boo! What a cliché!” I heckled.

“Naw dude. Those things are important,” she replied.

“Yeah, when you’re over 40,” I snickered.

As everyone in the room burst into laughter, she went silent. I hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings. I have to remind myself that not everyone jokes the way A-Dub and our brother, the Reckless Weasel do.

Erica gave her invocation next.  There was a little boy who has suffered physical abuse and mental trauma. He is in a home for disadvantaged children, and she is a mentor for him there. Despite his circumstances, he approached life with zest and enthusiasm.

“I just feel so blessed and honored to be able to serve someone like him,” she said in conclusion. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to give of their time and finances like I’ve been able to.”

3 or 4 people broke out in mild applause. Chris looked at Timothy, who was next on the list.

“Look, there’s no pressure,” he said. “Just know that whatever you say next is going to suck in comparison.”

Someone howled with laughter.

“I know right!”

(Okay. That was me, Ms. Insensitive.)

Sure enough, he said something that escapes memory.

Next to go was Chris’ other cousin, a fair skinned girl with lovely eyes, carried by a large frame by anyone’s standards. She was grateful for stretch pants.

A-Dub was next and last. Her supplication of gratitude was probably the most touching…but that’s probably because I’m not accustomed to her displaying any emotion that doesn’t involve the symbol Pi.

“I’m grateful that we were able to host this Thanksgiving, and that I have a beautiful, healthy son in my life. I’m thankful that my sister likes to drive and drove all the way from Atlanta to be here. I’m thankful that all of you decided to spend your holiday with us, and that I have Chris to share this life with.”

That was beautiful. I would have conjured up something inappropriate to say and undoubtedly ruined to mood had it not been for a knock at the door.

Sistah Stephanie! She had come with her cookies! I raced to the door to let her in.

A Trip Down Turkey Lane

You’ll have to forgive me MOM Squad, but the next few posts will be dedicated to retelling certain events from the Thanksgiving holiday. I know: how very passé. However it is in my best interest and yours as a reader for me to do so. A certain someone – who is probably slumped over a bowl of cold oatmeal as we speak – has threatened to do me cyber-bodily harm if I do not recount the events over the holiday exactly as I saw them. She has demanded that we go…

STRAIGHT TO M.O.M. MODE!!!!

*****

Twelve hours in a car with 4 children. Crazy redneck drivers in red pick-up trucks tailgating me. A right eye losing vision because I’ve refused to wear my corrective lenses for the last nine years. Most people don’t even know I have glasses. Shoot. I’ve forgotten I wear them myself. Delirium sets in, but not before we arrive at my sister’s house in the outskirts of D.C. Her boyfriend greets us sleepily at the door before scurrying up the stairs to tell her we’ve arrived.

As I shuttle snoring children into her warm, darkened house, she gives me a side glance.

“What took you guys so long?” she grumbled. “It should have only taken 10 hours. You guys are slow drivers.”

My gut reaction is to scream Shut the Hell Up!…but that would wake the kids. I opt for a kinder response.

“Oh geddout.”

Now that the children are all in their assigned sleeping accommodations, my husband sets about preparing his brine. He has been given the task of making the Thanksgiving Turkey. At his request, my sister has only purchased the finest and freshest ingredients to facilitate its preparation. Still, not leaving anything to chance, he whips out his store of special spices.

“Where is the salt?” he yawns.

“Here,” says Chris. (It’s ok to use his real name, because my sister only dates guys named Chris. It might as well be a synonym for boo-thang.)

Marshall pulls out a measuring cup and pours out 2 heaping cups of salt.

“Oh my God!” the pair exclaim, clutching their hearts.

The next few moments are filled with talk of heart attacks and sodium levels. Marshall looked at them quizzically.

“This from a pair of people who have a store of brown liquor and cake flavored vodka?”

He did have a point. I chimed in to his defense.

“Yeah, we may die of high blood pressure, but you two are going to die of alcohol poisoning.”

“At least we’ll be aware when we actually die,” my sister countered. “Your death will come suddenly.”

“And we’ll be happy too,” Chris added.

I pointed to a black and white image encased in plastic on top of their stove.

“You know, when I first saw that, I thought it was a picture of a chimpanzee. I just realized that was your son’s ultrasound.”

“Go to bed, Malaka.”

“Alright.”

*****

 

The next morning I woke to  the sound of running children and pots and pans clanging. In truth, I hadn’t slept much the entire night. It was bitterly cold in my sister’s sewing room. She later admitted that there was no heat in the room at all. I decided that she hated me. Marshall got to sleep in the designated guest room, complete with silk duvees and decorative pillows. I got the rusty futon and a sheet. But at least she was feeding my kids so that I could “sleep in”.

 

“Who wants eggs?” she asked.

“Meeee!!” they chorused.

“And who wants sausage?”

“Meeee!!!!”

“Who wants hash browns?”

“Hash browns? We don’t know what hash browns are.”

My sister said she would make them anyway and let the kids try them. After she had all the plate prepared, the kids scampered down the stairs to partake of their morning meal. Nadjah ate the sausage. Aya ate the eggs. Liya hardly ate. Stone ate whatever was left. No one ate the hash browns. This is how breakfast goes.

Nadjah had since discovered me in the sewing room, so it was time to get up.

Our friend Tee was supposed to be coming over to finish cooking. She had taken on several sides, a desert and wanted to do the gravy. She called as we were beginning to cook.

“Tell me y’all have the turkey in the oven,” she demanded.

“No,” my sister replied. “It’s still brining.”

I heard her panicked objections at the other end of the phone. She demanded that we begin baking the turkey now.

“You tell her we’ll bake it when we’re good n’ ready!”

“You tell her yourself,” said Adj. (That’s my sister, by the way. I got tired of calling her “my sister.”)

I really can’t remember all that was said after that. There were a couple of loving “forget you’s” and “make me’s” thrown around before Tee announced that she –and her newly minted fiancé – would be at the house by 2pm. That gave us 5 hours before the arrival of the tempest.

2 o’clock came much faster than I anticipated. Tee walked in carrying a tray, demanding that Marshall and Chris go out to her car and help her bring in the food. I don’t think anyone budged. Tee was never the boss in our clan, and there was no reason to upset historical trends now. I was lost in the thought of my boiling macaroni and the veritable trough I was preparing when I heard the voice of God.

“That’s so funny! You look just like your sister!”

A tall, ebony skinned man with a voice that sounded like a well erupting in winter stood in the kitchen with a bag full of plantain in his right fist. This must have been the fabled Timothy I’d heard so much about.

“Hi, I’m Malaka,” I said. And usually people introduce themselves before they make comparisons and observations.

“Timothy,” he replied, shaking my hand.

I like to look people in the eye when I shake hands, but his were so far away. I tilted my neck to get a better view. His dreadlocked mane had long disappeared in the clouds. I decided I would merely imagine what his face might look like.

“I’m going to help get the rest of the things from the car,” he said warily.

“Uh huh. Okay.”

I tried not to stare at his buttocks, but it was the only thing at eye-level. And his jeans were very shiny. I couldn’t help it.

Raising Stone

They say there is no book on parenting, although volumes have been written on the subject. Raising a useful, well-functioning human being takes a lot of trial and error, luck and – at times – copious amounts of vodka. Or you could pray. I guess whichever works best in your world.

I’ve never read a parenting book, and doubt I ever well. Those authors have neither met me, not my children. They don’t know that Liya poops on herself at precisely 7:43 every evening, and that because I’m so wrapped up in getting ready to watch The O’Reilly Factor that I forget to set her on the toilet…every night. They don’t know that Aya’s delight is to undo the twists that I’ve painstakingly placed in her hair so that she can look decent for school the next day. Why would she do that? So she could have bangs. She has a 10 inch afro. Can these parenting gurus help me explain why she cannot fashion bangs out of a near foot long length of hair when 3 chapters earlier they have asserted that I tell my child she can do anything? What a contradiction.

Nadjah thinks she’s America’s Next Top Model/Marie Curie, so the less I tamper with her, the better.

And then there’s Stone: my sweet, beautiful Stone and only male offspring. I could only hope that someone would jot down some advice to help me sort this boy out.

I like to think that Stone is similar to other boys his age, except that when I place him in circles with other boys his age he goes out of his way to prove how very much unlike them he is. For instance, when he sees his friend Gary at daycare, he squeals with delight and runs over to him with his arms outstretched.

“Gimme HUG, Gary!” he gushes.

Gary, who most likely spends a lot of time with his dad or some other emotionally withdrawn figure, recoils at the thought of giving another boy a hug. I watched as Gary fled to the block center.

Dap, Stone. You’re supposed to give him DAP.

But how could he know this? I only give my son hugs and cuddles and kisses.

There are times when I walk in on my son doing things that give me pause. After the horror gives way to confusion, I generally to try escape the scene altogether by busying myself with dishes and dusting. I’ll explain.

Stone likes to watch Barbie cartoons. This should not surprise you, because he has 3 sisters. He either has to develop a taste for their preferences or live a life of disgruntlement and anger. He chose to do the former. I left him to his newfound pleasure one afternoon. Barbie had transformed into a mermaid and was trying to save a prince. Clad only in a pair of underwear and socks, Stone was reclined on the sofa, watching intently. His eyes never left the screen. Suddenly, I heard Liya snicker in infantile disgust.

“Ewww!” she giggled. In the midst of her jumbled words, I made out the word “hoo-hoo”.

Why was she pointing at her brother’s crotch? Because his little dangle had crept though the divide of his character underwear. Not wanting to leave it unattended, he began to tug at its head. The more Liya laughed and said “ewww”, the harder he tugged and laughed as well. When he was done, he had the nerve to ask me for a waffle.

“Did you tell him to stop that?” my husband asked when I relayed the story later.

“No!” I frowned. “I wasn’t sure that I should.”

“You should have told him to stop,” he assured me.

Well how was I supposed to know that? I’m sure there is a chapter in a parenting book about toddler penis-tugging, but I don’t want to read it. That’s just gross.

However sensitive I might feel about “that” subject, other circumstances have arisen that let me know I will have to confront it for the rest of my son’s natural life. If I choose willing ignorance, the consequences could be both dire and dangerous.

The other day I let him slip into his favorite pair zip-up Frosty the Snowman pajamas. This in itself was not a problem. The fact that I let him wear them commando was. As I pulled the zipper past his hips, my Spidey senses AND my Common senses told me this was a bad idea. However, in my dogged attempt at a gender neutral parenting style, I went ahead and set in motion an unavoidable tragedy. When my son shrieked in pain 20 minutes later, it was re-confirmed that girls are safer when going commando: boys are not. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the mechanics of what happened that early afternoon. Yes male readers, I can feel you crossing your legs in empathy.

I have a friend whose son would take off his clothes at a moment’s notice. You’d turn around and he’d be half-naked in church or pantless in his living room. I was appalled by his behavior. Why couldn’t she control that? I used to wonder in disapproval. She wasn’t even TRYING.

And then my own son learned to walk and soon after was disrobing himself at the most inappropriate times as well. See what happens when you judge other parents?

Then there’s the constant running, jumping, pushing, pulling, farting n’ giggling, and insatiable demands for food…

I suppose all in all, I’m doing a decent job at raising my son. He has recently discovered the joy of editing his favorite songs and replacing key words with the word “poop.” For example we get to hear:

Froooosty the poop-poop!

Halle-poop-poop! Salvation and glory!

I’ve got to move the poop-poop! I’ve got to move the poop-poop! I’ve got to mooooove that poop-poop!

The girls hate it. But I know when a man makes good and ready use of toilet humor, he is partaking in an ancient, time-honored tradition that will one day bind him to equally gross teenaged boys and men in true friendship.

Do you have unique concerns about raising your son? Is there anything you’re read or been told that has helped you? Does your son sing songs about poop too?

Protect Yourself This Holiday Shopping Season

Well MOM Squad; Black Friday is upon us once again! Some of you are excited. I can almost feel you trembling with anticipation. What’s that in your core? Ahhh…yes. You’re pulsating with glee at the very prospect of getting your clammy little hands on that tech goodie you’ve been looking forward to all year long – and at a deep discount no less!

Others of you (like David S.) couldn’t give a sheep’s wooly arse. I can feel that too, trust me.

Last year a few of you asked me to give tips on how to ‘work’ Black Friday, which I did in the post Black Friday: But only if you dare!  Given my 5+ years as a worker in the retail environment, some of MOM Squad felt my knowledge was vast enough to offer solid, dependable information. I’m humbled. I don’t think 5 years is long enough to become an expert at anything, but given that Barack Obama was only a senator for 3 years before ascending to the highest position in the land, I guess I’m wrong!

This year I want to talk to you about keeping your belongings safe during the height of the shopping season. These belongings include your children too, if you have any.

At my job at the shoe store that I am no longer allowed to mention on my blog (something about social media and violating company rules), I see customers perform any number of stupid and dangerous acts. I believe that these customers engage in this behavior because they are naïve, and have too much faith in their fellow man. Perhaps it has something to do with the holiday lighting and the faint smell of pie in the air.

Or maybe they really are just that stupid.

 As you know, thieves are on the lookout for easy targets to fleece and never are they more active than at the holiday season. It would behoove us all to get into a New York state of mind, and treat EVERYONE with suspicion! You never know who is going to rob you. And no…I’m not afraid that that makes me sound paranoid.

Here is a short list of things you can do to protect your valuables this Christmas.

1)      Carry your purse with you at all times: Ah. Malaka. What do you mean “carry your purse”? I mean just that. I cannot tell you how many customers – on a daily basis – drop their purses on the floor or on a bench and stroll to the next aisle to go look at an item that may have caught their eye. We recently had one customer who did just that, and didn’t realize her purse was missing until a full 20 minutes later! A woman with a baby stroller casually walked by, picked up her bag, and walked out of the store with all said customer’s personal information and cash. Loss Prevention was able to track the woman down with the help of the police, but have any of our other customers learned from this tragedy? Not enough in my view. I walked past 2 abandoned purses just last night.

2)      Use cash whenever possible: This is pain I can share with you from personal experience. Digi-crooks have a method of extracting and copying all your banking information with the swipe of a card. And all they need is your help. Every time you go to a gas pump, a random ATM machine, or slide your card at some shady point of sale location, you open yourself up to having ALL your cash stolen. Just 3 weeks ago, Marshall had his debit card read and copied by a thief gone digital, and they offloaded about $500 from our account, shopping at Party City, Target and some place that started with a W. Because these shopping habits were outside of Marshall’s norm, the bank was able to catch it early, cancel his card, and reissue him a new one. Don’t let this happen to you. Use cash whenever you can!

3)      Insist that the cashier look at your debit/credit card and ID!: This is a touchy one for me, because I AM a cashier, and Black and poor people are funny when it comes to people checking their credentials. Trust me, I have limited interest in taking a gander at your mug shot, but it’s my job to. You see, because stealing has gone digital and fraudsters can so easily copy ones credit and debit card, the only way to make sure that the card being used is legitimate is to check that it has been signed and that it matches the owners ID. Please don’t take offence when a cashier at Macy’s asks you to look at the back of your card. They are not discriminating against you. It is for your OWN protection! If you haven’t stolen anyone else’s identity or card details, this should not be a problem.

4)      Never, ever set your card down: Ugh. This one left me gobsmacked. I had one woman come to my register and begin the checkout process. She swiped her card and then gasped. “Oh no! I have to get the pin number! I’ll be right back,” she assured me. She sprinted out the door and left her shoes – and her debit card – on the counter in front of me. I was aghast. In this digital age, all it would take to get her card information would be a quick click on an iPhone and you can guess the rest. I cannot stress enough how much you should never do this. Never leave your card sitting on the cashier counter, and if you must, lay it face down.

5)      Do the store employees a favor: Listen folks. We can’t go home until you do. If the store closes at 7 pm, please get out. Are we grateful to have jobs? Yes. But how would you like it if I came to your office and threw paper and paper clips all over the floor because I could, and YOU couldn’t leave until I walked out of the door? That’s how I feel when customers are still milling around 30 minutes after closing time. (I realize this has nothing to do with keeping you safe. It’s a self-serving final point.)

Hopefully this advice will get to you in time. With big box retailers competing for dollars, ‘Black Friday’ may be a thing of the past, as they seek to get you in their stores is getting closer and closer to Wednesday.

Have you ever seen anyone make a fiscal blunder in public? What else can shoppers do to be safe and savvy in your experience?

Utah’s Gift to Ghana: Killin’ Trees and Poisonin’ Rivers

Every once in a while, someone will randomly add me to group on Facebook or throw a link on my wall expecting me to read/watch its contents. 97% of the time I do not. There’s just too much “stuff” competing for my attention in the social media realm However when Amma Bonsu raises the alarm for a cause, I know it’s worth investigating.

Amma is the curator for the blog www.ammazingseries.com. Though we attended the same school, we could not be more dissimilar. She has an affinity for weaves, while I have an aversion for them. She adores and dotes on Barack Obama, while I am skeptical about every word that falls off his lips. We are both ‘Black’ and female, but the way we perceive the world is as different as East is from West – except for one thing: we are resolute in our love for Africa. In light of that, all of our dissimilarities become trivial.

Amma added me to a group that she started called Racist Utahns poison Ghanaians & Discovery Channel Watches. Ouch. It’s unlike her to throw out the “r” word so carelessly, so I figured this warranted some looking into. I mean, the Discovery Channel is supposed to be the arbiter for good global stewardship. Surely they wouldn’t sit by and watch three white men pollute any part of the earth for profit, let alone film, market and broadcast it for profit, would they? I clicked on the link she included on the group’s page: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/jungle-gold

I was immediately crestfallen. Alas, these were Africans, not polar bears and therefore did not meet the requirements for sympathy. Add the screeching monkey and drumbeat sound effects that precede each segment and its even easier to dismiss the atrocities altogether.

The three alleged racists are from Utah. After going bankrupt following the real estate crash in 2008, they turn their sights on Africa, Ghana specifically, for a solution for their financial woes. There is an unregulated gold rush in Ghana that has been going on for years now, locally known as ‘galamsey’. Hoards of people – local Ghanaians, Chinese and even a few Black Americans – have torn through the countryside decimating forests and farmland, polluting waterways and Ghana’s fertile soil. These unscrupulous men are amongst that hoard. In one part of the video, the White and Chinese miners exchange gunfire in order to intimidate each other.

The cynic in me was saddened, but unmoved to do anything in an activist’s capacity. After all, the government is well aware of these goings-on and is idly twiddling its thumbs, waiting for the next election or check to pocket. Ghana’s government has the resources to stop galamsey in its tracks…it just refuses to do so. So I did what all sophisticated Africans do when they are “outraged” about something: I sent a tweet of the offending video, made a comment, and left it at that. To my utter surprise, George Wright tweeted me back.

Their company was 100% legal, he claimed. They pay farmers for each tree they fell. 5 times the value of crops for a year even! They even reclaim [the forest].

Somehow, I doubted that. I took a bite from my butter pecan ice-cream. The tweets kept coming. “We are similar to their Ghanaian friends whom they have helped to come to America for work. Two great countries with many opportunities.”

Heh. Was he asserting that helping Kofi Baboni come to America to do janitorial work was appropriate recompense for destroying my native land? I slurped my ice-cream a little louder.

He went on to say that he loves the people of Ghana.

“There is a saying, you may know it, Gye Nyame. A wonderful sentiment that has unified both @JungleGoldScott and I w/ Ghananian ppl.”

This is the part where I lost it. This foolish man! Does he think that I am one of those village girls who is easily impressed because a White man has picked up a phrase in local vernacular? And to add insult to previous insult, “Gye Nyame” is neither a saying nor a sentiment. It means “Only God”. This fool was confusing it “Ubuntu” (which by the way is a sentiment borne from South Africa). I wanted to find him and break his legs for insulting me, my community, our intelligence and our land.

But why should I be angry with him? A White man is going to do what comes naturally to him, as what came naturally to his ancestors. He will exploit everyone else for his benefit. End of story.

No. The blame for this whole fiasco falls on our elected leaders and elders. They are too scared to protect the country from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. They have refused to look at the long term effects of their short-sighted decisions, selling off many of our assets to draconian companies like Monsanto and anyone in a button down shirt and blond hair.

There is an old tree next to the highway on the way to Larteh and Akropong. Its trunk is riddled with lesions and oddly shaped globes. You can’t miss it. I asked my dad about that tree just a few years ago, after passing it without question for many decades. He told me about the slave raids and Samori, a notorious local slave raider who captured his neighbors and sold them to the invading Whites. He told me about how the mountain people fought back against their would-be colonial masters.

“There was a battle in this area and the Guans won,” he said. “They took the guns of the White men and fired all the bullets into that particular tree. Over time, the tree healed itself but you can still see the scars from where the bullets entered the trunk.”

I was amazed. I had always assumed that Ghanaians were docile cowards who up until Kwame Nkrumah were happy in their servility to the colonialist. History until that point had been taught in a very Eurocentric view, so I had no reason to believe otherwise. My thoughts were broken by my father’s grunt of disgust.

“Do you know where the word “abrochi” came from?” he asked me.

Of course I didn’t. I barely speak any Twi at all…how then could I tell anyone of root words and origins in the language?

“It came from the word “aburafuor”. Destroyers. That’s what they called the British when they came here. Wherever they set their foot, they destroyed the land,” he said darkly. “It’s just over time they changed the name to abrochi to mean “abroad”. They changed it into a positive.”

As I sit here in my comfortable home, knowing full well that Jungle George or Tarzan or whatever they call themselves are preparing to rape and raid my native land again as they shoot their second season, I have to wonder: will there be a tree to bear the scars of defiance in the face of environmental rape? Who will take up the mantle to make sure that illegal mining in Ghana stops? When will we compel our leaders to stop their ignorant, harmful ways? What, if anything, is to be done?

Spark Park Deux!

A rush of wind and leaves followed the women into the backdoor. Emily solemnly laid her bible on the coffee table and rested her head in the palm of her hand. Samantha rubbed her shoulders and cooed soothingly at her. Abiola looked around for something to do. As absurd as the whole affair was, she recognized that her friend was truly hurting, and that now might not have been the time to make light of her pain.

“How about I make a Starbucks run and get us some coffee?” Abiola offered.

“I have coffee here,” Emily said brightly.

“No offence, sweetie, but I can’t see myself drinking coffee made in your kitchen.”

“What? Why?” Emily asked. She was genuinely surprised.

“Well…because of the mice,” Abiola retorted.

“They don’t crawl onto the countertops where food is prepared, silly,” Emily chided. “They each have their own dishes to eat from.”

Abiola would not be defeated.

“Still, I think we need to change the mood of our circumstances. Why don’t we celebrate Minnie’s life, instead of mourning her passing?”

She made a dash for the closet.

“I’ll be back with pumpkin spice lattes for everyone!”

Thirty minutes later, the three friends were sipping their sweet, sticky beverages with their feet curled under them. Their conversation soon turned to life, and inevitably, men.

Of the three, Samantha was the only one that was married. Abiola understood why. She was a nurturing woman with good job. White men liked that. Abiola made too much money and intimidated Black men with her mouth and her success. And Emily, well, she was clearly just crazy. Still, that didn’t mean she didn’t deserve a chance at love.

“Why don’t you give Bill another chance?” Abiola interrogated. “He seems so nice. And he’s clearly very intelligent. You guys worked in the same department for years.”

Emily wrinkled her nose.

“I would, but there’s just no spark there,” she said pointedly. “You can’t have a relationship without spark.”

Samantha was about to speak but Abiola cut her off.

“I’m not suggesting that you have a sexual relationship with him,” she continued. “I’m just saying that you need to have some sort of a relationship with a man outside of work…so that you know how to relate to men!”

Samantha nodded in agreement. Emily looked at the two of them and conceded that they had a point.

“I guess you’re right. I don’t want to be an old maid surrounded by her mice.”

“Aha! Now you see what I’m saying?!,” Abiola sputtered excitedly. “You are pushing 40 and the only man you know how to talk to has a tail and poops in a cage.”

She eyed Otto suspiciously. Emily had placed him and his clan in a glass enclosure for their nap; but that bunch had shown that they were resourceful and could escape at any time.

“So what are you going to do about Bill?” Samantha grinned.

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess we can try to be a little more than friends,” Emily said absently. “He just doesn’t do it for me. He’s not hot…you know? He’s just average.”

Abiola chugged on her drink to force her from pointing out Emily’s obvious flaws, foremost of which was that she gave rats free range of her house, and secondly that she herself was no runway model. Her teeth were stained brown from an overindulgence in coffee and cigarettes, and her legs were riddled with varicose veins. She was hardly considered “sexy” at all.

Abiola took stock of her life. Prior to this moment, she had a number of complaints about the way things had gone. She had a son growing up in Nigeria and a part-time boyfriend whom she was not sure she wanted to commit to. As bleak as her circumstances may have seemed before, she was content to deal with them now. Emily seemed so clueless.

 

********

 So MOM Squad: What do you think is wrong with Emily’s approach to relationships? (Apart from the fact that she has the entire cast from the Secret of NIMH living in her dining room.) As one of my best friends Nana Henewa used to say “Let’s analyze the situation.”

Conventional wisdom tells us that humanity has to date within your rating/range; the only exceptions being the possession of an extraordinary skill and/or loads of money. This is the ONLY reason ugly guys date and marry hot chicks. You can’t be rated a 5 looking to score a committed relationship with a 15. It just doesn’t work that way.

Emily, like most women in Western culture, is looking for a “spark” before seriously considering a committed relationship. They are looking for butterflies and that pit in your stomach when you think of your significant other. What a lot of people don’t seem to want to accept is that ‘spark’ fades and can sometimes be re-kindled in another individual (as Gen. Petraeus has so stunningly revealed to the entire world). What you want in a relationship is constancy and honesty. Of course physical attraction is important, but if that’s the only thing keeping you interested in your current or potential mate, then trouble is sure to be on the horizon.

What advice would you have for Emily? Once you’ve stopped laughing, leave a comment to help this poor lass out. She needs it.

The Waning Importance of “Spark”…In Some Cases, At Least

I can’t afford to give you any background on this one folks. We’re going straight into M.O.M. Mode! Just buckle up and know that this is all based on true events.

 ***Lights fading out****

Abiola and Samantha were quiet for the most part of the 9 hour trip from Raleigh, NC to Huntsville, Al. It wasn’t until they crossed into Chattanooga that the silence was broken.

“What are we going to do when we get there?” asked Abiola.

“All we can do is be there for her,” replied Samantha.

“I’m not very good at just being,” Abiola murmured. “But the situation is so ridiculous that I’m not sure what to do!”

Samantha sighed and tucked her blond hair behind her ears. She took a sip from her Coke Zero before speaking again.

“Fine,” she said, blowing a loud breath. “I’ll play Sympathy and you play Comedy.”

Abiola immediately brightened. She was good at making jokes…even if these Americans didn’t always get her Nigerian humor.

“Great! I think we should all play to our strengths.”

Emboldened by their hurriedly hatched plan, Abiola stepped on the gas and sped towards Emily’s house. The sooner they got this over with, the better.

Emily Prism’s father had died a month before. However, the relationship between Emily and the man who raised her at his convenience was tumultuous and violent. She hardly mourned his passing. Abiola and Samantha were taking the trek from the other side of the country to console their friend in the passing of someone far more dear to her – her beloved mouse, Minnie.

Abiola did not understand this attachment to a rodent. A dog she could comprehend, perhaps even a cat. At least they had personalities. Why Emily was grieving so desperately over the death of something so close to the bottom of the food chain was beyond her grasp. Still, she wanted to be a good friend. Emily was taking Minnie’s death terribly hard, even to the point of being on suicide watch.

When Samantha and Abiola got to Emily’s door, they braced themselves and plastered sympathetic smiles on their faces. Samantha lifted the enormous brass knocker and banged it three times. Socked feet came shuffling down the hallway to let them in.

“Girls! You’re here!” whispered Emily.

Her eyes were red-rimmed and her throat hoarse from sobbing.

“Yes,” smiled Samantha. “We haven’t even checked into our hotel. We came right away.”

Abiola sniffed the air and looked around. She detected a faint animal scent, but couldn’t tell what it was. As she stepped over the threshold, something caught her eye to the left. A pair of candles was lit in the parlor, and there on the dining room table sat a small coffin, surrounded by a baby’s breath floral arrangement.

Yesu.  

“So when is the funeral?” Abiola asked stiffly.

Emily was taking their coats and hanging them in the closet.

“I was thinking we could have the ceremony after lunch,” she sniffed. “I can’t thank you girls enough for coming.”

Samantha and Abiola followed Emily into the kitchen. They passed room after room still unfurnished save for the cardboard boxes bearing scribbles of the contents inside. Emily Prism lived in a veritable mansion. The three women had worked together in the Research Triangle in Raleigh and quickly formed a bond in the male dominated industry. Their friendship worked and survived this long because they were all so very different. They didn’t have any of the same goals and didn’t like the same men, and as demonstrated by this visit, did not share the same passions. Only another nerd would understand this bond. However, Abiola herself was still struggling to understand why she was at this woman’s house to bury a mouse.

“The house is beautiful,” said Samantha, looking around admiringly.

“It’s a lot bigger than it looked in the pictures,” Emily conceded. “I bought it sight unseen. Still, it’s turned out to be an excellent value for the money.”

“I’ll bet,” Abiola smirked.

Emily Prism had a doctorate degree and a distinguished career in biochemical research. Childless and unmarried, she took a job requiring her to from North Carolina to Alabama while retaining the same salary. She was basically loaded. Abiola would have been envious of the woman, if not for the fact that she was so sweet. She deserved all her success.

“Can I help you with anything?” asked Samantha.

Abiola settled onto a barstool in the kitchen and watched Emily scurry around. She was frantically pulling pots and pans out of cupboards and placing them on the stove.

“No, no,” Emily smiled, her thin lips curled upward in appreciation. “I’m just making quesadillas.”

“Did Minnie also like cheese?” asked Abiola.

Samantha shot her a look. Emily’s shoulders heaved up and down as she bent over the sink.

“No, she didn’t,” she whispered. “She liked bread best.”

Not funny, Samantha mouthed.

What!?? Abiola mouthed back.

“Can you point me in the direction of the bathroom? I’m going to wash my hands before we eat.”

“Sure. It’s right around the corner to your right,” Emily said, pointing with a fork.

Abiola stepped down from the barstool. As her feet touched the ground, something ran over her boot. She looked down and saw a long pink tail disappear into a cabinet. Sweet Jesus! Minnie had come back to life!

Abiola shrieked and jumped on top of the kitchen counter. As she hovered precariously on the marble surface, she watched in horror as another mouse ran behind Emily and scampered underneath the kitchen table. It nibbled on a cracker, making squeaking noises as it ate. It seemed to be scolding Abiola.

“What is going on?” asked Samantha incredulously.

“It’s a mouse! Minnie has been resurrected!” Abiola screeched. She began praying fervently in tongues, willing the Holy Spirit to cast out the demon who had raised the rodent back to life.

Emily reached under the table and lifted the small quadruped, holding it delicately in the palm of her hand.

“Abiola, stop it,” she seethed. “You’re upsetting Otto.”

“What the hell is Otto?!?”

“He’s one of my six mice,” Emily said simply. She shot Abiola a look as she placed Otto in a white wire cage.  “You can come down from there now. He’s not going to bite you.”

Abiola was from Africa. She knew better. Anything with teeth will eventually bit you. Struggling to regain her composure, she alighted from the countertop and tiptoed towards the bathroom. When she got there, a mouse was sitting on the toilet…just chilling. Abiola spun on her heel and reached for her purse. There was a bottle of hand sanitizer in her purse.

By the time she got back to the kitchen, Emily had already set out their lunch. A beautiful orange and lime green platter was decorated with triangular cut quesadillas. Pico de gallo and sour cream were artfully placed in the center. Abiola had no appetite. She sat at the table and chewed heartily on a stick of gum she’d found in her jeans pocket.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” asked Emily innocently.

“Oh…no. I can’t,” Abiola stammered. “Lactose intolerant, you see…”

She let her voice trail off.

“I can cook you something else,” Emily offered.

Samantha chewed slowly on her flatbread and cheese. She knew exactly what Abiola was thinking. Had the mice also gotten into the food? Was it contaminated? Samantha didn’t want to upset their friend. She dutifully ate the portion that Emily had dished out for her. Abiola looked at the two White women in disbelief. Not her, she said to herself. Not today, and not ever!

When the meal ordeal was over, Emily ran the dishwasher and turned to her friends.

“Did you guys bring something to wear?” she asked hopefully.

“Wear for what?” Samantha pressed.

“For the funeral. Do you have anything black? Mourning clothes perhaps?”

“Uhhhh….,” Abiola was at a loss. Light headed from all the insanity surrounding her, she stumbled back against a wall.

Emily and Samantha caught her and lifted her to her feet.

“Yes,” whispered Emily. “I know. This is all very emotional. I can feel your grief, my friend.”

Abiola nodded and straightened up.

“My coat is black and Samantha’s is navy blue,” she said, clearing her throat. “Will those do?”

“Yes,” Emily smiled gratefully. “If you give me a moment, I’m just going to change.”

Samantha and Abiola exchanged looks.

“You go right ahead, sweetheart.”

Moments later, Emily emerged from the wide oak staircase in a nun’s habit. A dazed look had come over her face.

“I’m ready guys,” she said, her voice barely audible. “Abiola, would you do the honor of being Minnie’s pall bearer? Will you carry the mouse?”

“Henh? Carry it to where?”

“To the backyard…for the funeral.”

This woman wanted her to carry a mouse – a dead mouse – in her hand? Abiola took a deep breath.

“Of course,” she grimaced.

Because that’s what friends do. They carry dead mice and eat rat droppings if that what it takes to save another friend’s life.

***Lights fading in****

Oh there’s more! Get your lunch ready for Spark Part Deux!

No, Elmo: That is NOT Where We Put That!

*Warning. You already know what it is. You’re thinking it. I’m just saying it*

Lawd have mercy. Maybe Mitt was on to something after all. Maybe it was all the color and infectious reverie on every set that had us blind to something more sinister on America’s gayest (i.e. happy) street. Perhaps we judged Mr. Romney a little too harshly. We all said he was crazy; but who knows crazy better than a crazy man?

Today’s news concerning an alleged relationship between Kevin Clash, creator of the world renowned crimson colored puppet, and a 16 year old boy is about to go viral in T minus 45 minutes. I sense a steep drop in Sesame stock – but that’s just a hunch. Maybe some people are into furry puppet pedophile porn. I hope they remain in hiding, whoever they are. (That’s ‘crazy’ right? Trust me, they are out there!)

In private talks with friends this morning, there has been plenty of dismay to accompany their shock.

“Girl, I will NEVER look at Elmo the same again.”

“Girl, why he had to be Black?”

“Tickle me? Humph! That’s how it all starts, Elmo…with the tickling. That’s how they groom you!”

Indeed, it will be difficult to see Elmo through the lens of innocence from henceforth.

As we lament the falling of another Black hero, perhaps it’s time for some inward reflection. The mainstream has been on a 400 year campaign to paint Black men as hyper sexualized beings in the unabated search for booty. Black men, for their part, have readily succumbed to this description, to the point that they scatter their seed in ghettos all around the nation leaving little boys and girls with little options to find comfort and/or a friend. Enter Elmo. Sad part is, not one of those parents thought Elmo would be trying to enter their sons.

Perhaps this is a good time for all and sundry involved to point out to Black men that the search for booty must end abruptly when it’s attached to a little boy.

In his defense, Kevin acknowledges that he did have a consensual relationship with this young man, but is annoyed that the “victim” is painting this relationship to be something it wasn’t. He denied it. And if Bill Clinton and Shaggy and their “it wasn’t me” anthem have taught us anything, then chances are that Kevin Clash clashed with this young man’s private parts much earlier than the age of consent. I wonder if Antoine Dodson knows what a soothsayer he is. They really are “rapin’ everybody out there.”

I tried not to think about what that poor young man must have experienced on that days that he was assaulted by Kevin, but my mind won’t set me free. Imagine what it must have been like to walk into a wondrous red lair with silent, grinning Elmo dolls in every corner, giggling as you breezed past them. And then suddenly, there’s a sharp, painful poke and then this:

Come on Bert and Ernie. The jig is up. It’s safe now! Just come on out of the closet and confirm that Sesame Street is indeed the gayest (i.e. GAY) street in America!

Colorlines: (#TeamDarkSkin / #TeamLightSkin) = Really Stupid

I walked into the tail end of a conversation at work yesterday that left me annoyed, disturbed, and saddened. You meet all kinds of people in a retail environment, largely because the only requirement to work in retail is the possession of a functioning steady pulse. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked by the words that fell out the 20-somethings thin pink lips, but I was.

It was the end of the night and we were waiting for the manager to finish counter the drawers so we could go home. The wind was howling in the pitch black darkness outside. It was nearly 10pm, and we were all anxious to go home. Closing down the store really sucks. Perhaps it was because of the lateness of the hour or the general feeling of agitation that incited this conversation. Perhaps it was because Shameka Thompson is actually an entitled, elitist douchewad with little regard for the feelings of others that led her to say what she said. Whatever the case, there was no taking the words back now.

The majority of the cashiers had noticed a difference in the attitude of our clients after election night had passed. They were downcast and despondent, where they are generally very chipper and affable. Investors also showed their displeasure with the re-election of Barack Obama by driving the Dow down 313 points just after he gave his acceptance speech. Our conversation of course turned to how angry White people were about having a half-white guy (or totally Black guy if you apply the 1% rule) in office once again.

“Oh well. They just need to get over it!”

“They ought to be ‘shamed.”

“I can’t believe how racist some of these people are!”

Some of the comments were whispered, others spoken loud enough to carry across the store in wanton disregard for who might hear them. It’s not racist when we say disparaging things about race relations – it’s racial indignation. Big difference there, you see.

So after all this talk about race in America and how more divided Blacks and Whites are now than any other time in recent history – at least politically – I was surprised to walk into this conversation between my two co-workers.

Shameka Thompson is a 23 year old college graduate. I couldn’t tell you where she went to school, but I CAN definitively tell you that she is an AKA and a label whore. I applaud anyone who has standards for clothing and invests in quality attire, but it’s irritating beyond measure when a person becomes solely defined by Gucci, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. I would describe her as a little darker than a brown paper bag and a solid size 8. She’s cute. Not breathtaking or beautiful…just cute. I don’t think anyone would give her a second glance if she walked down the road.

Carl Smith is a fairly new employee, having only been with the company 4 months. He moves the freight onto the floor and rings customers up when our lines begin to snake around the register. He’s an affable guy with a snarky sense of humor. We get along very well. I call him “Glitter Cheeks”. He and I are the same color: dark brown. This is important to remember.

“So what you saying then?” Carl laughed. “I’m not your type because what – I’m a man?”

“No,” Shameka said, rolling her eyes and neck. “You’re not my type because you’re dark skinned.”

She spat the words “dark skin” as if someone had shoved horse poo in her mouth. I was aghast. I looked at Carl as she said the words, and saw him wince slightly. I felt horrible – and incredibly ashamed of Shameka. I looked at my iPhone to make sure this was 2012, not 1912. Yup. Right century, wrong attitude.

Knowing Carl, he was probably making a joke about something that had nothing truly to do with dating Shameka. They were standing at the cash register, so it wasn’t as though this was a private conversation leading up to a proposal. They may have been talking about the weather and suddenly ended up discussing relationships. You know how it goes. So for her to wantonly throw out a color insensitive statement in what was probably idle banter was cruel, uncalled for and racist.

I stared at the pair of them, wondering what to say next. My mind immediately went to Twitter, where for a few weeks there were two topics trending. #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin. Who were these incredibly idiotic individuals touting something as insular as the color of their skin…something – like gender – that was a mere circumstance of their birth and completely out of their control? If there had been a #TeamMan or #TeamWoman battle being waged on Twitter, NOW would be up in arms claiming evidence of a true “war on women”. But no, it was just a few thousand silly Niggroes being silly Niggroes, so it was perfectly alright with the rest of America.

 I absolutely couldn’t believe that someone so young and a (self-professed) deep thinker could have such archaic views about her own race. Sure, when I was 8 or 9 years old in the 80’s light skin men a la Taimak and Shabba Doo were all the rage; but then we grew up and discovered the yummy deliciousness of Idris Elba and Morris Chestnut. Unlike Black men who are generally stuck on “light skin and long hair”, Black women have learned to love Black men of all hues. Or at least I thought.

I quickly sought out another employee to tell her what I’d heard from Shameka’s glossed lips.

“Yeah girl, she don’t like dark skinned men at all,” she confirmed.

Well what are the other implications of her color complex? Does she feel like she’s better than other women who are not as light as she is? I was completely baffled, even more so because I wouldn’t truly consider her to be “light skinned”. She’s about the same hue as Janet Jackson (though again, not nearly as attractive.)

I asked some of my White friends if they experienced or witnessed discrimination based on hues within their own race. White people, just like Blacks, are not just “White”. They have olive skin, lily white, peaches n’ cream and tan complexions. None of them have ever heard someone say “Oh NO. I will never date an olive skinned woman/man.” How silly would that sound? At worst, they eliminate potential partners based on weight, social class or gingerism (which is another topic on its own). But skin color within the White commutiy?

“LOL! C’mon girl. You know we don’t do that sh*t,” said one of my Caucasian friends.

What an apt description.

Come on people. Let’s get off the plantation. Choosing teams based on light or dark skin bring us closer to the cotton fields than I generally like to be.

Do any other races do this? Indians and Pakistanis may be the worse for sure, but I can’t think of anyone else who does.

 

Why I Am Satisfied With an Obama Win

You know, sometimes I truly feel trapped by my culture. In my head and in my spirit, I have defined myself as an individual: a degreed Ghanaian-American with a family and goals of joining the literary elite. However when I step outside of the doors of my house – or venture into the world of the internet – I suddenly become a mere “Black Woman”. And as a “Black Woman”, I am expected to hold certain Black principles, or face the derision of those within my culture. Allan West, Stacey Dash, Condi Rice and even Colin Powell (before he switched allegiances) are all proof of that.

But I’m Malaka, and it is without apology that I make it very clear that I do neither support Barack Obama nor the principles of the modern Democratic Party. However, because I live in a Black world, I am satisfied that he got his 4 more years. Don’t get too excited. The reasons are not as noble as you may think. Barack Obama is the only one who could save my Black Christmas.

The thing I’ve noticed about Democrats is that they are sore losers. They do not handle defeat very well at all. I remember when Al Gore lost to George Bush in 2000, he disappeared in a self-imposed exile, only to turn up months later looking absolutely haggard. He’d gained a horrible amount of weight, grown a grisly beard and looked like he’d been sleeping in a dumpster for months after the results were announced. I was shocked. But as bad as being a spoiled sport is, Black Democrats exhibit even worse behavior in the midst of victory. I have NEVER seen a group so ungracious as the other party concedes defeat. My Facebook wall in inundated with silly memes and photos that threaten to ruin my celebratory November 7th…but I won’t let it.

How childish.

I have bigger goals in mind for the long term, and those goals are making sure that my family has a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Ironically, Barack Obama’s retaining of his presidential seat is the only way to ensure that joy reigns over my yuletide.

Since the president has yet to put the economy back on the wheels of real recovery, my family – like many others – has only one income to support us. We’re blessed all the same. Many Americans are still living hand to mouth after losing jobs years ago and haven’t regained their economic footing. With limited dollars at our disposal, I am unable to give my children the lavish Christmases that they became accustomed to so early in life. The ONLY people capable of doing that now are their grandparents…and nothing ruins Christmas like surly grandparents.

Now that Barack Obama is certain to reign the country and the world for another 48 months, Christmas is sure to be jolly indeed. You haven’t seen misery until you’ve sat around a dining room table filled with angry Democrats. This year, because their beloved president is still in power, there will be a little more cobbler and perhaps an extra slice of rum cake for all in attendance at this year’s festivities. Had Mitt Romney won I could see my in-laws and relatives claiming deprivation and lack because “Cancer-Causin’ Romney” killed all the Christmas turkeys with his evil wealth rays.

Happy Democrats are more apt to give than politically unsatisfied Democrats, and since my world is largely Black and Democrat, I suppose this is the better outcome for me, no matter how much the failures of either entity may offend me. For heaven’s sake, Black people even voted against the charter school amendment. It’s like the population craves depravity and failure!

 So thank  you America, for saving my Black Christmas. 14+% of the Black community are still unemployed or underemployed, but at least we have a president with swag. Because, you know, all you need is swag to lead a nation, pay your bills and educate your kids. Not a plan; just swag.

Spare me.

But none of that matters, because guess what? There’s even better news for the POTUS:

Yayyyy. The president is getting laid.