Author Archives: Malaka

Okri vrs John: Rrrrrumble in the Literary Jungle!!!!

Note: This is a very serious subject, but I honestly can’t bring myself to write about it seriously. I jigga too much. I’m too excited!

Hol muh Guld! Is Jesus dashing Kwanzaa presents so soon? You know today is Kujichagulia (Self-determination) on the Kwanzaa calendar; and how apropos, since two authors went online to duke it out over what it means to be a African writer , and more importantly, a prolific African writer. Where we as generic Africans are concerned, there are certain themes and causes that inspire us to go to war. These include religious dominance, land, tribalism and political affiliation. It’s rare that we wage war for reasons outside of those realms. But my lawd, when we do, it’s a wonder to behold. Have you seen two poets/novelists go at it over art? Not since Achebe and Soyinka. Hei!

This morning, Ben Okri published an article on The Guardian entitled “A mental tyranny is keeping black writers from greatness.”  His contention is that African writers are too preoccupied with certain subjects, like poverty, war and yet more poverty:

The black and African writer is expected to write about certain things, and if they don’t they are seen as irrelevant. This gives their literature weight, but dooms it with monotony. Who wants to constantly read a literature of suffering, of heaviness? Those living through it certainly don’t; the success of much lighter fare among the reading public in Africa proves this point. Maybe it is those in the west, whose lives are untouched by such suffering, who find occasional spice and flirtation with such a literature. But this tyranny of subject may well lead to distortion and limitation.

As an author myself, I read it and thought he had a point. I agree that we do need to diversify the themes and types of writing we as African writers do. African centered romance, mysteries and sci-fi are gaining more notice and momentum in the literary space, as the literary field where these are concerned has been left wide open for centuries. The void is being filled with the likes of Nnedi Okorafor and Marguerite Abouet, but not fast enough in my opinion. For example, I have often gone in search of humorous or witty novels written by Africans and come up empty handed. The novels that are easiest to find are those with themes centered around that Mr. Okri expresses his exasperation about: war, poverty and suffering. Therefore, I was all ready to crown him as King of the Interwebs for the Day for his thoughtful analysis and keep it moving.

And then Elnathan John brought himself with this series of tweets. (Start from the bottom):





Oh, dear. Oh my! Did he just say something about big roosters and riding high? Yes, he did…

Suddenly my view was switched and I found myself in support of Mr. John. Obviously Mr. Okri was not insinuating that African writers NOT tackle these ubiquitous (albeit dull and heavy) subjects, but it can’t be denied that he suggested that they would be lesser for it. And that pretty much pissed Elnathan off. For those unfamiliar with the two, Elnathan John is more of a man of the people, whereas Ben Okri would be considered a high brow Returnee.

Bwei! Talk about a war of words!

It remains to be seen if Ben Okri will respond to this series of (not so) sub-tweets. Chances are if he does, it will not be in the public arena – which would actually be a shame. I think we would all benefit from a public discourse on the matter. As both a reader and a writer, it is frustrating that they only sort of African writing that garners international acclaim or notoriety is invariably centered around child soldiers, overcoming the effects of FGM and abject poverty. Why are international audiences so ready to reward writers who dedicate hundreds of pages of a tome to these subjects, rather than love, sex or dreams of space travel? Chimamanda’s Purple Hibiscus was no less brilliant than Half of a Yellow Sun, but it was the latter- a story centered around a brutal war, rather than a coming of age story of an adolescent child – that catapulted Ms. Adichie into the renown she enjoys today.

So who is right? Ben Okri or Elnathan John? Does the African/black writer have an obligation to shun the themes that the West rewards us for writing in order to create “art for the ages”, or is it the job of the African writer to keep on writing these tales – and documenting our truths for as long as necessary? Which would you rather read?

Discuss! ↓



I Have a Gray Hair on My Vagina

Yes, yes. I know. “TMI”. Get over it. I’m having a crisis! Let’s deal with this.

When you’re a kid, there are certain things in the human development cycle that your parents have the foresight to prepare you for (if they are good parents). They warn you about the evils of wet dreams that may result in nocturnal emissions. Your dad may have beamed with pride when you began to point out the fledgling follicles that adorned your face like pepper flakes on a scrambled eggs. Perhaps your mother ran out to the store to purchase a bucket of Noxema to stave off the inevitable onslaught of teenage acne. And ff course, every girl remembers that terrible moment her underwear was unexpectedly stained red with Nature’s version of pungent tomato sauce in the middle of gym. Through it all, there was a book, a pamphlet, a prepared and well-rehearsed speech that either your parents or some beloved guardian delivered to you. It was scary, but you were ready and armed with knowledge.

So why didn’t these people prepare us for gray pubic hairs??? Why was there no pamphlet or pep talk to prepare me for this moment? The ancestors have failed me! I feel…I feel power draining from me…

I discovered the little gray hair quite by mistake. I have no idea how long it had been hiding between my legs, like a sneaky bandit, waiting to shock me with its presence. I was standing with my leg over the toilet shaving my lady bits with hubby’s clippers. He has three sets: one for his face; one to barber his hair; and one he has had to designate for lady bit trimming ever since the day I used his face clippers for what I just told you I was using them for.

Anytime you have a sharp, high voltage device near your delicate labia, it behooves you to take the utmost care when the situation necessitates that meeting. So there I was, bent over the opening of the toilet, fascinated by the sight of my coarse and curlies descending into the porcelain bowl, when I saw it. There were many things falling into the toilet from betwixt my legs, and “it” was not like any of the others.

Oh God. A gray hair!

I was horrified.

Marshall of course thinks it’s no big deal. He thinks it’s “cute”. Of course he would. He thinks the permanent keloid underneath my kangaroo belly – courtesy of four C-sections – is “cute”. I could have cut him when he offered his “support” with those words. One gray hair means that there are more to come. Like a scout ant in the sugar dish, it is never alone.

bride-of-frankesteinI have always wanted gray hair. When I was younger I thought it was distinguished and looked forward to turning 50. At 15 I imagined my future self. I’d have a slamming hot boy, a shock of gray hair on my right temple. Instead, I am approaching 37 eighty pounds overweight with one gray pubic hair on my vagina. What is this?!?

I have no other words. No analysis. No epiphanies to share with you. I believe this is a cruel joke that my parents, aunties and uncles have played on me. Everyone freely spoke about the pain of childbirth, the difficulty of keeping one’s marriage together and how hard they had to work to keep the lights on in your house. NO ONE has ever talked about the horror of discovering that your poontang is aging. It ain’t right. Some of you are dealing with this right now. You feel my pain. And for those of you who aren’t, laugh! Go ahead and laugh! When a gray pube sneaks up your butt, you’ll remember this post.

Discuss? ↓



How Do I Free My Daughter from the Culture Matrix?

M.O.M. Squad – dear, dear cabal of friends and strangers – I’m flabberwhelmed. (And, yes, that’s a real word. Because Jayden Smith.) I am literally spinning in cyclone of confusion. I don’t know what to do about my sweet Black baby girl; and wonder if I should do anything at all.

Over the years, when pop culture hasn’t dominated the talking points, we’ve talked about the challenges of raising children of different races and abilities. You guys who still have yet to raise children of your own have been gracious enough to chime in with your unique perceptions, observations and suggestions. Every parent does and will struggle with some aspect of their child(ren)’s personality, quirks and capabilities. I have had the honor of adopting a number of ‘nieces’ and ‘nephews’ born to women I have yet to meet in person, but who I consider friends. Some of our kids have delayed speech or are non-verbal altogether. Some of them are exceptional students but struggle with social interaction. Some don’t try hard enough at school. Each of us has our own weighty cross to bear, but for the most part, we would all consider ourselves lucky to be parents.

My cross is my daughter Aya. Not Aya specifically, of course. Anyone who knows her is aware of how thoughtful and kind she is. The weight of my concern for her is attributed to the lack of confidence she has in herself, or in her blackness, to be precise. She lacks confidence in the abilities of Black girls.

Ebei. Raising a Black child in these United States is not easy o! Where do I even begin?

denciaWe’ve all read about/talked about/raged about the dominant European standards of beauty and how they affect the self-esteem women and girls around the globe. Anyone who had has ever had an opinion on this has taken a different approach to addressing this “problem” as it affects them personally or as it affects their child. Some women have gone so far as to bleach ALL of the black out of their skin or perm the kinks out of their 4 month old baby’s hair. On the other side of the pendulum, some people of color won’t let heat or a comb anywhere near their roots or the follicles of their children. As far as aesthetics are concerned, I believe we have come to some definite conclusions about how to deal with our perceptions of blackness and what Black beauty ought to look like. But how much time has been invested in developing the Black mind, or what it means to change the dynamics of what it means to think Black?

Earlier in the year some time in the spring, I wrote on my Facebook page about taking Nadjah and Aya to the salon here in Roswell. When we approached the building, the marquee had a picture of a green eyed woman with dark, tousled hair. I had already called ahead, and the owner assured me they styled “ethnic hair”, but even I was hesitant to enter the building with its rocking chairs on the front porch and Vogue-esque model welcoming us at the door. Nadjah scampered up the steps ahead of Aya and I and urged us to hurry up. Aya was frozen in her tracks, however.

“Mommy? Is this a place for brown people? Can we go inside?”

Before I could answer, Nadjah grabbed her sister by the hand and boomed “We can go anywhere we want! Segregation is over!”

That settled it. We went inside, they got a wash, blow dry and some cornrows, and everyone went home happy. Everyone except me, that is. What kind of messaging was my daughter receiving to make her think that she did not have the right to enter an establishment as innocuous as a salon?

I have done my best to direct my children towards critical thinking (although I often believe I am failing) and to have faith not only in God, but in their God-given talents and abilities as human beings. Nadjah thinks she’s invincible, so somehow the messaging has worked for her. But in Aya’s case, she doubts herself because she is Black. Hear me again: her self-doubt isn’t because she doesn’t go to a good school or have a great teacher – it’s because she thinks she’s only capable of achieving *this* much because she is BLACK.

Sally in the airWhen I wrote Sally and the Butterfly, I had Aya and kids like her in mind and was very deliberate about making sure that there were clues in the book about Salimah’s life that pointed to her being an 8 year old brown-skinned heroine. Mrs. Greenwood, her temporary caretaker cornrows her hair for her. When she is nervous, Salimah plays with her braids. Heck, I named the child Salimah so that there would be no confusing this child for anything other than a kid who had a fair amount of melanin in her skin. But when Aya scanned through the book and saw Sally outrunning ostriches, using tactical methods to outwit Orbeasts and navigating her way through an enchanted realm, my sweet baby girl looked up at me and asked: “Mommy? Is Sally brown?”

She was doubtful; doubtful that a little brown girl could do any of these things. If it were not, Sally’s race would never come into question. If Sally were blond with cream colored skin, we could read through her adventure and her race would never come up. I know this because we read lots of books with pretty white girls doing amazing things, and race has never come up once. But it did with Sally.

When I simply replied “Yes. She’s brown”, and left it there, Aya beamed and continued reading. But again, I was struck by how much this innocent question revealed so much uncertainty in my daughter.

I often hear/read people in the mainstream talk about how sick they are of hearing people of color – or Black people, to be blunt – kvetch about why we create web shows, magazines, etc. that focus on our blackness because we grew up looking at images that looked nothing like us.

“I’m a 300 lbs white man on crutches. I’ve never seen anyone in the media look like me!” I recall one Yahoo user snarling in retort to such an article.

Fair enough. But this man probably has a white steel worker, a hacker, a cook, a banker or what have you in his family, and these folks often get complex and interesting story lines on soap operas and Netflix originals that folk that look like Aya don’t regularly get! He at least has the benefit of relating to these characters…even if they don’t “look like” him.

I know that race and perceptions about intelligence matter to my daughter, but I just don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to give her. In her whole existence, she has only had one Black instructor – her current third grade teacher. It didn’t strike me as an issue until Aya mentioned this as we were eating popcorn one day.

“I like being in Ms. McNeil’s class, because she’s brown like me and she’s smart,” she said.

Ms. McNeils are in the minority in classrooms around the nation. I don’t know when Aya will encounter another brown face in education that doesn’t work as a custodian or lunch lady (and God bless them for their service!). I literally don’t know how to rip her out of this matrix.


D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” Saves 2014

D’Angelo has released his first album in 14 years. This is a phrase you will hear repeated again and again this week, and for very good reason. D’Angelo’s release of Black Messiah is exactly what America – and Black America in particular – needed in this hour. The reason is simple: As Fela Kuti said 30 years ago “music is the weapon” and few people wield its power with as much skill and authenticity as D’Angelo.

When I was in the Bahamas on vacation last year, Marshall and I took a tour around the island with a cabbie. He drove us to a number of the forts, to the 66 steps known as the Queen’s Staircase (an escape route hewn from fossilized coral for the rich planters by their black slaves), and to the wealthy estates and ghettos that exist side-by-side on the island. As he gave us a history of the island and the slave trade as it operated there, we compared notes. Our guide talked about what it meant for his ancestors to have overcome slavery in the Bahamas, Marshall gave his perspective as a descendant of American slave and I gave mine as a descendant of Africans who had endured the horrors of colonization. The history was similar and the outcomes not that different. Our race had achieved many fine accomplishments and suffered several failures that had set us back. Nevertheless, we still thrive.

“They are actually doing a study on how Black people survived the Middle Passages, slavery and segregation,” our cabbie said in conversation. “They say there is no way Black people should have been able to survive the type things that were done to them. No human being should have been.”

I know what he meant. He was talking about the seasoning camps where Africans were whipped, sodomized and tortured into subjection; about the selling off children, mothers and fathers and systematic separating of our families; about the hatred for our own selves that sown into our psyche by our captors. When the Arawaks – a tribe of Native Americans – encountered the Europeans who promptly set about enslaving them, they chose mass suicide over bondage with throngs of people ingesting poison and flinging themselves from cliffs, plunging to their deaths. Entire ethnicities were destroyed. By rights, we Africans in the Diaspora were entitled to the same release only death could bring, but we chose to live. African culture in its root form saved Africans from the sadistic manifestations of the European imagination, and there was one weapon in our arsenal that they never had the foresight to take from us: music and song.

When the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade was at its height, European traders and White American planters immediately and systematically robbed Africans of our identity; stripping us of our names, prohibiting the use of our mother tongue, and robbing us of the honor of styling our hair, the crowning glory for both men and women in that era. I don’t know if it was an oversight on their part, but they let us keep our food and song. Fish and grits and drums have sustained us on both sides of the Atlantic for centuries!

Africans in the Diaspora and on the Continent have used song and instrumentation the way much of humanity has. We used it to convey sorrow, mirth and encouragement. But we have also used them as a medium to convey messages and a call to arms. In time, certain songs like Go Down Moses and Steal Away were banned on plantations because they were signals for escapees to make their move. We used songs and hymns as strength to march during the Civil Rights era, and in Ghana – as I’m sure is the case in all independence seeking African countries – there were war songs with call and response formats to fortify the steadfast marches for independence.

dIn the summer of 2014, we saw some of the worst police brutality meted out against people of color than we have in years. An FBI statistic revealed that a person of color was killed every 28 hours by law enforcement officers. The tragedy is that many of these civilians were unarmed and not in the throes of any activity that should warrant death. These statistics mirror the rate at which Black men, women AND children were lynched in this country in the Reconstruction through Jim Crow eras. But where was our art? Where were our songs to serve as a balm to our pain? My parents had James Brown and Marvin Gaye to tell them to be Black and Proud and to ask What’s Goin’ On… we had the recurring tragedy that is Chris Brown to release an album and Kim Kardashian’s oily ass crack meant to serve as our sepulcher for our pain. Humph. So yes, D’Angelo’s arrival with Black Messiah is absolutely apropos and incredibly timely.

I have not heard the album yet, but the title alone has got me feeling all kinds of giddy. Plus it’s D’Angelo. Who can doubt his ability to deliver us? He’s a minister and high priest who lifts souls and drops panties. He is at once sensuous and serious. He explains without explaining the rage one feels in the face of betrayal and despair of receiving white chalk lines instead of justice. I haven’t the faintest idea what the subject matter of the album is at this moment (I will by week’s end, however!), but I like many other people around the world who have suffered grief wrought from death, loss and misfortune- or have kinship with people who have had to withstand these things- have felt a sudden burden be lifted off of us with just the news that D’Angelo’s album has dropped. D’Angelo’s music is for a certain generation; and that’s the generation who is out marching in the streets, who have birthed sons and daughters who are now of the “acceptable” age to serve as bullet fodder for a blood thirsty, militarized police force sanctioned to kill by local government and pardoned by a justice system created to protect them, and who – like our fore bearers – need a familiar voice to give us strength through melody to carry us through these dark times. We needed a lullaby, a lyric and war cry to tell us it will be all right.

Thank you for coming back in this hour, D’Angelo, when we needed you.

Year End Review – My last post for 2014

The woman who threads my eyebrows is from Iran. Last year, she told me that 2013 was going to be a “very bad year”. Numerology dictated that it would. She didn’t offer any predictions for 2014 and I’m not due to get a threading until next Friday, so I’ll have to ask her then what her take on 2014 was. Did the numbers lie? Was 2014 supposed to set everything to right that 2013 set out of balance? Questions!

Let’s review the year together, shall we? We’ll take it in the bits: The good, the bad, the WTF?!?

The Good

I started the year off in heaps of debt comprised of medical bills and student loans. By June of this year Marshall and I had all of our debts paid off. I also published 2 books this year, which made me pretty darn happy, and then I joined the Kpakpakpa Movement, which guarantees me success in all my endeavors.


Lupita-Nyongo-Light-Blue-Prada-Dress-Oscars-2014The world got to see a spectacular super moon, which was pretty cool, and Malala No Last Name Needed Because She’s so Dope won the Nobel Peace Prize. Lupita Nyong’o slayed the world of fashion and drama with her ebony beauty and grace. Gas prices are currently down below $3 a gallon (in the US at least) all thanks to President Obama’s leadership. I don’t know who he had to bomb or snipe to get us there, but it spells out a very merry Christmas for the Murrikans. The rest of the world is on its own.

Also in not so much world related news, God is still awesome and He is proving it through Eddie James Ministries ( which mentors, feeds, houses and rehabilitates the homeless and hopeless through worship. Like hardcore, you cain’t deny its power, behind the veil worship. I’m only sad I just discovered this ministry this year.

The Bad

In other God related news, “Men of God” in Ghana and across Africa are ruining the continent with their occultism, foolishness or a mix of both. The people include Duncan Williams, Dag Heward Mills, Bleach-faced/ Pregnant Belly Kicking Bishop Obinim (no really, he kicked an expecting mother in the belly to ‘heal her’) and Lesego Danie,l that dude down in South Africa making his congregation drink gasoline to prove their faith. People who believe these are actually men who hear from God are better off worshipping rocks.

A respiratory virus known as Enterovirus D68 swept through the Mid-West and Western regions of the US and sickened hundreds of kids. Children in Pre-K to third grade were particularly susceptible and a few lost their lives. This virus terrified American parents, prompting some to keep their kids out of school until it had peaked and was on the decline. But Enterovirus D68 had NOTHING on Ebola. Ebola scared the sense out of every living American. I have never seen such unfounded hysteria in my life.

Wait. That’s not true. Americans treated AIDS and obesity the same way a few decades ago. I’m talking “You’ll catch AIDS if you hug this person” and “I don’t walk in the shadow of fat people because I may catch some of their weight”. Ahhh, Murrika.

The WTF?!?!

As for the WTF dierrr, it was plenty. For a complete listing of WTF global events, go to Twitter and dig out a list of the following hashtags:

  • #BringBackOurGirls
  • #ICantBreathe
  • The blue eyed felonious criminal model dude
  • #ISIS
  • #MyDressMyChoice
  • #Ferguson
  • #Jollofgate
  • #CrimingWhileWhite
  • #ElizabethLauten
  • #AliveWhileBlack
  • The Unhinged Ugandan Maid (I don’t think she got her own HT)

2014 was a HORRIBLE year for human rights, and for humanity as a whole. I think human beings showed their collective asses in 2014. Look at the ghastly things we’ve done to the children in Syria and Palestine. Consider how we’ve failed girls in India who can’t even go to the bathroom without risking rape. From Nelson Baani to Oscar Pistorius, and now to Shrien Dewani, we see that men have been given the liberty to both promote and carry out the execution of women with little fear of reprimand or true consequences. 2014 was an awful time to be a woman – white, black or Indian – in Africa. In Kenya, men were stripping and abusing women in the streets in broad daylight. In Ghana, there were several cases of women being attacked by rapists as they went to the toilet. The stories covering violence against women and girls seemed to be endless, and the shame and heartbreak only piqued by governments and police forces who were too lazy or too unwilling to bring justice for fear of the loss of the benefits of patriarchy.

But as deadly as it was to be a woman in the developing world in 2014, it might have been even more so to be Black in America. Sweet heavenly Jesus doused in frankincense. How many street executions have to take place before America wakes up to the scourge that is blatant racism and selective police brutality? Gawker recently released a list of names of unarmed (Black) civilians who were killed by the police while doing some of the following activities:

  • Looking for help after a car crash
  • Walking up a stairwell in the victim’s apartment building
  • Playing with toys in the park
  • Standing on the street corner selling loosies

And because America’s justice system is unrighteous, unholy and clearly given to bias, each of these predators have (or will) go free, never to be prosecuted for their crimes. White supremacy still profits off of the bodies of Black men and women – from book deals to ABC interviews – supremacists still find a way to make a buck off of the blood of our children, sisters, husbands and mothers; and in 2014 the profit mill was in overdrive. It’s disgusting. But as tragic as these events have been the reaction to this sort of violence from a particular cadre of Black folk has been even more alarming.

I am trying to decide if I can (or will) associate with the purveyors of respectability politics in 2015. Honestly, I don’t think I can stomach it. Oh, you know these people. You may even be one of them yourself. Those naïve folks who think that as long as you have your pants pulled up, wear neutral colors, pronounce your R’s and don’t drop your –ings, you’re somehow immune to a police officer’s bullet or chokehold, or more likely to get a job. Niggro, please. There are at least 3 studies that have shown that a drop-out white male with a felony background is twice as likely to get a job than a Black male with no criminal record and a high school degree. And none of these Respectability Niggros has yet been able to explain why Henry Louis Gates Jr was cuffed and arrested while wearing a blazer and an argyle vest on suspicion of breaking and entering his own house. The man was coming through the front door with his own key. These are the same people who would confidently tell you that as long as you obey the officer – regardless of whether you know your arrest/detainment is unlawful – you will be safe. You idiots. Yes! Imbeciles! The man in this video was complying with the officer’s orders and STILL got shot.

These Respectability Niggros want Black Americans to give up all their rights for the sake of white harmony. That’s not harmony. That’s Jim Crow. You’re setting the race back 100 years.



In conclusion, 2014 wasn’t a great year; but even in the midst of all this darkness, there were a few points of brilliant light. Those lights go by the names of John Legend and Jessie Williams. I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed with any celebrity as much as I am with this pair. But as fantastic as these two may be, Franchesca Ramsey takes the crown when an exasperated Ms. Ramsey asks former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly what we need to do to “behave like good Negros” and to “please enlighten me on how not to get killed”. Ei. Sistah. We don’t say these things to white people in their faces ooo. We mutter them on BET and at the barbershop. The woman has Nzinga and Yaa Asentewaa blood coursing in her veins!

So, as we settle in for Christmas pie and pudding, let us reflect on what 2014 has wrought and how we can make it better in 2015. Happy New Year to you all, MOM Squad! I appreciate each one of you and wish you and your families nuthin’ but goodness and a joy/strength combo pack in hard times should they come your way.

Repatriation: Is Going Back to Africa the Solution?



This is something red-faced bigots used to scream (now they can conveniently type it on a keypad) whenever a person of color has the audacity to point out/complain about/ponder over America’s dismal race record and erratic application of justice. “Hey darkie! If you don’t like it, you can just go back to Africa.”

But how can you go back to a place you have never been to?

Black/African-Americans are Americans first and only. They speak English. They were born in one of its 50 states. If they were to be issued a passport for travel, it would not bear the seal ‘The Republic of Africa America’ on its shiny black coated cover. There is no ‘going back’.

That’s not to say Black Americans would not be welcome in Africa. Quite the contrary, in fact! Many of us want you to come back home. (Pause: I just realized this blog is going to be hard for me to write because of my hybrid birth status. Using the terms “us” and “you” feels so strange. Nevertheless, let’s carry on!) There is a place for you in Africa if you want it; and after the grand jury’s decision not to indict the killers of Mike Brown and now Eric Garner, many people are seriously considering repatriating to the Motherland and being more vocal about it.

wadeSenegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade has proven that he understands the diaspora’s connection to Africa, how slavery and colonization ripped apart families and the destruction of Black people, globally, has been systematic. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, he offered free land to any Haitian who wanted to return “home” in the wake of the devastation. I have no idea how many people took up the offer, because of course, it never became a major news story. The news was dominated by images of rape, hunger, suffering and the incompetence of western powers as they smugly distributed Monsanto grain instead of food rations. Showing Africa in a position of giving would destroy the Western media’s agenda, and could not be (and therefore was not)  tolerated. The story was buried.

I would love to see an exodus of the diaspora back to Africa. A good friend of mine has two canvases that hang in her living room of Black families on either side of the Atlantic. They are clad in white, waving to each other. They each have their arms stretched out, as if trying to reconnect after having been separated. It’s a beautiful image, but every time I gaze upon it I have to ask myself how practical it is? How easy or difficult would it be for Africans in the Diaspora to return to their roots? Is either side ready for that? For example, Don Lemon just discovered that he has roots in Ghana…but does Ghana really want Don Lemon – a self-serving tool who functions under the benefit and banner of white supremacy – operating within our borders? As pretty as his face may be, the answer is no. America can keep Don Lemon.

american-colonization-society-wallpaperSending Blacks in the Americas “back” to Africa as a solution for America’s racial problem is not a novel idea. It is one that is 150 years old, at least, and was championed by President Lincoln, who in today’s terms would be described as a well-meaning liberal, but a racist nevertheless.

For much of his career, Lincoln believed that colonization—or the idea that a majority of the African-American population should leave the United States and settle in Africa or Central America—was the best way to confront the problem of slavery. His two great political heroes, Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson, had both favored colonization; both were slave owners who took issue with aspects of slavery but saw no way that blacks and whites could live together peaceably. Lincoln first publicly advocated for colonization in 1852, and in 1854 said that his first instinct would be “to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia” (the African state founded by the American Colonization Society in 1821). *

Liberia itself has proven to us what can go wrong when repatriation is executed poorly. When freed Black Americans formed Liberia, they brought with them ideas of racial supremacy and intentionally set about the creation of a divisive, minority ruled government, blocking the natives’ access to privilege and hoarding the spoils of trade with the US to themselves. Firestone tires were made with Liberian rubber, for example. Little of that money was invested outside of the capitol. The result a century later was a war that ripped the country apart. It is still trying to heal today.

It would be a dream-come-true of many a Black nationalist for the Exodus to occur – and soon – but there are some ground rules that need to be laid before anybody goes anywhere.

First we have to recognize that we on the continent have not healed our old divisions before we go about importing new ones. These ethnic divisions/differences are the same ones that Europeans exacerbated and used as tool for our eventual demise. We became suspicious of each other, while the Dutch and English were raping our children and stealing our land. Even today in modern politics, the remnants of those ancient reservations remain. We castigate Ewes for voting NDC, but fully accept Ashantis voting NPP, while nobody can fathom CPP coming to power because the party is essentially “tribeless”. Can you imagine what a mess it would be if we added our  feelings about Black Americans into the mix? Africans have to be honest with themselves and with our cousins abroad. We look down on them because they have borne the trial of slavery, and they feel haughty in our presence because we can’t figure out how to get running water into our homes.

There are only four possible things that can happen if there is a mass return to Africa:

  • Black Americans will try to rule over us
  • Black Africans will try to swindle and frustrate them
  • We will all kill each other (i.e. Liberia)
  • We can sit down together, figure this thing out, and become a continental superpower, flush in resources and intellectual property

Despite all that is going on in the US, with its public lynchings every 28 hours, redlining, underfunding inner city schools and denying water to the inhabitants of an entire city (Detroit), it is important for each individual to examine what “home” means to them. At the end of the day, you should live where you feel at home – i.e. where you feel safe, loved and have the best chance at living a prosperous life. I would never begrudge any Black American for never wanting to live in Africa. There are many Ghanaians, for example, who have left the country because Ghana wasn’t/isn’t equipped to help them become the person they felt destined to be. Misogyny, poor education, high unemployment and rickety infrastructure are very real hurdles to individual and national development, and too few of our politicians seem serious about tackling any of them. This is frustrating for intelligent Ghanaians, many of whom – regardless of their education level – choose to emigrate in search of ‘greener pastures’ despite the racism and social scorn they may face abroad. A green pasture isn’t just earning potential: it’s also the confidence that your government and social institutions are capable… and functioning as such.

Take Nelson Baani for example. Here’s a man who went on parliament floor and later on national radio to suggest stoning or hanging women who cheat on their husbands. To the shock and chagrin of all, our government has yet to act and reprimand this mad man properly. He remains unchecked. Yet this is the same government that sends its president around the globe begging for loans and touting Ghana’s pristine human rights record. This is the same Ghana whose current sitting president  said that by the end of his first year of his first term as president load shedding (cutting your power on and off every 24 hours, or getting 6 hours of electricity a day in some cases) would “be a thing of the past”. He’s almost 3 years in and load shedding is at its worst.

You’ll have to pick your poison. Are Africans in the Diaspora ready for this level of incompetence?  If so, Akwaaba! Come on home.



The Beyoncé Video Through the Eyes Of the Maid

Unless you are a turtle – or an 80 year old man pretending to be a turtle – chances are you are aware of the existence of Beyoncé’s new 7/11 video. Trust me: It’s somewhere on your timeline between Ferguson, Football and Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Beyonce-Baby-BangsInitial reactions to the video were predictable and of course, favorable. I mean, it’s Beyoncé. She’s proven time and again that she can do no wrong. Hairdresser cut your bangs too short? No harm done. Let’s call them “baby bangs” and watch a trend burst forth from Fashion’s uterus! Can’t decide what to wear to the VMA’s, Bey? No worries! You can literally come dressed as the highest level on Candy Crush Saga and the world will laud you as one of the best dressed women in entertainment.


So when Queen Bey’s 7/11 video hit Vimeo, it was no surprise that almost everyone instantly loved it.

“It’s sooo different!”

“Look at Beyonce’s silly side!”

“Watch Bey act a fool. Never seen her this way before. #BowDown.”

All these people (yourself included) saw was fun, fun, fun and they adored it. But that’s not what *EYE* saw. All I saw was a mess. It was impossible for me to love this video.

We’ve talked before about how our experiences color our perceptions. Experience and access to foreknowledge is the prism through which we individually view the world. This is why I can see a 12 year old boy playing in the park alone with a BB gun and assume he’s playing cops and robbers with imaginary friends, and a frightened suburban dweller sees the same boy, calls 911 because he looks “suspicious” and the child ends up dead. Solitary Black boy playing = thug to some folk; Beyoncé playing at home = a nightmare to me, for you see I have been a maid.

You might recall the Real Housekeepers of Atlanta series I did a while back when I worked as a house cleaner for a few months. Since that time, I have never been able to look at my fellow human being quite the same. I have seen my fellow American’s dookie stains, dirty draws, and sexual accessories and I’m scarred. When the video first began to play, I like everyone else, was engrossed because we’re not accustomed to seeing Bey prance about in her or men’s underwear…and certainly not at home. Unlike most people however, I couldn’t enjoy the experience – this rare glimpse into Beyonce’s more human/less goddess-like side. All I could puzzle over was who gon’ clean up all these flowers when the cameras went off? Follow me as I put on my apron and lug my supplies to Bey’s Suite.



Ding dong!

A halfco girl opens the door clad in stripes and polka dots. Her feet are bare. I look at her hair and note that it is massive. That means one thing: shedding. I double check to make sure I have my Swiffer magnetic wipes.

“Oh! You’re here! Welcome. We just did a shoot. Thanks for cleaning up. You can start wherever you want,” the woman says congenially, handing me a Groupon code for 60% off all services. “I’ll just be hanging with Blue in Paris so we won’t be in your way.”

She disappears to catch a flight.

I’ve been trained to start cleaning the house from the back, so that’s just what I do. I start from the balcony, which is covered in human white-girl hair, napkins and the odd swivel chair or two. I sweep and put the furniture back in its place.

Next we go to the bathroom where there is yet more shedding. If I recall the video correctly, Beyonce was blowing drying her already dry hair. Then she was joined in the bathroom by 15 of her closest friends. One of them has been on her period. Gross! I mop and wipe up lipstick stains, pubic hair and…alcohol? Is that Hennessey on the granite counter tops?

Holy Christ in Heaven! There is liquor everywhere! It’s on the tile, in the carpet…how did it get on the walls? *Sigh*. Let me reach for my Fabuloso. Fabuloso can get this cranberry-vodka mix out of the berber.

Wait. What is up with her bedroom?? Why are there clothes all over the floor? Do I leave them? Do I fold them? Do I wash them??? And this heifer been jumping all OVER the sheets. Okay, okay. I’ll strip this super California King bed and just dry clean it all.

Oh no she didn’t. No she didn’t toss glitter and confetti IN THE HOUSE. What is wrong with this allegedly 33 year old woman? Does she know how impossible it is to get glitter out of anything? I—I just—ugh. Let me make sure I don’t have to run out into the car for some Scotch tape. Can’t believe I’m on my hands and knees Scotch taping glitter off of a grown woman’s floor. This is just too much to bear…

It’s my own fault. Who told me to go and clean houses for a living? Eh?

The final affront to my dignity comes when I have to walk back out to the elevator in order to leave the place I’ve spent 4 hours subduing post video tornado wreckage. There is a tiny white envelope with celebrity font handwriting scrawled on the front. It simply reads “To You”. I look around to inquire who this “You” may be. The imposing body guard who’s been left behind to make sure I didn’t make off with any of the Carter’s goods nods. Yes…you. I tear open the envelope excitedly and unfold a white slip of paper. Is it a tip? Wealthy people hardly ever tip. The best folks to clear for a mid-income earners. My mind is buzzing.

It’s not a tip.

“Hey You! There is a spot on the floor where I sat during the video repeating the words ‘fresher than youuuu….’. It’s a sweat stain. Smells like excellence, but I’d still like it mopped up if you’d mop it up. Thx! Bey.”

Sighing, I set down my cleaning bucket and reassemble the collapsible mop, mingling the scents of Beyonce’s butt sweat and Fabuloso in its fibers.



What? I’m guessing there is no other person reading this who had similar thoughts after watching the video? Yeah, right.