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…

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.

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.

 

Why I am Grateful to A’mighty Gawd for the Lives of Willow and Jaden Smith

It’s been a tough week. Between Baanigate, #MyDressMyChoice and Band Aid 30 telling me there will be no joy in West Africa this Christmas, I’ve been sorta blue. But Darriz God, and sometimes he sends a ray of light in the midst of your darkest storm. Yesterday, he sent us all Willow and Jaden Smith, whose existence constitutes the total loin fruit Jada and Will Smith.

Willow and Jaden Smith will either evolve into robotic condors capable of living on “essence” and voyaging autonomously to space, or they will crash and burn when the reality of the matrix with which we find ourselves finally hits them. Either way, the pair is in for an extraordinary future. They are not common, like the rest of us. Herh!

Photo Source: Time

Photo Source: Time

Until yesterday, I had NO IDEA there was a theoretical physicist living inside my mind, or that I was capable of affecting time. In fact, time isn’t real. In fact, I am not even using time to exist in this moment. In 6 seconds I could be 600 years old, or I could be an infant, depending on where I find myself in the universe.

Time Mag: I’m curious about your experience of time. Do you feel like life is moving really quickly? Is your music one way to sort of turn it over and reflect on it?

WILLOW: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.

JADEN: It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.

WILLOW: Because living.

JADEN: Right, because you have to live. There’s a theoretical physicist inside all of our minds, and you can talk and talk, but it’s living.

WILLOW: It’s the action of it.

You see? Robotic Space Voyaging Condors!

For some people, thinking happy and sad thoughts can be maddening. (I think the medical community has defined that state as being bipolar, but what do I know?) However the Smith children have declared that no one feels or thinks one thing at one time, because the brain has two hemispheres. There is therefore a duality to ALL our thoughts. Thinking two thoughts at the same time is normal.

Ajeish.

JADEN: Exactly. Because your mind has a duality to it. So when one thought goes into your mind, it’s not just one thought, it has to bounce off both hemispheres of the brain. When you’re thinking about something happy, you’re thinking about something sad. When you think about an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple. It’s a tool for understanding mathematics and things with two separate realities. But for creativity: That comes from a place of oneness. That’s not a duality consciousness. And you can’t listen to your mind in those times — it’ll tell you what you think and also what other people think.

Aba. What is the opposite of an apple? Since I am not on a higher conscious plane, I asked the only people in my house who may know: my children.

“The opposite of an apple is a banana,” Nadjah replied triumphantly. Top marks for this one! At least one of my children is a candidate for Robotic Condor Evolution. Aya just giggled foolishly and said there is no opposite of an apple. How can fruit have opposites? Silly girl. She will dwell in mediocrity with the rest of us who have spent our lives in school.

This is what happens when you don’t read your own books…exclusively. You let the foolishness of other people like Einstein, Aristotle and Nelson Mandela clutter your thoughts!

WILLOW: That’s what I do with novels. There’re no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels, and then I read them again, and it’s the best thing.

JADEN: Willow’s been writing her own novels since she was 6.

And that is why this now 16 year old girl thinks she can achieve Naruto style chakra Fire Fox tings. Her mind is contracts and expands within itself. You are not on her level. Go and sit down!

Finally, I discovered that I need a whole new set of goals. I have set the bar too low for myself. What is this foolishness about wanting to be an author and raise a happy family? If you only get one life to live, you better make it count! Which is why Jaden Smith has formulated a life goal of becoming Durable Man(!)…the most durable man on the planet.

JADEN: I have a goal to be just the most craziest person of all time. And when I say craziest, I mean, like, I want to do like Olympic-level things. I want to be the most durable person on the planet.

O_o

I am NOTHING, and neither are you. Even with our goals and powers combined, they are meaningless. How can we outlast the most durable man on the planet?

 

Please. Go and buy Willow and Jaden Smith’s new album now – right now. We can’t allow poverty/middle-classery to force these people to join the ranks of regular society. Their celebrity existence is the only thing that can sustain these thoughts. They are not of our world. Let’s do all we can to help them stay in theirs! They couldn’t handle going to school; you think they could handle working at Wal-Mart?

What? You said “middle-classery” is not a word? It is now…because I spoke it. Middle-classery, like “melancholiness” is now a word. Stop being envious. Elevate your consciousness. Go and make up your own words and qualify yourself for Robotic Condor life.

Read the full interview from the precocious Smith children here. It will restore you.

 

Accra is Gotham. Can it be Saved?

In the Gotham allegory, Batman is the symbol of hope in a city that is so depraved and corrupt that the only way to root out that corruption is through violence. Batman doesn’t hold symposiums and forums encouraging city corrupt leaders and crime bosses to stop ruining the city by appealing to their more delicate sensibilities. He merely kicks ass, disappears and waits for the police to pick up the trash. There is no discussion.

Accra is really no different from Gotham. All of the elements that comprise of the fictional city exist in the metropolis that sits on the coast of the Atlantic. The same extremes in wealth and poverty, corruption, looting of government coffers, shady deals with nefarious characters, stabbings, raping, arson…they are engrained in this African city. The debauchery is so rife that you can smell it in the very air. Accra’s air is thick with smog, filth, human waste and unending suffering. It chokes you when you land at Kotoka or as you snake your way through traffic to face a day at work, hoping that today will be the day your boss decides to pay you a fair wage.

And just like Gotham, our municipal leaders’ solution to these problems is to infrequently build a new high rise or two to disguise their failures so that they can point to something and call it “progress”. It does not go unnoticed that the average Ghanaian could never afford to live in (or around) these beacons of national development. That pleasure is reserved for expats, diplomats and sold out government cronies. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the state of Accra gives me nightmares.

You wonder how we got here. How did the Star of Africa get to this point? The simplest explanation is that we have been – and are – complacent. Worse than that, we’ve been arrogant. Ghanaians like to believe that certain things can “never happen” in Ghana, because we’re too civilized for whatever the unthinkable idea may be. And yet here we are, with someone like Nelson Baani in parliament.

Oh yes, the Sharia MP as he has been dubbed, has kept me up for four nights now. But it is not he alone who has occupied the darkest corners of my dreams.

I have nightmares about Accra Mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije who started the summer by burning down the makeshift homes of artisans behind the Accra Arts Center and then arresting journalists who came to report on the story, charging them with trying to embarrass the government.

Just over a month later, this same bearded fellow was captured on video arresting a trotro drive for honking his horn. The driver’s crime? He failed to recognize that Mayor Vanderpujie was in the road for a photo op, desperately attempting to appear as though he was really doing something to impact Accra’s sanitation problems. There were no cones, no barricades, no cordons – nothing to indicate that this was an official clean up exercise: Just a dude in the street with his massive beard and even bigger ego roughly handling a citizen, violating civil rights and vowing to show him where the power lies.

Oh! But it’s okay! Alfed Vanderpujie is just one foolish man! He can’t rule as mayor for ever. Ghanaians give it over to God and bury our faces in our imported rice.

Dr. Joshua Dra is another demon who refuses to offer me peace. For two years, the memory of what this man did to hundreds of Ghanaian women has haunted me. In 2012, an investigative team covertly video this “doctor” pressuring vulnerable patients to have unprotected sex with him before he could perform abortions. His explanation was that it was medically necessary for him to use his penis to open up their uterine lining so that he could extract their fetuses for disposal. This man raped and violated hundreds of women. And do you know what our justice system did after they arrested him for the cameras? They let him go! A rapist and quack has been released back into society with a slap on the wrist and is probably planning his next attack.

But oh! He’s just a foolish man. We’ll give to God. This behavior is not Ghanaian.

The list of things that are not Ghanaian and yet are fast defining what it means to be a Ghanaian – like defecating on beaches, selling children to settle debt, raping teenaged boys, using the word of God/the Bible to subjugate entire groups and selling expired (and potentially poisonous) food in grocery stores for profit – is ever growing and shows no sign of shortening.

But it’s ok! Why? Because these things are not what Africans do. It’s some few foolish people who are ruining the system. We shall give it to God.

And that has been the catch: we’ve turned blind eyes and deaf ears to all these “one off” incidences so consistently that the incidences have become our culture. This is why someone like MP Nelson Baani can get on the floor of Parliament – the body responsible for making laws in our land – and unflinchingly suggest violent, barbaric punishment for behavior that is immoral and not criminal. In addition to that, the self-same MP felt emboldened to not only venture onto national radio to re-assert his remarks, but to also call on his fellow male MPs to support him in this proposal. We’ve been waiting 4 days now for reaction from Parliament and all the citizens of this once great country we call Ghana have gotten in return is silence. Why?

Say it with me:

Oh! Because this is just one foolish man. We shouldn’t mind him. After all, he is from the North, and you know they are not very educated up there. Stoning adulterous women? How. This can never happen in Ghana.

Really? And yet this week in Kenya, another “civilized country”, my sisters are forced to march to the walls of the judiciary to force their government to protect them from savage, beastly men who strip, assault and violate in public at noon them on a near daily basis because NO ONE sat up from the beginning and said this far and no further!

Huh? Baani said WHAT??

Huh? Baani said WHAT??

What we have gotten instead is a ‘wait and see’ response. The ruling party and its opposition (save Ursula Owusu who is the only MP to come out publicly in condemnation of these ludicrous statements) are hoping and expecting that this incident will just be added to the laundry list of things that have shocked Ghanaians and gone forgotten. To help spur the forgetting process, the Chairman of the Parliament Finance Committee just recently released a statement warning that “Ghanaians should brace themselves for some tough times next year.” It’s a deflection tactic. Seriously, how much tougher can it get in Ghana? There are whole swathes of people who literally cannot afford to eat right now and who don’t have access to toilets. Is government going to sprinkle some extra starving fairy dust in the air to add to the misery? Is shit in the city about to get stinkier? The only thing that can be worse than the current economic crisis is if Lucifer himself took over the seat of the presidency!

Is Accra a lost cause? Batman has been fighting Penguin, the Joker and co for half a century and the city still hasn’t been saved. Is this just the way it’s going to be? Are you and I foolish for hoping, believing, fighting for a better future? I had a conversation with a woman I highly respect last night, and she led me to believe I was a fool for expending this much energy (which isn’t very much) on the likes of Nelson Baani.

“I just worry that focusing so much energy one this one stupid utterance, we may be losing touch with the bigger issue/picture,” she said.

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? The bigger picture is made up of thousands of singular stupid utterances that no one tackled at birth…and now it’s too late to go back and abort them.

Ah well. If Batman doesn’t come, we can always give it to God.

Fangirl Friday: Why I Absolutely Love ‘Delay’

I have a radio program, three television shows, a shoe shop and my own brand of mackerel. I am just raking in the money and I have no children. So what do I do? I shop and I dress up. I dress up for YOU to enjoy watching ME. We’ll be right back after this commercial break.”

These are just some of the outrageous things that Deloris Frimpong Manso – known in the entertainment industry by her nick name, Delay – says on a pretty regular basis. I absolutely LOVE it! Bordering on arrogance, she exudes a level of confidence that compels you to be charmed. Delay is a completely open book, but she still manages to hold an aura of mystery. She’s a flame and we’re all her little moths getting singed in the wake of her existence.

After a particularly hard day of anything (work, writing, kids, traffic, anything) my new favorite thing to do is to get on YouTube and watch all any episodes of The Delay Show that have been published. Delay is Ghana’s girl next door. Whereas as in America, the ‘girl next door’ is all sweetness and apple pie, clad in denim shorts and pigtails, Ghana’s girl next door is aggressive, opinionated and well-loved. She is a fierce protector and advocate. She helps you chase away boys who take liberties with your body. She is the big sister on the block, and she looks JUST like Delay.

What fascinates me most about Delay is how she got on television in the first place. It’s a cruel irony when it becomes “groundbreaking” for a Ghanaian to look like a Ghanaian in the spotlight of entertainment. When it comes to beauty standards, Ghanaians are notoriously and willingly chained to Anglo ideas of what makes a woman attractive. The ideal television presenter would have toasted almond brown skin, a modest weave or perm and speak English with just enough of an accent to prove that she’s been abroad but is still very much in touch with her roots. Delay is none of these things.

She’s dark, got a gap tooth, wears all 48” of her weave and does her show in Twi (or Twi-glish for her guests who aren’t native speakers).

delay pix

The ideal television presenter would also have some sort of respectable side enterprise to pad her income; something like a fashion label or a clothing store. Delay has her of brand of canned fish.

delay mac

Not everyone has to wear a high end label, but everyone has to eat! And Ghanaians love their canned fish.

As far as I know, Delay’s format is the first of its kind on Ghanaian television. What Europeans, Asians and Americans take for granted in terms of programming is that ALL of the pop culture shows aired on public access television are done in the native language of their respective countries. You wouldn’t go to China and expect Chen Lu Yu (also known as China’s Oprah)  to conduct her talk show exclusively in English. It would be absurd, because the base she reaches is broad in age and primarily Chinese speaking. However in Ghana, (unless this has changed recently) the only time programs are conducted in one of our local languages is if it’s one of those dull “adult education” sets where a panel sits awkwardly on a sound stage and drones on and on about the weather or rice or whatever. Again, because we’re so enslaved/chained to colonial norms in our thinking, there has long been the idea that business and quality entertainment must be presented in English. I love Delay for challenging that!

This is the essence of the girl next store persona I was talking about. You can’t properly tell someone off or barter for a lower price on beef in English. You will be scoffed at and cheated! Speaking in her native tongue only adds to Delay’s appeal. (I might be partial to this trait because one of the characters I wrote in Lover of Her Sole stubbornly refuses to speak in any other language but Twi, despite the fact that she’s a wealthy, university educated woman. She forces the world to conform to the Ghanaian in her, rather than the other way round!)

The other thing about Delay that puts me at ease is that she is no Oprah and is not even pretending like she’s trying to be. I have yet to see/hear her tackle a topic that is going to shatter the earth yet. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions she’s asked guests on recent shows:

 

Are you a virgin?

-Delay to Yvonne Okoro

Would you say you have emotional constipation?

-Delay to Yvonne Nelson

You insulted Kaakie’s womanhood, and as a woman, I am offended. (With a sneer) Will you please remove your sunglasses in my presence so that I can see your eyes?

-Delay to Shatta Wale

Dumelo means ‘Town Crocodile’? Why that name? Are you a crocodile?

-Delay to John Dumelo

And then she has the audacity to look her guest dead in the face and wait for an answer, as though she’s asked a serious question. What kind of question is “are you a crocodile?” Hahahahhahaaaa!! Ohhhh and the interview with Yvonne Okoro was so cringe worthy. No matter how she tried to dodge the question, Delay kept dragging her back into the ring and pushing her on the ropes. And 8 excruciating minutes later, we all found out Yvonne Okoro has indeed been sexually active at some point in her past.

Did knowing this alter a paradigm or add to this list of things humanity needed to know to ensure its survival? No! But it was fun to watch and that’s why I love her and her show. She’s funny without intending to be. Delay takes herself very seriously.

At so young, she’s achieved enormous success. She has a dozen or more people on her payroll, she has become a brand in her own right, and she did it without slwhoring around for favors. The last part is huge, because in Ghana (like much of African society), people are very quick to ridicule and reduce a woman’s success if it was predicated by the marked assistance of a man. That’s okay though. Ghanaians are also quick to reduce the success of men by alleging said success is predicated on the sale of cocaine or weed. The folly of our society is that we don’t understand what it means to work both hard and smart. After all:

DM“There was a time in Ghana when being a TV presenter meant you could come on air, do your job and go about living your normal life like a regular person. And then someone named Deloris Frimpong Manso came along and made being a TV presenter something to aspire to. We’ll be back after this commercial break.”

O_o

Sitting there talking about herself oooo…In the third person. You know you’ve made it when you talk about yourself in the third person!

Haters and appreciators! How do you feel about Delay? Is she real deal or nah? And if you’re like “Who the heck is Delay” go to YouTube and type in her name. See one of us for translations if needed. Discuss! ↓

That One Time I Tried Entitlement on for Size

Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are constantly making much ado about people of color and our “entitlements”. You know, just because we’ve endured socially engineered and government sanctioned poverty and oppression since – I dunno – 1625, we think we’re entitled to food and housing. I get it though. Nobody likes a mooch. Shame on us colored folk for not rising up with, arms if need be, to shake off the shackles of our oppression just as the early settlers did when they broke free from the tyranny of Mother England! You see how black Haitians were punished by (white) American government when they overthrew the French during the slave revolts. Just who did these people think they were, taking their liberty by force? Black people ought to know their place, and that place is under the boot of “real Americans” with cap in hand and handily available for scorn!

The words entitlement and privilege get tossed around in my circles and are often the subject of intense debate. For those of us who find ourselves squarely in the middle class –with our college degrees and respectable middle incomes – we have the luxury of discussing these topics without ever having to live through the true consequences of oppression. For example, if I find that I can no longer endure mainstream racism and the arrogance that accompanies it, I can save up a few dollars and travel to West Africa or the Caribbean. Likewise, I have friends who pick up home and hearth and go live in (read: escape to) Europe for a few months, because they can. We are the ones who carry the scent of the smoke of racism in the fibers of our clothing without ever having to feel its burn in our skin. We identify with oppression, but have never truly felt it; not like the man who gets denied housing because of the color of his skin, or the woman who is forced to undergo sterilization because of hers. Our education and zip code often insulates us from the most heinous forms of racism, and acts as a buffer so that we do not need to seek out “entitlements”. When Hannity and O’Reilly talk about entitled Black folk, I know he’s thinking about my Black face, but not talking about my particular circumstances.

But then of course, this got me thinking: Are people of color the only ones who pursue entitlement? And what the heck does that word even mean in the 21st century? I submit that Donald Trump feels he is just as “entitled” to a certain level of treatment as the homeless vet pushing his cart around downtown does. That said, I do admit that there are certain liberties that one is not entitled to take depending on what elements make up your existence. Like, you can’t be destitute, overweight and short and think you’re going to break into the haute couture world of fashion. Some things will just not ever be so. But what if there were some liberties you could take, just to try on for size? What if the matrix of your existence gave you juuuuust enough wriggle room to venture into a space that is not normally reserved for you? Last week, I decided to dedicate 24 hours to give this experiment a try, and I knew just where I wanted to begin.

“I will block traffic. I just don’t care,” my former colleague Becca* informed me, her green eyes flashing with confidence. “If I need to make a turn, I’ll make everyone wait.”

At the time, Becca drove what I called a “bully truck”. It was a grey Nissan Xterra and she would whip it into the parking lot like it was a Vespa. What kind of a person blocks traffic just so she could make a turn? What kind of human being is that inconsiderate? How can you not feel any sense of embarrassment for holding up the rest of road because you couldn’t wait a few more moments for traffic to clear? Well, an entitled person doesn’t, that who. I see women in their bully trucks driving as if they own the road several times a week. So when I dropped one of the girls off and was coming out of a particularly difficult turn on Peachtree Corners from the hair salon, I did just that. I pulled into traffic, forced everyone to halt and made the U-turn I had been denied for the previous 3-5 minutes. When a woman in a burgundy Honda CR-V honked her horn at me in irritation, I gave her one of these looks and went on my merry way.

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It was thrilling!

You know I work in retail, right? I meet all kinds of crazy people, ALL the time. My favorites are the one who come in to purchase/return an item with no receipt and a stack of coupons that expired in 2008. They also want a full refund or credit for their purchase, damn what the stipulations say. Why? Because they are entitled to it!

So I walked into Target during my 24 Hours of Privilege spree and picked up a few items for the kids. Target has a Red Card, and they practically pull your panties off at the register trying to get you to sign up for one. Needless to say, I have a Red Card – not because I enjoy being publicly fondled – but because I like saving money. The card guarantees me 5% off all my purchases. When I got to the register, imagine my surprise when the cashier informed me that their card reader was down.

Was this supposed to be my problem? My face conveyed my annoyance as I asked, “So what about my 5%?”

“Uh…I guess…Let me ask a manager,” the cashier stammered.

Oh, on any other day I would have let it go. But I was intent on enjoying every bit of privilege that I could! So yes, I held up the line when it was 10 minutes to closing time, had the manager called over to make my adjustment and walked out the door $1.60 richer. I suppose the glare that the 6’1” sashaying key holder shot me was meant to shame me, but it didn’t. Because, privilege.

I only had a few hours left into my experiment and so few opportunities to explore the type of privileges certain folk take for granted every day. At last, I was given one from the ancestors themselves.

I work with a particularly immature and irritating manager named Jordan. Her hair is dyed red as an anus set aflame and her voice is as pleasant a spoon trapped in a spinning garbage disposal. On my first night working with her, I took a break toward the end of my shift since she had not given me one. I am entitled to a 15 minute break, even if I don’t always receive one. I had a colleague radio up to her to inform her I was in the break room. Sure as the sun rises at dawn, here came Jordan clicking her way back into the break room to scold me. To scold ME! Oh no. Not on my Day of Privilege!

I gave her one of these looks and kept munching on my chips. With my heart pounding in indignation, I fired off an email to the store manager that night, knowing it could have potentially got me fired. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t.)

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Dear manager,

Do not ever put me on the schedule when Jordan is on duty. If you do, I will not clock in for duty. I will look in her face, spin on my heel, get in my car and drive to McDonald’s and pick up a sweet tea. I will then go home and watch the latest version of ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirates’ with my kids.

And then I waited.

Do you know they have given me more flexibility with my schedule since I sent that note? How’s that for leaning in!

Of course, I cannot exist this way for the rest of my life. Not until we achieve true equality. This sort of privileged behavior casts me as an “Uppity Negress” or “Sassy/Angry Black woman”, and no one wants to associate with those. No, for now I remain your humble Malaka, beneficiary of whatever liberties society deems fit for me to possess.

 

Have you ever tried exercising entitlement where/when you didn’t feel you had the right to? How did it feel? Felt great, didn’t it?!?!

 

Persona of the World’s Paranoid Manifestations: When Africans Cease to be People

Imagine with me.

Imagine you’ve invited your favorite person to lunch – your dad or you mom, perhaps – and you’ve invested a lot time into executing the endeavor. The reservations at the restaurant your mother has always dreamed of going to have been booked. You go to pick her up from her door and she takes your breath away. She’s standing there in a demure floral frock, a hint of color on her lips and the most beautiful smile on her face. Your mind transports you back to those sun filled afternoons when she would take you to the park or for ice-cream and you realize she’s still the center of your world.

You arrive at the restaurant and are seated by the maître d’. She’d like to start with some hot tea. He pours it and walks away. Suddenly, you realize there is no sugar on the table, so you ask the gentleman at the table next to yours if you could borrow his. He studies the pair of you briefly.

“Is this your mother?” he asks.

“Yes,” you reply, beaming with pride.

Without another word the man strides over to your table, clenches his fist, and punches your mom dead in her face.

There. You see that face you just made? That’s how I feel when I’m engaging certain people on the topic of Ebola. These people tend to be American – whom the world ridicules to scorn for their general ignorance – but Africans can’t escape this one either. Some of you are just as guilty.

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My friend Sangima posted this meme on Facebook about a week ago and gave permission for me to share it with the MOM Squad. I’m sure you have seen other similar images on social media. The first one I saw was of a very statuesque woman draped in black. She was holding a sign that said “I am a Liberian, not a virus.” It is poetic and melancholy that Sangima and so many people feel compelled to make such a prosaic statement. Of course you’re “not a virus”. We can plainly see that you are bipedal and warm blooded like the rest of us…but are you like the rest of us?

The unique thing about the African experience on this earth is that it is indeed unique. As diverse as the continent is, with thousands of languages and innumerable ways of living, we somehow all get lumped as “African” once one travels/resides outside of the continent. In the best of times, like during the World Cup for example, we gleefully participate in this charade. The World Cup is the only time we are “One Africa”. Calamity compels us to do the same in the worst of times as well. Ebola, like HIV/AIDS did in the 80s, makes it necessary for us to force the world to see us as human; not a cause, not a disease…just human.

When you consider that all the most effective western fundraising campaigns of the last century or more have used some image of “Africa” to promote their causes, it’s not difficult to understand why an American slurping their spaghetti over dinner would fail to identify with an African’s humanity.

Pick a global campaign and compare the images you find online. Nearly 100% of the time, the face of hunger is Black. The face of abject poverty is Black. The face of disease is also Black, all set against a backdrop of dust, flies and rubbish. No many how many glossy images we put of a Rising Africa out there is going to change that for far too many people, which is how and why I found myself embroiled in two very unique conversations surrounding Ebola in the last seven days.

The first involved Douche Bag, who can always be counted on to say something completely imbecilic.

Nadjah came home from her weekend visitation and flounced on my bed. She had a very concerned look on her face.

“Mommy? Douche Bag says that if we move to South Africa, I’m going to catch a disease.”

I put down my magazine and inspected her more closely. There was no melodrama, only sincere alarm.

“What disease did he say?”

“I don’t know. E—e—“

“Ebola?” I finished.

She nodded and I blew out a breath. Marshall was in bed with me and rolled his eyes. Enraged, I explained that her father was an idiot. (I shouldn’t have said that, but the words tumbled out.) I then set out to draw a picture of the world, demonstrating the distance between the countries where the Ebola scourge is most rampant to South Africa and their distance to America.

“You would have to travel 7-8 hours at a speed of 500-600/mph to catch Ebola,” I explained. “And if he brings up the topic again, let him know that he has a better chance of catching Ebola down there in Dekalb County and so close to the CDC and Emory Hospital. At a speed of 60/mph and a time of 30 minutes, he could be exposed to the virus!”

I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. Of all the preposterous things to say to a child!

In the midst of this, the scientists at Fox News and some other choice outlets had been proposing that we stop all flights out of that country until the “virus was contained”. How do you stop a virus that is transmitted from animals to humans by stopping flights? There are 104 things wrong with that suggestion, but I was content to chalk it up to the drivel of well-paid talking heads until a GOOD friend of my proposed the same.

The kids had been invited to the park by my Somali friend Ameera* (the one I told you jumped in the pool with her hijab and overcoat to save her daughter) and our mutual friend April* had met us there with her daughter. When Ameera got up to walk her toddler around on the other side of the park, April turned to me excitedly. Her eyes were wild.

“So how’s your dad with all this thing – this sickness – that’s going on?”

My dad wasn’t sick. What was she talking about? “What sickness?” I asked.

She was exasperated. “Ugh! Ebola! He’s in Africa ain’t he?”

“Yes,” I laughed, “but he’s in Ghana. Hundreds of miles away from the nearest Ebola case.”

Her mood turned pensive. “What about Ameera? Where did she say she’s from?”

“Somalia…”

“She near Ebola?”

Now I was beginning to get vexed. This woman had a bachelor’s degree and had traveled. That was supposed to mean something. I pointed out that Somalia was even further away than Liberia and Sierra Leon…and irrespective of that, Ameera lives here in Alpharetta like April did.

I could not believe that this woman, my friend, had just equated this woman’s nationality to a disease. I didn’t have much time to ponder it further, because she was still going on about how she didn’t understand why the world couldn’t end flights out of Africa until Ebola was contained. Surely I misheard her.

“Are you saying ALL flights out of ALL African countries should be stopped?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. Ebola should stay in Africa.

Well, yeah. Because Africa is a country.

I explained that unless she was planning on kissing, screwing or swapping fluid waste with anyone in or from Africa, she was in no danger. And then I told her she sounded like a Republican. You would have thought I’d called her sainted mother a whore.

The danger of what happens when the world Africanizes a disease or catastrophe has already been experienced by two boys in the Bronx this past weekend. Two brothers aged 11 and 13 who just returned to America from Sierra Leon were brutally attacked by their classmates as they chanted “Ebola, Ebola” under a hail of punches and kicks. It would not surprise me if the perpetrators were Black themselves, since the only time I or any other African has been called an “African booty scratcher” or other derogatory names stemming from my African heritage has been from Black American children. Because really, what those bullies did to those two little boys with their fists is no different from what April did to Ameera.

Africans don’t do ourselves any favors by feeding into the stigma and fear. According to a recent report my own president, John Mahama refused to shake hands with the heads of state of the three Ebola-stricken nations he visited on Monday September 15, over fear of contracting the deadly Ebola virus.

*Face palm*

How are we going to expect common cordiality from the rest of the world when we treat ourselves in this manner? How can we collectively demand to be treated with dignity when heads of state like Mahama – who are paid to know and do better – behave in this manner?

Discuss! ↓