Category Archives: Madness

There is only one person who brings drama and madness into my life, and that is my douche bag baby daddy from a previous relationship, whom I am tasked to deal with, courtesy of the Georgia Judicial system. I hope he DOESN’T get hit by a bus this week…

Slattern in a Red Hat

It is no secret that I love Gyedu Blay-Ambolley. I’ve written consistently about my adoration for the Simigwahene over the years. In fact, meeting him was on the list of things for my ChaleWote Envoy to day this past weekend.

That is why I don’t understand why one Ayawuku would do what she did to me.

She stalked my man. She invaded his closet so that they could play Twinsies dress up. Then she took a picture and SENT IT TO ME on Twirra, just to taunt me. Oh, but she’s not alone! Poetra Asantewa was also en force, dressed up in yellow like a dandelion trying to attract the Ambolley bee. There is no evidence that it worked, so I’ve left the spoken word titan alone for now.

See? EVERYONE KNOWS!!

Squealing indeed.

 

But this Ayawuku? I haven’t spared her for breaking my heart. Where is the solidarity amongst sisters? How could she taunt me in this way? I needed an outlet for my pain and rage. That is why I have penned this sonnet/poem/spoken word thingy and sent it into the ether.

Slattern in a Red Hat: Succubus…this one is for YOU!

 

Who Wants to be my Envoy for #ChaleWote2015?

Keep in mind, I can’t pay you ooooo. If I could pay you, I’d be there myself.

 

Man. I prayed. I prayed and asked God and the Universe to allow me to go to ChaleWote2015. I even asked some of you to send vibrations to the Universe. Did you vibrate, or did you forget me? I didn’t even ask you to pray! Prayer is difficult. I know. You think you have to find a closet somewhere, creak to your knees and mutter “Ha! I wanna Hyndai!” repeatedly to get results. That’s why I didn’t request prayer…just mere vibrations. Even that kraa, you couldn’t do for me. It’s okay. Darris gawd.

chale

Needless to say, I am NOT attending this year’s street art festival in Accra though my heart and soul are in Jamestown. I am gashing in Atlanta. As rumor and Twirra tell it, the festival got off to a great start with Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women’s very on Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah participating in a juicy panel discussion alongside Akosua Hanson and my cyber-sister-friend Nana Ama Agyemang. I should have been there to watch…but it’s okay! The Universe and its smaller brother, Jesus Christ had other plans for me.

 

That is why I am in search of an envoy…someone to do and see all the things that my present position has made impossible. Envoys are an important part of the social fabric, you know? They represent royalty and governments. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk up to a stall or exhibit at ChaleWote and declare that you are sampling their fares as an envoy?

“Oh! On envoy for who! Who do you represent? Japan?”

“Errr…no. I’m an envoy for Malaka.”

“Who is Malaka?”

You might scratch your head before you sheepishly admit, “Some chick on the innanets gabbing on about vibrations and cupcakes.”

The purveyor of fine Ghana made good may then have pity on you and offer a sample for free. After all, you must be equally mad to walk up to a stranger and announce with pride that you have chosen to represent an online enigma for free. Speaking of cupcakes, here is a list of tasks I’d like my envoy to complete in the next two days:

  1. Visit Totally Baked and pick up a red velvet cupcake. Then sniff it. Then take a picture of you sniffing it. Then tag me. You might have to buy it after all that nostril contact…but you’re good for the money. The Almighty will reward you in the end.
  2. Find Wanlov the Kubolor and give him the biggest hug ever. Then sniff him. Report how he smells immediately. I bet he smells like garden gnome essence and magic.wanlov
  3. There’s a guy that makes jewelry out of copper. Copper makes me itch, so you don’t have to actually try on his stuff. Just get a selfie with him.
  4. Yo. There’s gonna be a street parade…And. It’s. ALWAYS. Dope. Though you’re probably not dressed for it, hop into the procession and dance agbadza. It doesn’t matter if the drums are playing adowa or borborbor. Agbadza and agbadza alone is the official dance of Malaka’s Envoy.agbadza
  5. There’s this new tiger nut drink out now. Feel free to sip on that. Sip on that ALL DAY if you want to. You know what they say about performance and tiger nuts. Heh heh heh…. What’s that? You don’t know what they say? Humph. You’ll find out by the end of the night.
  6. Oh my Gawd. If you see Ambolley, lick his face. Whisper something unintelligible in his ear. And then run.Ambolley
  7. Oh yeah! Get a picture of you and Yaa Traps Death in a Basket! It will be at the street fest with @AmaTuffet. Tweet at her ’til you find her. That’ll annoy the crap out of her, but part of your job as Malaka’s Envoy is to be a bit obnoxious. People expect that.Yaa Traps Death Cover
  8. Someone is bound to be selling chale wote at the Chale Wote street festival. Camp next to them and take quick shots of all the feet that slide into them. We’ll need those for later.
  9. Don’t forget to eat kenkey.
  10. Have fun, eh? Dance. Dance with total strangers. Laugh like a rich woman. Show ridiculous enthusiasm for everything. Like “Oh my gosh, is that ice water in a kalabash? I LOVE ice water…especially in a kalabash. Do you mind if I try some?” Then drink the ice water like it’s the first time H2O has ever entered your mouth.

Okay Madam or Mister Envoy! I’m waiting for your report. Number 6 is of paramount importance. That’s our coup de gras. No one will EVER believe we pulled that off. Muahahaa!!! Twipic or it never happened!

WTF Did They Do to Jem in #TheJemMovie?!

This is not MY Jem.

That’s been the common refrain – nay, the battle cry – among lovers and true fans of the original 80s cartoon classic ‘Jem and the Holograms’. We are pissed…but moreover, we are hurt. There are certain things that should be left untouched and untarnished if you cannot afford to or have the decency to treat with care.

Don’t screw around with the Coke formula.

Pepsi was never meant to be clear.

Don’t freaking ruin Jem and the Holograms for legions of women and girls around the globe.

The iniquities that the creators of the Jem movie are guilty of are numerous and unforgivable. There is absolutely no redemption to be found in this movie from any angle. This is the first problem: Take a quick glance at this and in 2 seconds or less, tell me which of these girls plays Shana Elmsford.

jem cast

Couldn’t do it, could you? See? See???? You see why I’m so upset? Oh…you don’t? Well let me spell it out for you.

I grew up as a Black girl in the 80s. As a Black girl in the 80s, we had THREE identifiable Black female characters on the cartoon and children’s television after school/Saturday morning circuit.

There was Cherie from Punky Brewster.

punky

There was Orange Blossom from Strawberry Shortcake.

orange blossom

There was Shana from Jem.

Shana-

That’s it.You have to understand.

Although I adored the cartoon, there were no Black people on Etheria where She-Ra lived. There was only one Black Thundercat, but he was a male mechanic with a temper, so I didn’t really identify with him. Apparently, there were no Black female soldiers ready to fight and die for their country on G.I. Joe. And save Storm, there are no Black women with superpowers in the X-Men…and she wasn’t even a mutant. She was a Nigerian goddess. As a Black child, I couldn’t even hope to acquire a rogue gene to give me superpowers…I had to be born of the divine!

So yes, I and millions of other Black women are understandably upset by the blatant erasure of a true representation of Shana Elmsford. Aurora Perrineau, who is the bi-racial actress who portrays Shana, is light enough to pass for white. Even my 9 year old  (who shies away from discussions about race because she thinks it makes her a ‘racist’) was visibly upset by what she say in the trailer.  “They took out the brown girl from the movie Why would they do that, Mommy?” she asked.

There is a whole other political and cultural discussion to be had about colorism and race in Hollywood, but we have to get into the other follies that Universal Pictures and Jon M. Chu have exacted against the viewing and paying public and save that for another day. I mean, sweet Holy Jesus who died for the sins of the whole world…did they even watch a solitary episode of this cartoon before they began scripting and taping??? Who is this phantom of a character they’ve created?

  1. They stripped Jem of ALL her power

Jem lives a double life as Jerrica Benton, an orphan – now a grown woman – who runs a girls’ home for orphans and foster kids under the Starlight Foundation started by her parents. She is also part owner of Starlight Music, a record company also launched by her parents. She and Eric Raymond have equal shares in the company. Part of Jem’s weekly battles are not only to perform to the best of her ability, but to keep Eric from ruining her band’s career (and cutting off funds to keep the home running) in his greed-fueled quest for full control of the company.

In the movie version, Erica is replaced with ‘Erica Raymond’ (played by Juliette Lewis) who discovers Jerrica on YouTube and turns her into Jem. This is some bull.

 

  1. They turned Synergy into a webcam

Remember those V-Tech webcams from the early 2000s? THAT’S what the creators of the Jem Movie turned Synergy into. Synergy is a holographic image created by Jerrica’s father that provides Jem with the ability to project illusions and transform her personal appearance. Synergy is the freaking reason Jerrica CAN become Jem at a moment’s notice. But what did these rat bastards over at Universal Pictures do? Cast EVE from Wall-E to play this iconic character. In this age of CGI and all the things that technology can do, this was the best they could come up with? George Lucas wasn’t available to lend some 70s tech to fix this shambolic mess?

How Sway? How this Synergy??

How Sway? How this Synergy??

When the Cecil the Lion biopic comes out, are they gonna get Garfield to play this majestic lion? No…no they would not. They wouldn’t DARE. The only reason they’ve dared to commit this atrocity is because it’s a movie about girls, targeted to girls, for girls (and women).

 

  1. There are no Misfits

You can’t have Jem and the Holograms without the Misfits. You just can’t. The Misfits MAKE the Holograms. Why? Because they constantly push them to be better, sing harder and strive for perfection. The Misfits had better songs. The Misfits had edgier outfits. The Misfits were maniacal, scheming b*tches who prepared young many girls for real life. Every woman has a Misfit on her job, in her church or in her family and thanks to that trio’s wacky antics, we are more aware for it. The Misfits contributed to every woke woman’s wokeness in America today.

misfits

But what did Jon Chu do? He erased that dynamic so that he could portray Jerrica/Jem as a simpering, self-doubting little cream cake. Her only battle is with herself and her struggle over whether to choose personal fame over family. Again, the real Jem ran several businesses, one focused on charitable giving. She was the very definition of selflessness! And this douchebag Mr. Chu, who has never obviously watched the cartoon has the unmitigated audacity to turn Jerrica into her own personal Misfit?! Dishonor on his progeny forever!

  1. One Direction is the background music for the global trailer

Selah. Just pause and think about that one.

 

My girls have no interest in watching this movie, so guess what? We will not be watching this movie. Not even when it goes to Redbox. Not even when they release it on Crackle. It ought to be sent directly to the $1 DVD bin at WalMart and be done with it. And that’s saddest part. Because once Jem flops (oh, and it will flop), the assumption will be that girl focused franchises are not as lucrative as ‘boy-geared’ ones, such as Transformers, Spider Man, etc to produce. This in turn will make studio execs less likely to fund projects like Jem…or Jem as it should have been.

Jon Chu should have just left it alone if he couldn’t do it right. Fcuk you, Chu.

 

How and Why John D. Mahama Will Win the 2016 Election

I know, I know. I promised a month or two ago that I was unlooking Ghana, never to look back lest I turn into a behemoth pillar of pure NaCl , but this is too exciting to ignore! Indulge me for just a moment and then we can go back to discussing really important world events like the chick who ran a UK marathon with a bloody, soggy bottom or what color the Kartrashians are dying their follicles these days.

John Mahama is going to win re-election in 2016 because Ghanaians are predictable. What’s more important, the president, his ministers, his drivers, his side chicks, his shoe shine boys…anybody who is in his sphere of influence knows this. That’s why they are collectively misbehaving publicly with utter impunity. The NDC knows that no matter what they do, no matter heinous their crimes or how dearly they cost the country, John Mahama – and more importantly, the Ghanaian people – will save their bacon in the end and ensure that they can continue on their campaign of utter ruin uninterrupted.

Let me be clear: I do not want John Mahama to win. I’m sure he’s a really nice guy and totally that dude you want to invite over to your Aunt Maggie’s dull dinner parties for the benefit of his excellent oratory skills and penchant for hyperbole of her accomplishments, but he’s not cut out to be the president. That’s the first problem with the Ghanaian electorate: they cannot separate the person from the performance. Like this guy who jumped all my case on Facebook a few weeks ago when I went on rant about the demonic work of a certain bearded Accra Mayor. You know what this bloke had the unmitigated gall to say on MY wall?

“Hey! That’s my uncle…careful! Speak no evil of him.”

I politely informed him that his uncle was a despotic douchebag on a perpetual ego trip who has done nothing during his tenure as mayor to earn from the people of Accra anything but their eternal contempt. I think he blocked me after that. Shoot, I would have blocked me after that.

Anyway, the point is, because Ghanaians are incapable of distinguishing person’s personality from his/her competence, JDM is an absolute shoe-in. Did you see how social media reacted when he showed up at the site of the Goil explosion after the June 3rd floods? Even Africans from other nations were impressed. Oh how sorry your president looks! You can tell from the look on his face and the tone of his voice that he really cares!

flood

Eish. No. We beg. If the president really cared about the capital city of the first sub-Saharan nation to receive independence, he would make sure that there was proper (and consistent) disposal of waste, he would root out the nefarious elements in the city planning and zoning committees that allow petrol stations to go without proper inspections or who chop funds that are supposed to be used to sanitize the city instead of paying workers, and he certainly would have come into office with a viable plan to curb – or at least lesson – the impact of floods that occur annually. No one was surprised that Accra got flooded on June 3rd…it was the devastation that followed that was so shocking. But hey! The President John Mahama looked sorry, and that’s what counts.

That’s the other reason that JDM is assured of victory in 2016. Say what you will, but the man photographs like a dream. Always has. This is part of the reason he got elected in the first place. Ghanaians wanted a “cool looking” president, for once. So there he was in all his handsome splendor for the ladies, clutching his iPad to deliver speeches for male appeal. John Mahama may not know diddly about running a country, but he knows a thing or two about winning elections. Like Kwame Nkrumah, he understands the limits and appetites of his people. He knows that Ghanaians are visual.

When Nkrumah and the CPP were contesting the highest seat in the land, they crisscrossed the country using loud speakers set atop vehicles painted in party colors to proclaim the details of their manifesto. Few Ghanaians were literate at the time, and this was the best way to communicate with his people. After becoming president of the First Republic, whenever Nkrumah sought to propose public works in any locality, he would take scaled images of those projects to show the locals in order to win their buy-in. His strategy worked. I believe Mahama has studied this and modified it to suit his style. Ghanaians en masse are no more literate than they were 60 years ago, and those of us who CAN read, do not engage in the exercise frequently enough. We look at a headline to surmise the totality of the content of a report.

Look at these pictures here:

free school sandals

President-Mahama-is-joined-by-residents-of-Kumasi-in-cleaning-the-city-at-the-national-sanitation-day

WE know that this is just a photo op and not a remedy for the filth that makes Ghana the 7th Dirtiest country in the world, but remember – it is not the people sitting comfortably in Accra and Tema who determine the direction of the country. It’s those in the towns and villages waiting for their manna who set the trajectory of the nation. That’s where the numbers lie. If they like what they see in pictures, that’s what the nation gets served for the next 4 years.

Oh, but all of this would be easy to combat if some of the other candidates could just get their names and faces in the national dailies looking like they were doing something, right? Ahhh…it would be, if not for the occurrence of the Soli 100. That’s when the sitting NDC effectively bribed Ghana’s entire mass media elite corps with payouts of between $50-333 in order to “improve and normalize relations between the government and the media”. I promise my American friends, I’m not making this up. Google it.

Of course, the government denies any of this ever happened, and those journalists who would dare to name and shame have been threatened (with physical/bodily harm, arson and even death) by their colleagues in the media. It’s like watching a pig take a swan dive in its own shit and then having the impudence to strut through a perfume aisle, convinced of its olfactory pleasantness. Sorry, Samia, Nana Addo and Co. The media’s already been purchased. No coverage for you!

But you know what the best part – and this is the part that has me geeked – is? President Mahama’s “measures” are beginning to work! The Better Ghana Agenda is in full swing! If you just look, the evidence is all around you. Back in 2014, when dumsor (power cut offs) were wreaking havoc on the economy and daily life and therefore the president’s chances at re-election, politically aware Ghanaians predicted that if Mahama could provide constant supply for 30 days…just 30 days!…around Christmas and just before the elections, he would be assured of victory. So what have we seen now? A shift from the Energy Minister telling folks to stop charging their cell phones and to turn off their fridges for the 6 hours that they DO receive electricity to eight solid days of continues light just last week. I don’t think we’ve seen a straight week of light in Accra since Azumah Nelson did a Milo advert. It was a trial run to see what kind of cost and manpower it would take to do this at the crucial moment. Don’t worry. After JDM wins, you will all go back to 3 days off, 12 hours on.

The second part to that is the economy itself. Ghana’s economy has been described as “moribund” by Forbes and other international media outlets. Is there a word for “zombie” in Twi? Because whatever it is, I think that’s a more apt description for what JDM is about to do. Never mind the outright stealing in the GYEEDA scandals and co. He and his cabinet have withheld cash from all these works, projects and schemes for years because it was not prudent to inject those funds into the economy until NOW. Soon, we will all see an infusion into various areas of the economy that’s going to put more cash into people pockets, cause them to spend more and ultimately, cause them to feel better about re-electing JDM…just in time for Christmas. It’s going to be grand.

In her open letter to the president in which she made his performance analogous to that of a kindergartner’s. Lydia Forson wrote that she was waiting for the president to shock her. I hope she is prepared to be shocked, awed and amazed by the scandal that is about to rock this nation: That 26 million people are about to give their lives over to the man and the party that have been the architect of a country’s doom the mandate for another four years.

If that ain’t worthy of a Hollywood flick, I don’t know what is.

I’m excited to watch this all unfold. Are you? I’ll bring the popcorn.

cnn

Could Metadata Solve the Mystery of the Sandra Bland Mugshot?

At the turn of the century, in the early 1900s when forensics was a fairly new science, there was an trend in and aspect of forensic photography that I found unsettling. I’m being modest. It’s not unsettling; it’s repugnant. All too frequently, forensic photographers – and sometimes even news reporters – would restage a crime scene in order to elicit a desired reaction from the public be it shock, horror, thrill or indifference. These manufactured reactions all serve a larger anthropological purpose: a gauge to determine how far certain elements in a society can carry out specific actions.

The restaging of a crime scene, particularly if it has been done at the hands of a trusted agent of our society, like a photojournalist or a police officer, presents the worst breach of professional ethics I can imagine. Admittedly, my bias has everything to do with my field of study and less to do with the nature of the moral breach. But yeah, whatever. It’s pretty a pretty disgusting practice in my books. That’s why the entire question of Sandra Bland’s mugshot and the nature it was possibly rendered has me quivering with rage, loathing and yes…fear.

Three people copied me on a story circulating on social media pointing to wide speculation that Sandra Bland’s mugshot was taken post mortem. There are alternate pictures juxtaposing her side-by-side, analysis of her pupils, scrutiny of the direction in which her locks lay. If she was photographed after she died, it’s a macabre notion indeed and one very hard to stomach, but I put absolutely nothing past the American militarized police force, especially in the South. The official report is that Sandra Bland committed suicide in her cell, a few hours before she was to be bonded out. There was immediately suspicion about this claim because:

  • Sandra Bland was a Black woman

And

  • Sandra Bland was a Black woman

As she lay in handcuffs, belly down on the ground, her own recorded words were that she could not wait to get this officer to court. That was enough for me to indicate that she would not commit suicide in her jail cell. When a Black woman “can’t wait” to do something, she won’t rest until it’s done. I don’t care if it’s a new weave or taking a dude to court for failure to pay child support or finally getting that college degree…we live, eat and sleep a singular “can’t wait” goal until it has come to fruition. (You’re laughing, but I’m so serious.)

Even though it’s hard to imagine that she would commit suicide, and I certainly don’t want to rob her of the right to her agency over her own life and body by saying definitively that the thought mightn’t have crossed her mind. After all, stories abound of Black women who chose to kill their children and then take their own lives, rather than continue through the oppressive horrors of a life spent in captivity in white man’s America.

Secondly, and more importantly, the trend of Black inmates dying in cells across this country and those deaths immediately being ruled a suicide is a longstanding one. In a follow up conversation we had about the possibility that Sandra Bland’s mugshot had been digitally altered and/or taken after the time of her death, my sister sent the following text:

chrisYeah. You read that right. This was my brother-in-law’s grandfather.

In 1987, Assata Shakur wrote about this very trend in her autobiography.

Marc

So what do we do now? Fortunately, we live in an age where there are hackers to hack hackers and film editors with a keen eye for editing. Ava DuVernay quickly pointing out the obvious edits in the released footage of the Sandra Bland video, which only points to more attempts at a police cover up. Similarly, I am hoping that the coding community can solve the problem with the photograph and put all our fears to rest. I’m relying on you techy-smarty-pants guys to tell me if I’m off mark here.

Remember back in 2001, when digital cameras were somewhat affordable and we began to do away 35mm? There were, like, sooo passé. Digital cameras were great! If you didn’t like a shot, you could erase it immediately and not waste film. But the first digital cameras also time stamped everything, and that was annoying. You’d go to print your pictures, and there in the lower right hand corner of your shot was the date AND time of the picture when it was taken. Remember? Ugh!

Soooo…did that technology go away? Did cameras suddenly stop storing metadata? I don’t think so. From what I hear, the metadata will tell you the time, date and the model of the camera used to capture the image. Would it then be possible to compare the mugshot’s synchronized metadata with the official date and time of arrest for an answer to this riddle? Now, of course, this would require access to the police department’s official, unedited version of the jpeg (or whatever backwater file format Waller County saves its stuff on), which would mean they turn it over peaceably or Anonymous gets to doing what they do for cartwheels and giggles.

In other words, if Sandra Bland died (or was killed) at 10 am and the picture was taken at 2 pm that same day, what would that implicate?

When all is said and done, I want to believe that the police department did not take the battered, lifeless body of a Black woman, undress her from her street clothes, redress her in a prison jumpsuit, lie her on the floor, angle her head, hover above her and snap a picture in order to prove she was processed “properly”. I want to believe that there wasn’t some sick necrophiliac taking pleasure in every sordid second of that encounter.  I want to believe that although it is a vile system, that white supremacist law enforcement would have at least that much human decency left in it. Nevertheless, it is hard for me to believe this, because not only does history tell me different, Twitter tells me different by the nanosecond. If I had a nickel for every time “Real Americans” and their soft shoeing sidekicks uttered the words “if she didn’t have an attitude, she wouldn’t be dead”, I’d be able to afford to take the entire MOM Squad out for BBQ chicken and ribs at Big Lou’s. It’s not quite reparations…but hey. Those are some good ribs.

So, what do you think? Could metadata solve the mystery of the mugshot?

 

Rest in power and peaceful journey, sweet Sandy. Your life mattered.

 

See The World from The Bosom of Africa

My cousin died at the age of 56 about a month ago. My siblings and I went up to Detroit for the funeral, where we had a chance to reconnect with childhood friends and old folk who remembered us fondly. My aunt Cynthia, who outlived her firstborn child, was cooling herself with a fan and looking at old photos. A framed picture of her mother, my Aunt Clara, was sitting on the shelf behind me.

“I think about Aunt Clara often,” I muttered.

Aunt Cynthia gave me a look, as though she didn’t believe me.

“I do!” I reasserted.

Aunt Cynthia chuckled. “She was really sweet, wasn’t she?”

“Oh gosh, yes. SO sweet. And so…quiet. Was she always like that?”

Aunt Cynthia made a sound that resembled a small train warning pedestrians to clear the way. It was a half roar, part whistle.

“My mother would cuss you out in a heartbeat. She smoked like a chimney. Smoked them cigarettes they rolled before there were filters.”

I was incredulous. Not my sweet, sainted, fair-skinned Aunt Clara!

Aunt Cynthia was ruthless in her mockery. “When you meet my mother, she was old. She had done all that craziness and left it behind by the time you got here.”

My interest was now piqued, and Aunt Cynthia was only happy to let me in on a few choice family secrets and divulge some shocking details of her mother’s life. I wished there were pictures or footage of all the events she talked about. And then, that’s when it occurred to me – I should probably leave some footage for my (great) grand kids to browse through as well. Well, surely they’d be interested in their ancestor, wouldn’t they? Well then, I ought to do something about that!

I made a public declaration on Facebook about my intent to create a photo album of all the places I’d been and all the feats I’d attempted. Good Lord willing, I too will have the opportunity to meet great-grandchildren and great-nieces and nephews, and if they love me half as much as I loved my Aunt Clara, I would want them to know that I was more than some old lady with huge breasts who is plagued with a chocolate and coffee addiction. I want them to look through this album and know that neither weight, nor age, gender, nor marital status or childbirth should impede their ability to get out there and attempt the unimaginable. None of those things should mean you can’t properly live, despite what the culture tells us.

Now, this album I am building is a little self-serving as well, because building it feeds into my pipe dream of becoming a travel journalist a la Anthony Bourdain or that cute, bubbly blonde chick with the pixie cut on PBS. Not Rick Steves. Gosh, he’s so dull. I’d rather watch my toenails grow than listen to him narrate a trip through the canals of Venice.

I shared my vision with MX5, who immediately dedicated to praying towards its fruition. She even came up with a name for my show: See the world from the bosom of Africa.

Check it out. So my bra size is 36HH, right? This makes it the perfect place in which to conceal a camera to record my travels and encounters with the globe. Like “Ooh, look! I’m here at the top of this volcano and the only way to get down is to repel from its craggy edge. Won’t you join me and look at the world from the bosom of Africa?”

OR

“Hey! I’m out here in Petra, Jordan where we’re filming Akua Ananse and the Last Ball of Kenkey. Won’t you join me and look at this exotic location from the bosom of Africa?”

Because it’s my bosom, and I’m African and my big breastesses will capture every thrilling moment. See? Of course you do. It’s brilliant. And if you see this show/concept on the Travel Channel feature some skinny half-co chick with a weave, know that you heard it hear first chalk it up to discrimination against fat chicks.

Here are some of my favorite moments from my travels over the last few years. As I looked through these images, I realized (again) how very blessed and fortunate I’ve been to visit these places and do half the things I’ve done. I’m looking forward to doing much more…and if I could be so bold, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and create a precious memory for those who will follow after you. It doesn’t have to be cliff diving or shark wrestling (although that would be fantastic) but it should be noteworthy. Why should somebody else be your grand baby’s hero? Why shouldn’t your name be remembered with awe?

947064_10151457287187001_119208464_n 995725_10151457286957001_1437836622_n 10604692_10152880014006290_3267194159058689373_o 11713665_10152880014236290_4627595462347969790_o IMG_7964 Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 7.18.16 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 6.44.53 PM

If you know anyone casting for a new travel host, don’t be afraid to send them my information. I will now entertain any questions, the first of which I am sure will be “Malaka, what is WRONG with you???”

It’s So Hard to Say Her Name: Sandra Bland

 

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed, and planted , and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And arn’t I woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And arn’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen them most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And aren’t I a woman?” – Excerpt from Sojourner Truth’s speech given at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, OH, 1851.

 

…and bear the lash as well.

I don’t remember the first time I read Sojourner Truth’s speech because it was so long ago, sometime in my teenage years. But that line – that singular line – has always resonated within me. For me, it sums up the condition of Black womanhood in America. It’s so perfect in its subtlety that I wonder how many folks have glossed over its implications and the truths it harbors.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with my 21 year old cousin, Sean. I used to look after Sean and his siblings when he was very young, but we were never particularly close. That afternoon, at his mother’s kitchen table, was the first time we’ve sat and talked without the presence of other family members. I wanted to discover what kind of man the little 4 year old boy I used to scold and make sandwiches for had become. What I found out both saddened and gave me cause for hope.

I asked him how he felt about being a young Black man in America. Sean told me – without using these exact words – that he didn’t really feel “Black”. You see, Sean (like Bruno Mars whom I have jokingly referred to him as) is mixed race, but could pass for anything; except white, of course. This has caused a bit of angst for him because he “feels just as white as his white friends, but doesn’t really feel accepted by them”. As our conversation came to a close, I asked him what he thought about police brutality and if he felt he would get fair treatment by the police. He made reference to some statistics about how more white people were killed by police than Blacks, and that he and his friends had concluded that the media was trying to stir up trouble.

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“Sean. The problem isn’t how many Black people are being killed – it’s the circumstances we are concerned about. We don’t know if those white folks were in the middle of a violent crime, or if they were returning fire on the police, or what they were doing to warrant being killed. If you’re in the middle of a shoot out like Cleo in Set it Off, then yeah…we expect you to get killed by the police. Our concern is when Black death happens while in the middle of doing mundane tasks, like walking through a neighborhood or standing on a corner selling cigarettes.”

My cousin is a quiet, pensive young man who nodded silently and chewed over what I had asserted before making an assertion of his own.

“Well, at least it’s safer for you as a Black woman out there, right? Black women aren’t killed as often as young Black men are.”

My heart dropped and my mouth went dry.

The faces of thousands of Black women, many of who went missing or were killed in his own state, shot through my mind in a flash. The lifeless bodies of lynched Black women swaying from Southern trees and on Northern lamp posts soon joined that mental image. My great shame is that although I could see their faces, I did not know their names. Few people do. I told Sean as much.

“No. That’s not true. Black women are victims of police and systemic brutality just as often as Black men are. They just don’t get any press.”

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And just think: there is an entire generation that has been brainwashed to believe this way. Who aren’t even curious enough to look at recent history to inform them of the truth! But never did I imagine that just a week after this conversation Sandra Bland’s death would prove to be the case study to bear this out.

It is an understatement to say that Sandra Bland’s death has shaken me. Sandra Bland IS me a decade ago. She was university educated, civic minded, empathetic and loved her people. She put herself out there and was honest and vulnerable with the public. In a Facebook post, she admitted that she was feeling depressed and now that admission is being used as fodder to insinuate that she took her own life. Her encounter with the police officer who wrestled her to the ground and arrested her has been justified because she became “combative and uncooperative”. When I tell you it is by the grace of God that I have not found myself on the cold slab her body now occupies, it’s not a melodramatic sentiment. If the right police officer had caught me on the wrong day, I too could have ended up dead…and that death would have everything to do with my Black womanhood and how I express it.

When a Black woman is irritated, angry or fed up, there is a tinge in her voice that excites a visceral reaction in just about anyone. That’s just how we talk. I experienced this just this Easter when I went to a local Atlanta church to participate in an egg drop. As I approached one of the street ushers, sweat dripping down my face and my 4 kids in tow, he asked why we did not take one of the shuttles from the other end of the park.

“Shuttle? What shuttle? No one told us about any shuttle.”

He took a step back and said, “There’s no reason to get angry ma’am! Calm down.”

I looked at this slender man, whose accent betrayed West Indian origin and snickered in retort.

“I’m not angry, sir. I’m fat, I’m sweaty, and I’m asking about a shuttle.”

His face relaxed and he directed me to the other end of the street and advised me to wait for the next car.

Many people – I included – believe Sandra Bland’s death was a homicide. She was killed to teach her the ultimate lesson. When she was approached by the arresting police officer, she did not exhibit the appropriate amount of anxiety and/or obsequiousness expected during police interactions. In fact, she was smoking a cigarette while the officer questioned her. It would have been “polite” for her to put out the cigarette, but it was not unlawful not to have done so. But as the average Black woman within a certain social strata will tell you, our impoliteness is (and always has been) a criminal offence. Remember when they beat up and locked up Sophia in The Color Purple for sassin’ the mayor’s wife? Mmmhmmm…

The awful truth about Sandra Bland’s death is that she is not the only Black woman to be killed (or to have died, for the benefit of the Negropeans and classic racist who scream ‘wait for the facts!!!’ in cases like these) while in police custody, and had it not been for social media, her death would have been tidily swept under the rug and hastily forgotten. The Fates have just deemed that her name has garnered a great deal of attention. It has been hard to find an accurate number of Black women killed by police or vigilantes, because many of them are not high profile names. Even when Black women and girls go missing, it’s hard to get public interest to focus on bringing them back home. Which missing Black child’s name is branded on your psyche the way Elizabeth Smart or JonBenet Ramsey were/are. The media won’t let you forget the name or the face of a missing white child or woman…but because Black lives don’t really matter to the mainstream, our lost (female) loved ones don’t enjoy these same privileges.

And this is what emboldens every person who preys on Black women’s bodies and polices our mobility in American society. In 2010, when 11 bodies of missing Black women were discovered in a Cleveland home, there was shock and horror. How could have come to this, so many wondered? Why did no one speak of these missing persons before? The answer is because we are invisible to American society, and worse yet, we as Black women KNOW that we are invisible. That is, of course, until the mainstream culture is looking for the next trend to coopt.

 

…and bore the lash as well.

Can I say one final thing? When Key & Peele did their Negro Town skit, I applauded them for their genius in brining humor in their portrayal of the difficulty of Black life in America. But there has always been one part that unsettled me. A trio of Black women come prancing by, singing about their ONE grievance that Negro Town has saved them from: In Negro Town where strong Black men are raining down/There’s light skinned, dark skinned, every shade/And there’s no white b*tches to take them away.

Bless Key & Peele’s little hearts. Neither of these young men was raised by a Black woman, so I wouldn’t expect them to understand Black female struggles…but damn it if that didn’t hurt. We are being KILLED out there, in every way imaginable. American food is poisoning us. When they talk about Black women’s “health” often times the industry is referring to an abortion and not finding a cure for fibroids, a condition that affects us in greater proportions than other races. We are more likely to be denied affordable housing. We are the “face of welfare”, even though white men are the majority recipients of federal aid. We watch helplessly as our children are carted away in the classroom to prison pipeline. And yes, we have fought, bled and died in the very fields and streets of the US of A with our fellow Black men. In all of this and more, do you really think our one and major concern is catching a man, Key & Peele? Puh-leeze.

 

Rest in Power, Sandra Bland. It hurts to say your name. Hurts like I’m speaking my own.

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