Monthly Archives: August 2013

It was a Booty-Booty Weekend

Lawd have mercy.

This isn’t what I wanted to write about this Monday. I wanted to discuss something with substance… something that was going to make us all think, and ponder, and turn to inward reflection and contemplativeness.

Unfortunately, the fodder I was fed this weekend forced me to contemplate things I’d rather not have. Like Miley Cyrus grinding all up on Robin Thicke in a display so vile it elicited this reaction from the entire Smith Clan.

will-smith-jaden-smith-willow-smith-jada-pinkett-smith-lg

mileyWhere was Paula Patton?? Why didn’t she jump the stage and slap Miley Cyrus silly??? Surely this moment warranted a dirty slap? And who let Miley disrobe herself in such a classless fashion? Sure the likes of Beyonce and even Marilyn Monroe have disrobed themselves and donned barely there threads; but Miley’s skin toned short and bra combo left her looking oily and cheap… like she was covered in an unctuous sheen, the type that only can be achieved by bathing yourself in oxen fat. That’s an image that is seared in my consciousness forever!

Speaking of booties, I’ve been trying to work on reducing the mass and habitable space that it requires to survive. I have thus turned to azonto as my work out regiment of choice. Since azonto is from Ghana, a quick Google search led me down a rabbit hole of other Ghanaian things. That’s when I was confronted with this image.

kente booty

And this one.

booty 2

And THIS one.

b3

Ah! Each picture was dealing a killer blow to my self-esteem. What kind of slender hip to waist ratio was this? It is the American media’s job to make me feel like my beauty, such as it is, is sub-par, not my African sisters. What was this?!?! We are supposed to stand in malnourished solidarity, whether that means languishing in hunger or stereotypical obesity. Then come all these healthy women with shiny skin and bright smiles to match their bright African print outfits… It was disturbing.

Fortunately, someone brought a warning issued by the US Embassy in Ghana to my attention, so it took my mind off the Arse Fest that was erupting all over my television and phone screen. Apparently, this is the week that Ghana (or its metropolitan areas including Accra and Kumasi) is supposed to go up in flames. For those who don’t know, the Supreme Court is giving its ruling on the outcome of the contested 2012 presidential elections this Thursday, and the Americans think we’re going to act the fool. Please.

They did the same thing when the George Zimmerman verdict was being read too, you know. Scoured social media for threats of violence. Sent undercover officers into the community to discover who was planning mischief. Laid out strategic plans within the police force to viciously quell any upheaval. But shockingly, astonishingly – ANNOYINGLY! – there was no such anticipated riot after the “not guilty” verdict was read. Rather, there was a collective clutching of the breast. The wind was knocked out of us (save the few serf-minded idiots who sided with the verdict), we clicked our tongues, wept, and went home.

No matter how hard you try to train a fish tricks, it will never be a dog. Just because the American government does (and always has) treated Blacks like animals doesn’t mean we are.

Now that Ghana is facing a similar test, they presume to treat us the same way. I hear they are telling their citizens to be watchful and to take extra precautions ahead of the Supreme Court ruling this week.

africa2“Get your binoculars! The zoo animals may try to break out of their enclosures!”

At least, that’s how I interpreted the report.

Ah. These Americans.

Let me tell you something about Ghanaians and rioting. Rioting over disappointment is sooo last century; like 1983. Africans who go to court don’t then turn to riots to get their way! If the opposing faction, REALLY wanted to stir up some trouble after the election, they would have done so in the days following immediately in 2012. We are new millennium Africans! They will make their ruling, and the rest of us will carry on with living life as best we can – which means figuring out where the next meal is coming from or when they are going to cut off the electricity. You know, developing nation problems. Ghana isn’t the Congo you know! I fear the American’s will (again) be disappointed when we don’t resort to Banana Republic tactics to vent our frustrations.

What happened this weekend that was of note in your part of the world that was of note? Or was a booty-booty weekend for you too?

 

How One 3 Minute Video Pushed Me into the Arms of the GOP

Once upon a time in this country we call America, there was an institution called slavery. You may have heard of it; horrible thing it was… race based slavery. Within this institution, some of the most appalling and harrowing atrocities were meted out against people – men, women AND children – of African descent. We often like to package these atrocities into neat little bites for quick consumption when we talk about slavery.

Torture.

Rape.

Severing family ties.

But until you’ve filled your head with slave accounts wherein a woman describes how a fellow slave had to suckle her child because their master’s dogs ripped her breasts off her flesh when she tried to escape, or how a man had his right eye plucked out for talking back to an overseer, or how a boy as young as 8 was whipped within an inch of his life for not moving fast enough on the plantation, you don’t really get a sense of the “hell” that slavery was.

PNP248885Within this institution we know as slavery, Black men, women and children were powerless. Any hint of resistance was quickly quelled with brute force. This was re-enforced with beguiling words from scripture which said only good slaves – slaves who offered complete fealty to their masters – would please God and therefore enter into heaven. Heaven was the only escape a slave could hope for. Many a spiritual hymnal sung in the fields spoke of Heaven, freedom and going “home”. And yet, some dared to resist. We know a few of their names: Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth. There are hundreds of other renegade slaves who fled hell on earth ,whose names we will never know. But these we do know, and they are revered to us.

This is why what Russell Simmons did is so shocking.

I have made no secret of my admiration for Harriet Tubman, and this whole affair has caused me to see her life through new eyes. Just like the murder of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s eventual acquittal for that murder caused me to see America in a new light, so do I see my Black community differently.

When I think about Harriet Tubman, I think about a little girl who was hired out to work at age 5. She was routinely beaten by the woman who ‘rented’ her as a child. In fact, Harriet said the first thing her White mistress would do in the morning was beat her. How awful, I thought… but never once did I consider how Harriet’s own mother and father must have felt about this. To have your child taken away from you to toil and have her returned whipped and scarred – and have absolutely no power to say anything about it. Not a mumbling word in protest.

We do know that Harriet had several of her sisters sold away from the family, and when a slaver came to take her brother, her mother stood at the door with an axe vowing to bury it into the head of anyone who came into the cabin to take her son away. There was no sale that day or any thereafter. This was the first act of resistance that Harriet witnessed, she later narrated. It ignited the flame for what would become a life-long passion for the cause of freedom and equality.

As far as we know, Harriet Tubman did not suffer any sexual abuse, although she was routinely physically punished. Her master lobbed an iron weight at her head and cracked her skull; when she became ill she was not provided medical treatment; she was whipped. All along, her parents were powerless to whisk her away from the harmful and dreadful life she was born into. Like all Black men in that time, her father would have been unable to protect or repulse any White man who violated his wife or child. All he could do was stand and watch. I can’t imagine how her father must have felt. It was well documented that he loved his little girl very much. But thank God, at least she was spared the violation and anguish that comes with being sexually assaulted.

Until last week, of course. Because that was when Russell Simmons and his team decided to rape Harriet Tubman. You know my feelings on this. I won’t rehash them.

What was shocking to me following this incident was Russell Simmons’ glib and arrogant response to the entire series of events. What was further appalling was the virtual silence from our “Black leadership”. There was no public word of reprimand. No call for a summit on Black gender relations. No overt expression of dismay that a 57 year old Black man would do such a thing and call it “the funniest thing” he’d ever seen. Instead, there was a hallow echo of some surreptitiously sent email advising Russell Simmons to take down the video and apologize. Here at last was an opportunity for Black men to stand up and protect the virtue of Black women, and they chose to hide and say NOTHING. As far as I can tell, only Spike Lee had the guts to publicly condemn Russell Simmons, who in turn insulted the Oscar winning film-maker by saying “maybe he should spend less energy condemning me and work on making a decent film”. Arrogant prick.

When something this painful happens, and I am pained by what Simmons and his political/celebrity cohorts have done, it changes who you are. It changes how you think. It changes how you see people. And I have begun to wonder: have my allegiances, fleeting as they may at times be, been misplaced all this while? I tend to vote where my conscience leads me, and the Black leadership has made it abundantly clear that my conscience should lead me to vote Democrat and liberal ideals. Of course I don’t always do so, but I have adhered in the past. But why should I going forward? What objectives have the male, Black establishment laid out for women like me? Women who are college educated, well-travelled, world view minded, who conceive and keep their babies? Unlike many of my less fortunate sisters for whom the government is both father and husband, I have no need for many of the social programs that the liberal wing of our government hands out as a carrot. What is in it for me? Why should I support a group of people who does not support or protect MY womanhood?

This is why I say and ask this: In his ‘apology’, Russell Simmons said he is “a very liberal person with thick skin” and it’s hard to offend him. I look at this man, I look at his life and I see the roots of a pathology that has plagued my entire existence. With that one sentence, he instilled in me a very real need to vote Republican in the next election. I am saying this openly: I don’t care who the next Republican candidate is or what he/she stands for; I’m voting for them.

Russell Simmons and men of his ilk have built their fortunes on the naked, wiggling backsides of brown girls like me for the last 30 years. Somehow, he managed to convince just enough esteem-deprived sistahs that using their sexuality would help them get their “power back”. Tell me then – how many of these now-called video bitches and ho’s have gone on to become high powered CEOs, or start their own ventures, or even wind up as directors of anything within the Simmons empire? I’ll wait while you scramble for an answer.

It makes sense that Russell did not see anything wrong with this tragic attempt at comedy at first glance. He hasn’t had an authentic relationship with a Black woman since he wriggled his way out of his mother’s vagina. Mr. Simmons helped to create an entire culture that has destroyed the fabric of the Black family and community in the name of “free expression”. Whenever I hear a Black woman being called a “bitch”, it’s from liberal lips. Whenever I see a Black woman being chased down the street and hit, it’s from “thick skinned” hands. Whenever I see a dude hanging out on the corner pretending to be a rapper instead of being at home pretending to be a dad, the actions are being carried out by some guy who it’s “difficult to offend” (read: he doesn’t give a f*ck).

latifahAnd these are the people the NAACP throws their weight behind? This is the type of man whom our leadership circles its wagons around? This is the political ally of the liberal establishment?!This is an  architect of a culture so abusive towards women that Queen Latifah was compelled to pen U.N.I.T.Y in which she incredulously  (and angrily) asked “who you callin’ a b*tch?!?” in retort. This brand of hostility was so new to us! Who knew the day would come when being called a b*tch would be the so common place it hardly causes one to flinch.

Even Tavis Smiley – whom I respect greatly – had nothing to say publicly on the issue! But hey, as Michael Skolnik says, Uncle Rush has a “good heart”… which all, I suppose, it takes these days to be forgiven for assassinating and defiling a (black) woman’s character. You just have to have a “good heart” and fund raise for a couple of charities. I have already sent my apologies to Mitt Romney and Rush Limbaugh on behalf on the entire Black race – for they too I am sure are men who harbor “good hearts”.

My mother-in-law and a few others say I am being too hasty in this decision to turn my back on Black leadership for the short term, but I am resolute that I must be wooed back to center. “Give it time,” she says. “This is just one instance!”

Not for me. I’m 35, and my entire adult life has been marked by a culture that denigrates Black women, openly and unabashedly. I can’t think of another American art form that disrespects its women the way hip hop does. Not country. Not pop. Not rock. Not nuthin’. For me, this isn’t “one instance”; it’s the final straw.

Now, at least with the GOP I know what I’m getting into. There are certain tactics and behaviors I can expect from them. What I don’t expect is the same treatment in a different form. I’m tired of choosing between the lesser of two evils. If I must choose evil, I elect evil outright! I’d rather be mauled by a lion in the open savannah than bitten by a snake slithering in the brush behind me. And that’s exactly what Russell Simmons is – a snake – and his “buddies” at the NAACP are equally serpentine.

Holla at your girl when you collectively grow a pair; but in this moment, you just lost one.  I wonder what life as an openly Black Republican will be like?

Famous Americans Who Are (Probably) Ghanaians and Don’t Know It

I have recently become fascinated with doppelgangers and the idea that we, as humanity, are all connected in some way. The post I am about to share with you has been dismissed as far-fetched, but this is the Mind of Malaka, daggonit! If dubiousness can’t find comfort here, where else shall it go?

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, but that slimy troll – Russell Simmons, someone whom I’ve been content to dismiss for the last 20+ years – took up quite a bit of my keyboard time and gray matter. At the close of this post I’m going to initiate an African Diaspora Draft and propose that the Nigerians take him and deal with him. He is a master of 419, that Simmons guy… peddling his RUSH cards and poor quality clothes at high prices to the sheepish masses for his own fame and gain.

That said; Are you ready for the African Diaspora Draft? It’s time!

vanessaVanessa Williams recently went on a journey to discover what her genetic make-up comprises of and what her ancestral roots are. The results were shocking. She’s 23% Ghanaian and a smattering of other races and ethnicities. You can read about it hereA quick glance at Ms. Williams and you would agree that she doesn’t LOOK Ghanaian, at least not like any Ghanaians I know – but chromosomes don’t lie. She’s majority Ghana fuo. Probably a Fante. You know how they like those brofos3m things.

Of course, this got me to thinking about other visible African Americans and what their roots may be. I look around and see the distinct features of Fulani in some women and undeniable Wolof traits in more than one sagging trouser donning, gold tooth fronting area boy. Sometimes I’m tempted to run up to them and say “Hey! You have a village in Senegal. You probably have a cousin looking for you!” But then, this is Atlanta, and I stand a better chance of being knifed than they do getting on a plane in an attempt to connect with their roots. No matter. I’ve done the work for them and I have claimed the following celebrities for Ghana.

amos-gyekyeJohn Amos & Kwasi Gyekye

I mean, just look at their noses and the look of jocular nonchalance plastered on both their faces. These are men who have faced incredible hardship in one capacity or another but still have the fortitude to find the joy in life. John Amos. If you are reading this, you are from Larteh. Please go and buy some Schnapps and visit your people. A gift of apketeshie is equally appreciated.

kandi_burruss_abena-amoahKhandi Burruss & Abena Amoah

Khandi, I’d like to introduce you to your fifth cousin, Abena. Abena, here’s Khandi. You should both be pleased with each other’s accomplishments. Khandi is an award winning singer and songwriter, and Abena is an accomplished investment banker with an impressive portfolio. You both like money and are good with it. You should get to know each other and build something fantastic for Ghana. I dunno… maybe develop a new currency that sings? I’m just throwing some stuff out there. Khandi has singing vibrators in her sex toy line. Anything is possible!

mala-twinFranchesca Ramsey & Me!!!

This is by all means my favorite kinda-ganger (we’re not really TWINS), but we do share an uncanny resemblance. Plus, we have very similar quirks and facial expressions. Visit Franchesca’s YouTube Channel and you’ll see what I mean. She’s part hilarious, part silly, half serious and all amazing. Kinda like…

Who? Me? Oh, you flatter me!

john_legendI was going to do John Legend and Ashiatey Tei, but the boy has taken all his information off of the internet. I didn’t know you could do that! If there are any Motowners out there in tough with Ashiatey, tell him to stop being a spoiled sport and send me his picture for the Diaspora Draft!

Africans and African Americans: Who do you look like? Have you ever seen someone on the bus or at the grocery store and thought to yourself “Gosh. That person could be my kin!”?

Do you think any of the people above resemble each other, or am I presenting purple squirrels? Oya! My Naija brethren. Please don’t forget to come and collect your Russell Simmons. We don’t want unlearned iiiidiots in our country. Take him to Papa Wole so that he can learn him some small sense.

pic_giant_081613_SM_Russell-Simmons-Rape-Video-Clown

Share! Discuss! ↓

…. 11 hours later…..

john-ashiteyJohn Legend & Ashiatey Tei

Look what we have, courtesy of @a_aboagye and her impeccable stalking  sleuthing skills! Well done girl. John, meet Ashiatey. Ashiatey, you know John, of course. The pair of you have quite a bit in common. Mr. Tei is a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio and you’re a former resident of Springfield, Ohio! Ashiatey works in advertising – and you; well, you make hits and make middle-aged women swoon. What’s uncanny about the pair of you long, lost cousins is that despite time, distance and the horrors of the trans Atlantic slave trade that separated the pair of you, you STILL ended up with the same penchant for a peculiar sort of accessories: grey jackets and skinny black ties.

What? You guys thought I was talking about their dates? Oh grow up! John, if you’re reading this, you’re a Ga. And if you have an unexplainable fondness for canoes and the ocean, now you know why.

I Want To Help Russell Simmons Improve His ADD

As you all know, Russell Simmons launched his All Def Digital YouTube page this week with The Harriet Tubman Sex Diaries as the debut skit. Hilarity – shockingly – did not ensue. People were pretty darn outraged. I’m sure Uncle Rush did not understand why, particularly since the skit was the “funniest thing” he’d ever seen.

As is to be expected when any such debacle occurs in popular culture, Black Twitter went berserk with people quickly picking sides. I haven’t seen this much division since #TeamLightSkin / #TeamDarkSkin was trending. This time, something was different, however. Russell Simmons, champion of the arts and the artist’s rights, took down the offensive video after his “buddies at the NAACP” asked him to and offered a wack, half-hearted apology afterwards, blaming his folly (and the way we took it) on the fact that he might be missing “a sensitivity chip”.

I of course have been on a tear about this since I first watched the 3 minute skit. There are some things you just can’t un-see. Some people (who are now no longer) in my circle have asked me to give it a rest.

let it go

As with all things concerning us Black folk, many Black men have now somehow turned this whole Harriet Tubman thing on its head, claiming that it’s just another example Black women are trying to keep a good Black man down.

“He apologized. What else do you people want?”

You know what? They’re right. Russell Simmons is a self-proclaimed pillar of the Black community. Never mind the fact that he made the bulk of his wealth selling us cheap clothes at inflated prices and has spent decades peddling his RUSH Card with excellent service features including high fees and interest to low and lower middle income Blacks… or that his career was launched off of the veritable prostitution of Black women in hip-hop music. He’s a PILLAR, damn you! An upstanding citizen and we owe him our support! He apologized (LOL!) and we all need to just move on. Nothing should be off limits in comedy.

no cows

This is why I’ve come up with a few other skit ideas – you know, some plots and such – for our future entertainment on ADD. There should be no sacred cows when it comes to comedy, after all.

****MOM MODE*****

pow1Skit 1- POW Bondage Tape: There are 4 soldiers in a POW camp in some obscure desert/jungle. You pick your fancy – Afghanistan, Vietnam, Japan, whatever. It doesn’t matter, because the goal of ADD to present us with “irreverent comedy content”. For weeks, they’ve been tortured at the hands of their captors for refusing to give up vital combat information. Once every week (and they never know when *hahahaa!!*) one of them is plucked at random to participate in a mock execution… usually the scrawny guy least likely to defend himself of who looks like he’s the weakest. They do all kinds of things to his body – stick him with hot pokers, sodomize him with foreign objects, read him letters that say his wife and kids at home have died in a horrible fire. But one day the troops arrive and set him free! He’s on his way home – back to America, PTSD and all. Let’s by all means do a parody skit of his life in the years that follow.

gas chamberSkit 2- The Anne Frank Gas Diaries: Justin Bieber recently visited the Anne Frank House and wrote this in the guest log:

“Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Well, that’s just too bad… ‘cause poor little Anne died in a Nazi concentration camp. You know what would be hilarious? If Russell Simmons ‘n dem did a skit on how Anne Frank and all her gurlz were getting all dressed up for the big Bieber Concert, but had their hopes dashed when the Nazi Storm Troopers showed up at their house when assault rifles and a one way ticket to Auschwitz. God. Wouldn’t that be funny? The funniest thing you’ve ever seen??

Skit 3- Mohammed: Y’all must think I’m stupid. There’s probably an Islamic radical outside my house with a red dot trained on my forehead for even thinking it…

Female-genital-mutilationSkit 4 – Find the Clitoris:  What if – and this is just an idea, so stay with me – what IF we had a skit of a bunch of 4, 5, 6 and 7 year old girls all lined up in some remote village somewhere in Africa. They’re naked, save for a few waist beads or whatever it is primitive Africans wear. Why are they naked? Because it’s the day they become women folks! This is the day their clitorises get cut off and their labial folds get sewed SHUT. The funny part is (and this is SO funny) they get to keep their clitoris if they can find it in this bucket of other severed clitorises saved from girls who have been mutilated over the last thirty years. I’m cracking up over here!

Skit 5 – Stop Being So Dramatic and Just Kill Yourself: Okay, okay. So. There’s a girl. She’s 15 – only she’s a BOY, right? And her classmates have been bullying the crap out of her. She’s miserable. Every day waking up feels like a death sentence. What IF – just like Harriet Tubman in her Sex Tape – what IF she takes her power back -and shows those bullies they can’t get the best of HER – and walks into the assembly hall and shoots herself in the head in front of all the kids, the principal, the janitor (who is really upset because he’s going to have to clean all that up), everybody. Then we can do a parody of all the kids who have to go to counseling for the next few years and perhaps through in a dream sequence of all their nightmares for good measure. Maybe throw in some flashbacks and references to Sandy Hook?

*Whhooooo!!* So funny!!!

I have tons of other skits. How Elizabeth Smart really wanted it. How Oscar Grant would still be alive if he had just sat his happy self down. And if you want to get more contemporary, we can do a parody of all the people in Egypt who got up from their prayer mats on Friday and walked into a spray of bullets. Good thing they were ready to meet their maker! No better time to die than right after the salat. Hahahaaa!!!

Wait. Why aren’t y’all laughing?

Oh.

Because some things, perhaps, should not be made light of. And maybe – just maybe – just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should. Isn’t that what we tell toddlers and school kids? To practice some self-freaking-control? Why are we holding millionaires like Russell Simmons to a standard lower than we would a pre-schooler?

No. He does not get a pass. He needs to atone for this. Celebrities (and other people who follow their example) keep screwing up, offering us half-baked public apologies for their mistakes, and that’s supposed to be the end of it. You know why an apology of this sort rings hollow in my ears and many others’? Because in three weeks someone else is going to do something just as heinous. It’s a wicked cycle, and the perpetrators just don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes or changing their behavior.

In conclusion: if you’re an asswipe thinking about doing something similar in the name of “art” or “freedom of expression” here’s a piece of advice: DON’T.

Russell Simmons is a Bloody, Sold Out Idiot

You’ll have to forgive me for the rather ineloquent title. Unfortunately, “Ultimate Douche Bag” is reserved for someone else whom I loathe with unbridled disdain and “bloody, sold out idiot” just seemed apropos for the moment. Because surely, this is idiotic.

Have you seen this? This is Russell Simmons contribution to “comedy”:

Apparently, Mr. Simmons thinks the sexualization of a Black feminist icon by parodying the and very painful instances of rape that Black women and girls were subjected to, without hope of justice, as recently as 1950, is “funny”.

I watched the video and experienced a range of emotions.

Shock.

Horror.

Disgust.

Revulsion.

Sadness and pain.

Humor and amusement were nowhere to be found in that spectrum.

Here’s the thing about me and the formidable Harriet Tubman. I’ve blogged about her on more than one occasion because I encountered her very early in life when I was first introduced to the subject and history of slavery. I read “Roots” cover to cover at age 12. I visited my first slave dungeon by 10. I had been informed of the atrocities meted out on the people of Congo by the demented and satanic King Leopold of Belgium, whom among other things introduced mutilation as a form of punishment to the natives of the Congolese colony under his rule. Somewhere in there, I met a little girl named Harriet Tubman, who could have been me had I the misfortune of being born a just a hundred and fifty years before.

At age 8, Harriet Tubman was sent out to work for a white woman as child-minder for the new mother’s infant baby. When the baby would cry, the woman would whip Harriet in punishment. As a kid myself, I thought this was incredibly unfair and rather stupid. That’s what babies do – they cry.

When she was a bit older, she was hired out again to work for a fur trapper who used her to perform the most dangerous tasks of the trade. These included but were not limited to entering and submerging herself the swampy waters of the Georgia back woods in order to bring out the traps and their catch. I imagined (and certainly know now) that it was scary, unpleasant, back breaking work for a little girl.

By the time Harriet grew into womanhood she was working in the field doing the manual labor of a man twice her size. She was dark-skinned, not a house Negro. She knew the woods and understood how to move through it silently. She had a special bond with her father, who loved and cherished her. It was rumored that her lineage was that of the Ashanti, but there is no proof of that. The fact that she may have been from Ghana made her all the more special to me.

We didn’t learn about Harriet Tubman in school while I was growing up in Ghana. We hybrid kids had to memorize facts about her and other heroes of the African-American struggle for Kwanzaa plays and presentations at the DuBois Center in Cantonments. Facts like the two pound weight that she was struck in the head with for refusing to help a white man restrain his run-away slave and the coma she found herself in after having blood and sweat trickle down her face for two days never seemed to leave me.

Our lesson about Ms. Tubman usually stopped at the part where she led a few hundred slaves to freedom up North and never lost a passenger as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. As an adult I would discover that she served as a Union spy and had a distinguished career serving in America’s military as a scout and a nurse during the Civil War. She was promised a salary and compensation for her part in furthering the success of Lincoln’s army, which of course, she never received.

I found out later that she would also be called upon by women in the Suffragette Society to give speeches about her exploits and presented to their ranks an example of the strength of womanhood – a strength that men who ran American society long purported did not exist. And yet here stood this sinewy woman – brain injured and destitute – defying all that was said about her, her sex and her race. That she was a stupid beast of the field only fit for mindless toil and perhaps the drunken, violent advances of her white master or any man in a position of power for that matter. She was the very opposite. She was a cunning master of disguise. She had wit and foresight. She was graceful, kind and determined. She died in poverty so that others less fortunate than she could have at least some small comfort by virtue of sharing the little that she had within her possession.

And that – that is what makes Russell Simmons’ video so sickening to me. How can a man – a father of TWO daughters – overtly disrespect and denigrate the woman who laid the foundation for his own mammy to earn the right to vote and stand with her head held high in American society? How could he find humor in this portrayal of Harriet Tubman as the stereotypical obese Mammie-figure, riding and gyrating on her master while screeching in “slave talk” before culminating the whole ridiculous scene with an insipid “gotcha” moment?

“Ise got what you White folk call ‘leverage’. Now git ta buildin’ that Underground Railroad!”

And then out pops the camera lens… and this is where we’re supposed to laugh? Major fail, Russ. Dave Chappelle on his worst night wouldn’t have dreamt up this one. Dave is a genius… and this is whatever the unrecognizable, bastard, bowl-legged child of Wit is.

Of course, there will be some Black men who find this insanely funny. There are those Black men who take pleasure at the constant defamation and abuse that Black women of a hue this-side-of-brown face every day in America’s media and popular culture. Call it what you will – self-hate, mentally caged or whatever  – but this is the crop of scum sucking individuals who feeds the veracious beast at “media outlets” like Simmons’ All Def Digital (ADD), who unequivocally prey on Black, poor, disenfranchised women’s flesh to fatten itself before hunting down more high-end quarry to further their careers and the lives of their little networks. Had Russell Simmons first parody been of Hilary Clinton achieving the presidency in 2016 through the use of a sex tape… well, I don’t have to tell you what would happen next, do I?

But no. ADD’s debut video was of one of Black Womanhood’s most sacred sisters, which is easily done. After all, hip-hop as we know it was built on the literal backsides of buxom Black women and in the most disgusting forms. It would make sense for this hip-hop mogul to launch his comedy career on the legacy of one of America’s strongest Black women. That’s what we’re here for, right? To “take it”.

Your mother and all the women in your life, including your two little girls, should she ashamed of you, Russell Simmons. But I guess since they fall into that delightsome “browning of America” category you’re always so proudly touting (they’re not really BLACK, are they?) you have nothing to fear for raising their disappointments.

Mtssewwwww.

Just go back to making socks, or whatever it is you do, and leave the comedy to the professionals.

harriet-tubman-1

Rest in perfect peace, Harriet Tubman, and know that there are some of us who will never sit silent in the face of your disrespect; not while we draw breath!

Judge Changes Baby’s Name from “Messiah” to “Martin” and Ruins Christianity for the Rest of Us

There is power in a name. Would you ever jauntily walk up to Queen Elizabeth and greet her as a “cracker b*tch”? No. You’re going to courtesy and refer to Britain’s royal monarch as “Her Highness”.  You are going to respect her title and her rank. Think about next time you give someone dap and holler “Whuddup, NIGGA!” What are you saying about that person?

messiahBy now you’ve probably heard of Lu Anne Ballew’s decision to change a 7 month old baby boy’s name from “Messiah” to “Martin”. (If not, tadaa!: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57598088/tenn-judge-changes-infants-name-from-messiah/) Ballew is a child support magistrate in rural Tennessee. Baby Messiah’s parents were in court to determine his last name as part of a child support order, and upon seeing that the boy’s name bore the same title as that conferred upon Jesus by early Christians, she ordered his first name be changed as well saying:

“The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is why America is failing. America’s court system is being run by baboons in magistrate’s clothing. And as you well know, baboons do not read; they merely react to their surroundings.

The problem with Christians and Christianity today is that the vast majority of us do not read and certainly have no comprehension of our Christian history. For Blacks in America, we simply had Christianity thrust upon us as it was the religion of our oppressor. Part of that oppression was in stripping us of our identities, starting with our names and what we named our children. One of the first things slavers would is change the names of their captured human cargo from their African monikers to European designations before bringing them into the Americas for sale. One of the most famous of these is Joseph Cinque, who led the revolt aboard the Spanish slave ship the Amistad.

The practice naming a child is a carefully orchestrated event among people of African descent. We have naming ceremonies and consult elders and friends when choosing our babies names. A child’s name carries weight, and is believed to determine his or her future, and in some cases their longevity. I have a friend whose grandfather was named Samori and marked at birth with a blade to his cheek. Why? Because his great-grandmother had three babies die in succession, and the elders in their family came to conclusion that if they named the baby after someone so hated and reviled by their community, the ancestors would stop claiming her babies and calling them into the afterlife to be with them. Samori, for those of you who do not know, was a notorious slave raider from the Akuapim region who captured and sold members of his own clan. Obviously, there was some merit to the act. My friend is here to tell the tale.

Stripping an individual of their name is the genesis of robbing them of their identity and their freedom as a freely functioning, sentient being. Early African slaves tried to circumvent these restrictions creatively. And so they named their children “Quincy” for “Kwasi” or “Anna” for “Ama”. All names had to be approved by the master, of course. But by making their children’s name appear more Anglophone in their roots, they were still secretly able to keep some sense of home and appease their overbearing masters.

And while we may scoff at the appellations that many parents confer upon their children (Apple Martin and North West come readily to mind), it is still their right to do so. Because we live in a free country, that child also earns the right to change his/her name when they come of age.

Let’s take a moment to consider the names of the children I just mentioned: Apple and North. These are children of celebrities, who by virtue of their celebrity are shielded often from the long, invasive arm of the government. I can’t imagine a judge daring to call Gwyneth Paltrow into court with an order to change Apple Martin’s name for the sake of “sparing the child hardship because of the uniqueness of her name” as Magistrate Ballew did. The repercussions for the judge would be most unpleasant. Money and power protect you oppression – and that’s precisely what this judge is doing: oppressing a young mother’s right because she economically and socially disadvantaged.

Forcing one’s religion and culture upon another group in order to dominate them is not a phenomenon that Blacks alone have had to endure in this country. It is well documented that Polish and Italian immigrants had to adopt more Anglophone names in order to gain employment. People with Jewish names routinely discriminated against and subject to public derision. Individuals of Irish descent were often singled out for particular jobs in the service sector, because that’s all they were “fit for”. In short, if you were not Anglo Saxon and Protestant in America, you were more likely to be disenfranchised. The good news for all these groups is that discrimination against them is virtually non-existent today, because they all fall under the ubiquitous category of “White”. Are there categories for Irish/Jewish/Spanish on our census forms? No, of course not. You’re either White or not… and Black folk ain’t White.

The thing that is so irksome about this case is the crime that the judge herself is guilty of – which in my opinion is stupidity of the most felonious kind. She objected to the child being named ‘Messiah’ because only one person has earned that title: Jesus Christ.

Ah. Foolish woman.

Even the most barely literate Christian knows that a “messiah” is a savior, not THE savior. There have been several messiahs mentioned in the Torah/Hebrew Bible. A messiah is a deliverer. Moses, for example, was a messiah. Furthermore, the very culture who conjured the word messiah do not universally agree that Jesus was the messiah the Hebrew nation was waiting for!

It makes you wonder: what is this judge going to do the next time a Hispanic child called Jesus DeSantos comes into her court? Is she going to change the name of every boy-child that goes by the name of Jesus? The idea would be absurd for several reasons, one of those being that Jesus ain’t even really “Jesus’” name. There is no “j” in the Hebrew alphabet. There is “yud”. The guy we know as Jesus was actually born Yeshua (or Joshua). Are judges of particular religious leanings or beliefs then going to force all Joshes to change their names as well? Emmanuel means “God with us”. Should all Emmanuels be ordered to change their names as well?

Nonsense.

You see folks, this is what happens when Christians in power don’t read and understand the roots of their Christianity. Just like the stain of slavery, an institution with such despicable acts that they boggle the mind all done in the name of Christ, the stain of stupidity ruins the reputation of those who willfully call themselves Christian today. Islam is not immune to this either. For the wicked actions of a few, the entire Muslim collective is vilified in the entire Western world.

I have no doubt that Jaleesa Martin, Messiah’s mother, will have her case taken pro bono by some activist group from California now that she has decided to appeal the judge’s ridiculous ruling, which is a good thing. Given that things rarely change for the better for poor people in impoverished and rural American society, it’s going to take a good deal of external pressure to overturn this decision. But the damage has been done – yet again, the message and deeds of God, Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus have been made a footnote in the public’s consciousness as the focus turns to one silly individual who suffers from hubris and ignorance. And as we all know, those two paired together form a cocktail of disaster that takes generations to recover from. Of all the things for her to make a mockery of Christianity for, this has to be one of the most useless.

What do you think Reader? Did the judge get it right? Should we be able to name children whatever we want? We have heard of several cases where people have named their children ‘Satan’, ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Hitler’. Surely calling your child “savior” is not the worst thing you could do to him/her – hedonistic perhaps – but not awful.

Where is the line?

Feeling Some Way About Stone and Pre-K

Yesterday while I was at work, I saw a woman struggling under the weight of two boxes of men’s shoes. She was rail thin, with a gaunt face and chin length hair, the roots of which betrayed the fact that she was not born blonde with three inches of new growth. Her eyes darted around the store looking for something. I walked up and offered her a shopping bag.

“Here you are ma’am,” I said pleasantly. It’s part of my job to make pleasant conversation, so I continued with a pleasant line of questioning. “Those shoes don’t quite look like your style.”

I pointed to the size 12 Nikes and Clark boots now tucked away in her black shopping bag.

“What? Oh, no!” she laughed. “They’re for my son.”

“Ah… last minute back to school shopping, huh?”

“Actually, he’s going away to college. It’s his first year.”

She paused and I studied her for a bit. She had grown suddenly pensive and her watery blue eyes were cast downward.

“Are you ready for him to go?” I asked gingerly, trying to keep my voice light. After all, you never know how mothers are going to react to the idea of their offspring leaving the protection and comfort of the nest.

“Huh? Oh, yes, yes, yes. We’re ready! He’s ready, I’m ready… Everybody’s ready!”

She wounded a bit too enthusiastic, which led me to believe she was not being completely sincere.

“He’s the baby,” she continued. “His sister went away to college last year.”

I asked if he was going somewhere in-state and she informed me that he was going to university in Milledgeville, GA.

“That’s nice that he’ll be so close to home.”

“Yes. And he got the HOPE Scholarship, so that helped us out a lot.”

She was obviously very pleased with her son’s accomplishments, a be-spectacled boy of equal girth to that of his mother’s with a shaggy Justin Bieber haircut, circa 2010.

“You never think when you’re bringing them home in that little car seat that you’ll be sending them off to college so soon,” she murmured.

“Yeah… you’re right.”

I wished the young man luck at school and excused myself. Now it was my turn to be pensive. My thoughts turned to my own son.

You see MOM Squad, Stone started Pre-K today, and although Aya has pointed out to me that Pre-K isn’t “school school,” it’s just “pre-school”, it still marks a pretty significant milestone. Today he joins our public education system in earnest. His attendance and absences will be tracked. He will have incident and praise reports on file that matter. He has essentially flown the nest! Will he ever come back?

A quick glance at my clock tells me that I will pick him up in two hours, and if I had known how quickly the day would go by, maybe I wouldn’t have worked myself into such a frenzy yesterday. Oh, but you should have seen me. I was in quite a state. I chose three outfits for him to wear on his first day to school. I wanted something that said “Hey. Yeah. I’m a cool, casual kinda guy who likes to have fun – but I’m still serious about learning. These ABC’s aint gonna memorize themselves, you know.”

The yellow buttoned down polo and dark denim, complete with boat shoes (little boys in boat shoes mean no harm, after all) won out over the dinosaur and helicopter themed ensembles.

As you my dear, enduring MOM Squaders know, Stone and I have been through the trenches together and have managed to come out without destroying one another. He has been troubling me since Marshall made his deposit into my uterus 4+ years ago. Stone was an inactive baby in the womb, and would only move when he heard the sound of music playing – or drumming in particular. We don’t listen to music much in our house, which is why I would rally the entire family on Sunday mornings to make sure we got to church on time for praise and worship. It was the only thing Stone ever really responded to, and therefore the only way I could tell if my unborn baby was still alive.

That, and his insatiable appetite. If I didn’t eat often and on schedule, he was quick to alert me to his displeasure. He still does.

I’ve told you about the time I thought I was having a miscarriage with him.

I’ve told you about our epic battles.

I’ve told you about his Terrible Two’s and how they started at 18 months and didn’t end until his 4th birthday.

I’ve told you how I CAN’T WAIT for him to start school!

And now I’m telling you I wish I could go back and do it all over again.

Behold the faces of Despair and Irritation!

Behold the faces of Despair and Irritation!

Yes, that’s right. You hear me. I wish I could go back and at least recapture every knockdown, drag out, inane moment with my Stone and revisit them. Those days will never occur again. Why, just last night I tried to put him in my lap and cradle him as I had just done a year before. He was going to Pre-K the next morning for goodness’ sake! At least 2 miles away from the safety of our home. I was virtually sending my baby boy off to war! He didn’t seem pleased with my endeavor to capture the moment at all. Still, he humored his poor mother and sat stonily for the picture, scowling into the camera, of course.

I don’t know why I am feeling this way about sending Stone to school. With the girls I was just fine – eager in fact. For them, it marked the first step in launching them into womanhood. Get a good education, become really (really) smart, and defy all the odds. You know: All that Sheryl Sandberg stuff.

But with Stone…

Sigh. I couldn’t even see him off today. I had to send Marshall to drop him off for his class, for fear that I would make a complete mockery of his first test of manhood with my teary eyes and long goodbyes. Marshall taught him to pee standing up and Marshall was going to have to take him away from his mother. If it were left to me, he’d still be seated comfortably on our porcelain pot to urinate and crocheting doylies for fun.

kente stoneBut I can’t allow that. I have to let my little boy at least have a chance at becoming a man, as much as I’d like to keep him small forever. It still sucks though.

Oh look! We’re 20 minutes closer to pick-up at carpool. Yay!!

 

 

Several of you guys sent your kids off to the first day of school or to a new grade this year. How did you cope? Was everyone excited? Do your emotions fluctuate with each new phase/grade that your kids enter, or so they remain about the same? Discuss! Discuss! ↓

 

An Open Letter to Ms. Naa aka Naa Adzorkor aka My ‘Cousin’

Ehhh, yes. Naa Adzokor. I sent you a tweet telling you how grateful or proud (I can’t remember which) I am that you have always stayed true to yourself. Ah yes, here it is.

naatweet

I wish I could say that my favorable estimations concerning your down-ness were borne from daydreams about you as a individual, but the truth is they came from a more sinister place – that place being my disdain for the homogenous appearance of the female Ghanaian celebrity populace. My appreciation for your appearance and demeanor was a derivative of much less pleasant thoughts. I know that as my cousin, this doesn’t bother you at all. This the way it’s been between us since 1988, when we conferred cousinship between us. I take shots at you, you take shots at me, and we guffaw about it publicly later. Women of our impressive girth and stature don’t ‘giggle’, after all.

If you can believe it, I was bored yesterday afternoon and went in search of some celebrity fashion. It turns out Ghana, unlike Nigeria, does not have a cohesive go-to online resource for lifestyle and fashion, which vexed me at first. Those damned Nigerians are always two steps ahead of us! Nollywood, oil drilling, azonto… now fashion blogs. We are always playing second fiddle to the Nigerians. Ah!

I’m digressing. Sorry.

So anyway, I did some random searches on Ghana fashion and people from our socialite/celebrity  show up in the results. After a quick scan through, I feel my blood turn to ice. Not even something cool like dry ice ooo… At least with dry ice you can make cool movie effects like fog and so forth. It was more like that  slushy 7 Eleven summer mix. Not pleasant at all.

Every single woman looks exactly the same:

  • A 6 lb shoulder length weave.
  • Four pounds of caked on make-up.
  • Lips slathered with red or pink frosting.
  • A ridiculously figure hugging dress. I mean dresses that were hugging curves tighter than Mandela embraced the end of Apartheid.

The first two times one sees this uniform it’s pretty cool. After the second 200, it comes pretty mundane. By the time we get to a thousand of the same Black woman doing a 3-point stance, staring dead on in the camera with a cascade of some Malaysian woman’s cast-off locks framing her face, you begin to wonder if this whole Ghanaian celebrity thing is a social experiment gone awry. Like, didn’t Mao Tse Tung force the entire nation of China to wear the same dress/uniform every day? Is Ghana now suddenly under some form of fashion communist rule and no one told me?

I mean seriously. We’re Black women. We can do anything (and I mean that in every sense of the word) with our hair. I mean anything. We can texturize it, straighten it, lock it, thread it, cornrow it, two- strand twist it, bantu knot it, and yes, even weave it. So why all this fascination with one aspect of the many wonderful things our hair can do? Why is every celebrity or aspiring celebrity running around the streets of Accra in a color blocked dress, wedge heels and a weave?!? Why is there so little diversity on the social scene?

This is why I appreciate YOU so much, and why I wish you were more visible. (I know, I know. You do radio for a reason. I’ve never asked you what that reason is. You can tell me later.)

You represent an aspect of Ghanaian beauty that is not often celebrated or even acknowledged.

msnaaNow, I’m only going to say this once, so savor the moment: I think you’re beautiful.

God that felt weird. Anyway.

You have deep ebony skin and eyes that dance and pierce when you talk. I have always been more than a little jealous of that impressively large head of yours that is filled with groundbreaking choreography and has a waterfall of carefully tended-to locks adorning it. I WISH I was brave enough to commit to locks. I can’t.

I think that’s what it all comes down to. My admiration for your look stems from your bravery to stay true to it. Sure, if you wanted your career to blow up you could lighten your skin, cut your hair and wear a sew-in… maybe even show a little tittie and leg for the camera every once in a while. But that’s not your thing. You have your own style which is a zany mix of eclectic, cool, and of course above all else, comfortable.

I am convinced that there are dozens of Ghanaian celebrities (and wannabe celebrities) who have bowed to the pressure to look a certain way if they want to command a certain level of respect. But they will never earn the type respect that you have garnered for yourself, and that’s a class of sexiness that many of these women will never know or experience. How sad.

In conclusion: Your face, okay? Being this nice to you is making my head hurt.

-          Malaka.

I’m Not Ready For My Child(ren) to Grow Up

I have (half) joked about how I can’t wait for my kids to grow up and start living independent lives. These people are now 3,4, 7 and 8, so their days of true independence are indeed quite, quite, quite far away.

In my imaginations, they are all well-adjusted, successful people, enjoying whatever occupation or profession they have chosen. They are healthy and live in nice houses. One or two of them have kids of their own. I have also conveniently, in the midst of those imaginings, skipped over the middle part: The part where I have to carefully orchestrate every breath they take in order to convert them into the type of Class A human being every mother hopes their child will be.

Master tattoo artists

Piano maestros

City planners.

You know – them folk.

So when my kids were tearing through the house delivering karate chops and roundhouse kicks the other day, I was perplexed. This is not how genteel people behave. I ordered them to calm down.

“Heh! Hehhh!!! Stop all that running! Stop all that screaming!”

That’s when I saw Nadjah drop to her knees and clutch her chest.

I rolled my eyes. Why is it no one is ever hurt until Mom or Dad says “stop all that noise”?

“What’s wrong with you, Na?” I asked tersely.

“Liya kicked me!”

“Oh yeah? It was that bad, huh?”

Nadjah nodded morosely and furrowed her brow. She was the picture of agony. So bloody dramatic, all the bloody time…

“And what’s worse, she hit me where I’m developing!”

She pulled down the collar of her t-shirt to expose what I consider to be a very flat chest. Seeing that I was unmoved, she pulled her collar down a bit further.

“See?”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed – right in her face. Then I pulled a move from my own mother’s Big Book of Horribly Insensitive Things to Say to Your Kid and promptly set about discounting her concerns.

“What development?” I scoffed. “Are you trying to say you have breasts?”

“Uh, well, uhh…” Nadjah tittered.

“Well, you don’t,” I said flatly. The something occurred to me. “And where did you hear about ‘development’?”

She stalled. I added a laugh to let her know it was okay tell me. I wasn’t mad, just curious.

“I heard about it at school,” she replied at length.

I didn’t believe her. I was sure Douche Bag had said something to her about her body, now that he’s back from “Afghanistan”. She had never mentioned developing any time during the school year!

I grunted and told her chest was fine and she was not injured. Then I sent her to go do something else, which she happily did.

Crap.

It’s time, isn’t it? She’ll be 9 this December. I got my period at 9. I was a B-cup by the following year.

Crap, crap, CRAP! It’s time for me to bust out the charts and talk to her about how her body is about to undergo changes. She has several friends, who at the tender ages of 10 – 12, are already “developed” and I’m certain she’s eager to join their ranks. I on the other hand would gladly do every and anything I could to prevent this from happening.  It makes me terribly uncomfortable to watch this crop of girls whom I’ve fed popsicles and crackers to for the last five or more years becoming young women. It’s too soon! Much too soon!

pitsHow am I going to tell my darling rising third grader that she will soon be bleeding out her behind at the most inconvenient moment? How am I going to tell her about cramps, menses calendars and trackers and how the moon affects when and how heavy you bleed? How am I going to comfort her when her chest ACTUALLY begins to hurt because her mammary glands are in overdrive? How am I supposed to explain that she has to go through years of research and dozens of products before she accepts that her acne is just not going to go away until she magically turns 17 and her hormones somehow balance themselves out, or that the musty smell emitting from her pits is just natural for a girl her age and can only be masked by a heavy dose of deodorant? How, how, how?!?

One thing is for sure. I won’t be doing it the way my mom did it: which involved a hot Accra day, a couch, and a tampon wedged between my perspiring legs with no warning of the pain to soon follow. Sorry. I should warned you about that one. Now that image is going to be stuck in your head, isn’t? My bad.

Why can’t we skip all this unpleasantness and just go to the part where I’m driving her off to college?

Okay MOM Squad. I know a few of you have older girls. How did you prepare them for life as a “developed” young lady. Were there online resources you used? How many of you just buried your head in the sand and pretended it never happened? What do I do?!?!?!

 

Of Stolen Bikes and Other Crushing Disappointments

I grew up poor although, I didn’t know it. Not in the sense that one knows they are female or knows that you can’t spend a day without air. I didn’t have certain knowledge of my poverty; just a peculiar inclination that my family was not rich. My mother used to drop hints like “we can’t afford that!” while we were out shopping, which helped me form a frame around the reality of our financial status. Actually, I thought we were quite fortunate and certainly blessed. Every week, a really nice food fairy would drop off a crate of cereal, milk and peanut butter by our backdoor. I saw his truck once, when I’d woken up extra early.

Poverty means different things to different people, and poverty – or wealth, for that matter – can shape a person in a myriad of ways. My family lived on the cusp of poverty, which meant some winters we burned a coal/wood stove to heat the house instead of turning on the gas or that we rarely got new things, clothes in particular, unless it was for some very special occasion.

Living within such meager means turned me into a creative person, I believe. Our house in Columbus, Ohio was built some time at the middle of the 19th century. It was my mother’s grandfather’s house. It was old, but it was sturdy. I can’t remember what it smelled like, or if it had a smell at all. My parents couldn’t afford to take us on exotic excursions, and truth be told there isn’t that much for a kid to do within the city limits of Columbus. We had to make our own fun. Our two story house had seven rooms on the lower level: a living room, a sun room, a middle room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a mudroom. If you counted the full bath that was adjacent to the kitchen there were eight. The middle room was just that: a middle room in the center of the house. It was blanketed with ghastly royal blue carpeting, the likes of which I have never seen since we left my childhood home. My sister and I used to pretend we were mermaids and dive from the sofa onto the floor, swimming past whales and other marine life. Cardboard boxes were always welcomed, as we would transform them into a fort, a train, a castle or whatever structure a pair of scissors and a box of crayons would allow.

I always wanted to go to ballet class, but my mother informed me that I was “too fat to be a ballet dancer,” while casting a disparaging glance at what I suddenly considered to be a very fat arse. I now realize that she really meant she couldn’t afford it, but rather than admit her own fiscal dearth, she opted to assault my self-esteem.

Instead, I contented myself with wrapping a towel around my waist and pretend it was a tutu, standing on my tip-toes like a ballet dancer and prancing around my shared bedroom in secret.

But then, Christmas would come around and everything would change. Everything was new. My grandparents would spoil us with the latest doll on television, Kid Sister et al. We all three had at least two changes of new clothes. And then there was the best present of all: a shiny new bike.

In the 80’s, bikes didn’t come preassembled. At least to my knowledge they didn’t. Our bikes always come in a jumble of puzzle pieces in brown cardboard boxes stamped ‘Huffy’. On Christmas morning, my dad would bust out his wrenches and painstakingly piece together every screw, bolt, washer and pedal until thirty some minutes later, a bike – an actual, never ridden before bike – sat in the center of our living room. Ohio winters being what they are, we really couldn’t do much riding until the Spring and when spring came, boy did we ride!

mrt2Although I would have liked to, our financial predicament did not allow me to indulge in prissiness, so at age seven I pursued tom boyishness instead. When warmer weather finally came, I donned my shorts and my sneakers and rode around the neighborhood like a girl gone wild. My dad used to work two or more jobs and brought home a magnet from one of his exploits. Mr. T had a new cartoon out, and I imagined I was a part of his team. I put the magnet on my right handle bar, pretending it was a wireless transmitter and rode around the neighborhood, calling into home base for instructions for our next mission. I was thrilled. It was warm, I had a new bike, and life was good.

Finally, I got thirsty and went inside to get a drink. I had no desire to stay inside, and was confident I could drink and ride at the same time. When I swung open our back door with my plastic cup in my hand I made a beeline for my bike.

But it was gone.

The magnet was on the ground – but my bike was GONE.

You can only imagine the devastation I felt. I can’t imagine the devastation Aya is going to feel when I tell her someone stole HER bike this morning.

We are probably only slightly better off than my parents were, but I have made a decision that my children will not feel their disadvantage so acutely. Aya just turned seven this July, and for the last two years, she has asked for a new bike. Finally, Marshall and I saw the need for her to get one. The seat was worn, the hand brakes no longer work, and the princesses emblazoned on the side now look like grungy paupers. We set aside money to invest in the one thing this child of ours has asked for consistently.

aya bdayAya and Marshall share the same birthday, so he made her bike buying experience a special one. Marshall hardly gets one-on-one time with the kids, and Aya in particular, who gets the hand-me-downs of everything, including time, is always grateful to be the focus of our attention even briefly. First, he took her to IHOP (because she loves eggs and pancakes) so they could have their own special daddy-daughter breakfast and then took her to the store to choose her very own bike. It was candy coated pink with bright white wheels.

“And look, Mommy!” she exclaimed gleefully when Marshall got it out of his trunk. “It has THIS!”

‘THIS’ was a kickstand. (Her other bike didn’t have a kickstand. She had to lean it against a wall when she was done riding.) I watched as she struggled to get settled on the contraption which was significantly bigger than her previous two-wheeler and eventually take off around our cul-de-sac. Her braids floated behind her and she had the most contented grin on her face. It was a heart-stopping delight to watch her ride.

She only had her bike for 13 days.

A hole where a bike once sat

A hole where a bike once sat