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…

Office Bully: Crusade of a Rachet Recruiter

It’s 7:20 am and I should be getting my kids ready to go to school. However, I’m letting them sleep in because I absolutely have zero desire to get into the office early, let alone on time. Last week was extremely stressful for me, and stress is like carbon monoxide for me: long periods of exposure yield devastating results.

I work for HP, a boutique recruiting firm with lax rules about everything except productivity. If I’m correct, we don’t do any sort of background checks on the people we hire. There certainly isn’t any sort of personality assessment. We had one girl that was let go who said she was going to come back and kill one of our managers. And guess what? The idiot’s husband works as a security guard for the office building! Dummy.

So this is the caliber of individuals I work with. In this mix of former retail/grocery employees, truck drivers, property managers and stay-at-home moms, there are two individuals who have taken on the mantle of shepherding the group. These two people are Chanell and Yvette.

Our Company Structure

We recently had a hiring surge, and our office went from 20 people to 60 in two weeks. The room is set up like a maze of cubicles, with no sound barriers and very little white noise. It gets noisy in there very quickly.

Each “recruiter” is obligated to work 40 hours a week. However, each recruiter is free to structure their week as they see fit. This means you can work Mon-Thur for 10 hours a day and have Friday off, which is a very agreeable option for anyone in the 28-45 year old age bracket. Jean Baptiste, who I mentioned yesterday, has mastered this formula, and has conjured up a way to get out of the office every Thursday by 3:30 pm. I am not mad at the brother by any means! Unfortunately, I was told that when 6 o’clock comes, everybody needs to be out of the office…so that’s why I do. I kick out people and lock up at six. But why should I have to kick anyone out? We’re all “adults”, right? When 6 pm comes, you should have the courtesy to leave.

It has become apparent to me that Jean Baptiste is the only exception to this rule, and I am happy to leave him to his devices. He and I were on the path to becoming friends, up until The Incident.

 

The Incident

A lot of people use the office internet to stream video and music. This puts a great deal of pressure on the bandwidth and causes our system to periodically crash. On Wednesday last week, that’s precisely what happened. The entire system crashed, and half the office got up and began cavorting, cackling and carrying on. The computers were not working and neither were they. However, our sales guys were still on the horn AND we had a candidate in the office interviewing. One of the Project Managers came by and did not look pleased by any measure. So what do I do as a Team Lead? I send an email that simply said:

“Hey guys! Do you think we could have a conversation with our teams about moderating their tone? It gets really loud in here and I think we’re going to hear about it from management soon. Any suggestions?”

That was it.

Suddenly, Chanell and Yvette yanked their teams off the floor to have an impromptu meeting. I have no idea what was said, but they came out and were deathly silent. Weird, but whatever.

An hour later, Frick and Frack called the rest of us leads in for another meeting. They were “frusterated” and “annoied” by what was happening.

Chanell

Chanell

“Now everybody is scared to talk, and I don’t like that,” Chanell screeched. God lord. For someone so halfway attractive, she sure does have a voice from hell. No, like really. Her speaking voice is this high-pitched yelp, like a demon being tormented in hell. She has great breasts though.

That’s when Yvette chimed in. She’d spent the first half of the meeting with her head buried in her hands, nostrils flared, shaking her foot. She went on a tear.

Yvette

Yvette

If anyone can’t handle the noise level, then maybe this isn’t the environment for them! Asking people to not talk is about self. And you know what? I’m 44 years old and NO ONE is going to tell me I can’t talk. I’m going to sit in my corner, and I am GOING to talk!

Well, dumbass, you’re PAID to talk. I don’t think I mentioned anything in my email about anybody not talking…And how did she make her head roll like that with no neck? It was fascinating, like a miracle of physics.

Of course I didn’t say this, but I rolled my eyes pretty hard.

That’s when she got to talking about how she’s been in management before, and where, and why God thinks she’s the greatest thing since Jesus saved us all on the cross. But you know what? For all her “management experience” guess where she’s sitting? At HP with the rest of us, making way under $40K. And how were you a manager using made up words like “agreeance”?

Oh but it didn’t end there. Chanell had to get her piece in. She wanted ALL of us to know what she had managed at Fortune 500 companies, including – but not limited to – Mars, the moon and some distant fairy land. Again, no one cares. And to signal I didn’t care, I sighed. Hard.

The Banshee and the Troll didn’t like that one bit.

 

Escalation

“Could we look at this from the candidate’s perspective and what they hear?” I asked.

Combined, they form a most fearsome creature

Combined, they form a most fearsome creature

The words were barely out of my mouth when Yvette began to yell – with no reservation – that she had to conduct phone screens with Wesley, our president, in the background playing golf, chatting about lacrosse and yelling “Woohoo!!!” throughout the office. Keep in mind, Wesley was sitting in the office adjacent to the meeting room and the walls are paper thin. He heard every word, and was not pleased.

Finally, the meeting ended and the unpleasantness was over – or so I thought. Yvette, it appeared, had other plans.

She immediately went through the office whispering about me, spreading gossip and nonsense. It’s all made-up, because the woman knows nothing about me. Then she came over to my area to answer a question for one of our junior recruiters.

“I hope that wasn’t too loud,” she said mockingly in my direction.

Well bitch, I hope you die.

The most crushing blow was when she took Jean Baptiste outside and planted poison in his ear about how I had no right to tell him when to leave, and how I think I run things around there, and that I have a problem with him staying late. I have told him before that he could stay until midnight and I wouldn’t care one whit. But that didn’t matter. His demeanor immediately changed towards me. The only reason it hurts is because I had hoped that he and I would become friends outside of work in time. I am very selective with whom I call “friend”.

Anyway, the waters in the office have been poisoned, and I am regularly treated to cold stares by all the gay men (and you know how chilly their eyes can get), stony silence from the women, and sympathetic smiles from co-workers who still/do like me asking “girl, are you alright?”

 

Conclusion

Am I alright? I’m going to be just fine. I’m not going to let some underachieving, self-absorbed, grossly overweight cretin destroy my life. Over a salary under $40K? How possible?!

Now, it’s important to note that there are thousands of people across America, and indeed the world who are subjected to similar incidences if not worse ones. Sometimes, they don’t make it out, and sometimes, they take people out with them. Suicide and mass murder as a result of some douchebag being an asshole is real. People don’t realize what a devastating impact their evil ways can have on a person. In my younger years, I would have let Yvette’s action drive me to personal harm; but I have grey hairs on my vagina now, much too old…and I’m way past letting her feeble, childish antics cause me any real angst. At this point, she’s merely an irritation.

Sometime this week, I hope we can all discuss Karyn Washington and what her death signifies. The implications are an indictment against our culture and what we tolerate and foster in our community.

 

Have you ever been bullied in your office? ARE you an office bully? What makes a person think they have the right and privilege to treat another this way? Discuss! ↓

 

Workplace Bullying is, Like, an Actual Real Thing

Have you ever heard of ‘workplace bullying’? Did you scoff when you heard the term?  I’ll raise my hand and admit quite candidly that I did. Sucked my teeth, in fact. As far as I was concerned, there was no such thing as workplace bullying: only cowering, sniveling grown-ups who didn’t know how to get along with their co-workers and handle a bit of ribbing.

And then, as God in all His humor often subjects me to when I’m too quick to pass judgment, he plucked me out of my security and put in the place of those I was judging. That’s right folks, you heard it right. I have become the victim of workplace bullying.

I had to research the term to make sure my feelings of discomfort and disquiet were valid. Workplace bullying is defined by the department of labor as:

 A persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and on occasion can be subordinates. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in company culture.

Examples of bullying are:

  1. Unwarranted or invalid criticism
  2. Blame without factual justification
  3. Being treated differently than the rest of your work group
  4. Being sworn at
  5. Exclusion or social isolation
  6. Being shouted at or being humiliated
  7. Excessive monitoring or micro-managing
  8. Being given  unrealistic deadlines for projects

 

Last week, I found myself subjected to numbers 1-6. Can you imagine? Me?!?! A whole me! I was shocked. I was ‘bullied’ before on my cleaning job by Big Lou (you might recall the Real Housekeepers of Atlanta series I wrote last year), but I just chalked that up to her being a crazy old lady who truly needed to get a life. Fortunately, I did not see my days ending with a mop and broom in my hands, and I was well on my way to voluntarily ending my days as a toilet scrubber in the Atlanta metropolis.

I suppose I should give you a bit of a background to catch you all up on how I got here. As all of my friends (and I guess all the regulars on this blog know), I exited the workforce in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. I didn’t like my job and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise our kids, who my husband and I only really saw between 6-8 pm and on weekends. I took a few short term contracts whenever I got an itch for a “real paycheck”, but never anything long term.

This Christmas when I contracted meningitis and racked up a $43,000 medical bill, I decided that perhaps it would be a good opportunity to go back to work. After all, the kids were grown and essentially ‘independent’. It was the perfect motivation to head back to work and begin working on knocking down our debt.

So here I am at HP* (not to be confused with Hewlett-Packard), a boutique recruiting firm that I worked at once before. They brought me back as a team lead, which was thrilling and frightening, particularly since I’d been out of the traditional workforce for so long. However, my employer Wesley*, a really standup guy whom I’m sure suffers from adult ADHD had utter faith in my capabilities and so I set out to prove him right.

I was given a key to the building and our office suite, informed to lock up at 6 pm when the office closed, and told to go off and be a team lead. No training, no instructions…just a mandate to “go do”.

There were 5 other team leads at the company when I arrived. A sixth and seventh were added a few weeks after I arrived. One of those women promoted is Yvette. It is she and Chanell who are my tormentors.

trollYvette is an enormous, rotund woman who loathes humanity. She particularly dislikes children, by her own admission. I maintain that only who dislikes children is soulless and godless.

Chanell thinks she runs the world. The reasons for her intense belief in her self-anointed mandate to govern all who come into her path are unclear. She was pleasant enough when I began. I generally keep my co-workers on a hi-and-bye basis until I can get a better sense on where they stand on important issues. Needless to say, we aren’t even running on a cordial basis ever since the incident – which then morphed into a string of incidents – let alone trying to develop an office relationship built on mutual respect.

There is a third player in this, whom all the angst seems centered around. His name is Jean Baptiste*, and has been with HP for a little over 2 years.

Has that whet your appetite? Great! Give me a day so I can finish the rest of the story.

-To be continued! -

 

How Berenice Won the Internet This Week

Happy Frivolous Friday MOM Squad!

How has your week been? Mine was INSANE. I’ve become the victim of workplace bullying in recent days. No, no…don’t worry. It’s just your typical Black woman drama. I just am unaccustomed to it is all. I want to study and understand it, which is why next week I hope to treat you to a four part series called Crusade of the Ratchet Recruiter: Yvette’s Story

But we’re not here to talk about overweight, sexually frustrated, middle-aged mulatto women. Today we’re here to talk about Berenice, who took the internet by storm this week. Oh? You’ve never heard of Berenice? Quelle horreur! This is something we must remedy immediately!

First of all, I have to commend Berenice. If you are going to tackle any John Legend song, it means you’ve got a lot of chutzpa and balls of brass, right out the gate. John’s voice has a unique quality that only comes along once in a generation. John Legend is to Marvin Gaye as Pharrell is to Smokey Robinson. So when an individual, either male or female takes on the challenge of crooning one of their ballads, you have to give them credit for that.

That’s as far as the credit goes when the execution is this flawed, however.

My word! Did Berenice and her cameraman (and it had to be a man, because no woman would let her girl go out like this) know they had stumbled on 4:32 seconds of internet gold when they posted this video on YouTube? Let’s just analyze the basics, because after the ↓ I want – nay – I NEED to hear your thoughts.

  1. Why is the beach so dirty? I mean, couldn’t they rake the trash to the side instead of letting her roll around in it “seductively” as she screeched her way through this love song?
  2. Why does her face look like it’s paining her to sing? Is it because she can’t figure out what “curls and edges” are? Maybe I’m mistaking confusion for pain, I don’t know…
  3. At minute 3:14. The clumps of sand from her fingertips. No.
  4. Ei! Minute 3:40! Was she having a seizure on her feet? NO!
  5. I had to go back and watch it from the beginning. Why does she look like she lost her balance on minute 0:27? We’re only 27 seconds into the video Berenice. You can’t be falling down.
  6. And finally: No. Just NO.

Are you done laughing? THIS, ladies and gentlemen; this is how you win the internet. This is the kind of comedy you can’t dream up in a laboratory. You know why? Because it wasn’t even meant to be funny. Berenice was dead serious when she flopped around in the sand like a wounded captured mermaid and allowed this to be posted on the ‘net. It is *intention* that wins the internet, every time.

Please…discuss! ↓

I’m going to finish crying.

Things I learned Over the Weekend

All Ghanaians look one way

I happened upon a video featuring Sangu Delle, proprietor of Heel the World , this weekend. The interview was remarkable in many ways. From the host’s awkward intro where he clears his throat, mutters through an introduction, his stumbling offer to have Sangu take some tea and FINALLY his pronouncement that Sangu Delle “did not look Ghanaian”, there were many takeaways from the segment.

For my part, it was good to hear that a Ghanaian other than myself had suffered the insult of those dreaded words: that you do not look like what you are. I mean, what is a Ghanaian supposed to look like? Do Sangu Delle and I look un-Ghanaian because we are well-fed and properly groomed in public? What the heck, man!?!

Sangu Delle gave a brilliant, inspiring interview about youth and achievement. What I learned from his conversation is that we will all get further if we look at what we have and build on those things, instead of obsessing over what we lack and wallowing in the same.

 

‘Gator Bait

I had only heard this term in passing in the past, and never really took the time to study it. Somehow, it became a topic of conversation on my job. My co-worker asked me if I’d seen the pictures of Black babies that White Southerners would use as alligator bait.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. They used to tie babies up over a swamp and wait for the alligators to jump up and snatch them,” he repeated.

He suggested I look it up. It took me 2 days, but I finally did, and in doing so discovered this video.

How devastated would I be if some man scooped up one of my toddlers and brought their lives to such a violent, horrible end? This is why I believe in Hell.

 

Salty enough for the slave ship?

I dropped the kids off in Ohio for Spring Break at their grandparents, much to their delight. Spring Break was looking rather bleak prior to that. Now that I’m back at work, it would mean a week at our local daycare…and the kids didn’t fancy that idea at all.

Anyhow, I discovered my mother-in-law is in the throes of planning a Juneteenth Celebration in her town, and is also working on getting the Gammon House on the National Registry of Historic Sites. The Gammon House was part of the Underground Railroad. She talked about some of the fascinating people she’s encountered while working on the project, one of whom is a professor and historian.

“Did you know they used to lick the slaves before putting them on the ship to test how salty their sweat was?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah. The reason high blood pressure is prevalent in the African American gene pool today is because of how they selected us back then. The more water you retain, the greater the chance you had of surviving the Middle Passage. They generally chose Africans whose sweat was the saltiest and stuck them on the boat.”

Look closely on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Look closely. There, on my cheek. Slave ship ready!

Judging from the results of my ascent up Table Mountain last year, I certainly would have been one of those Africans slated for a 3 month cruise through Hell. However, knowing myself as I do, I would have found a way to end my life upon arrival in the New World. I couldn’t spend 12 Minutes a Slave, let alone live 12 Years a Slave.

 

Pharrell’s song does actually make you feel Happy

My father-in-law was drafted into Vietnam, which was one of the bloodiest, horrifying, useless and baseless wars of our lifetime. America had no business in that war, and Black men had even less business than that.

One of the most enduring memories that my father-in-law has of that war is the bodies that were piled up in the streets after the Tet Offensive. He said they “sprayed people in the streets like ants” and then brought in bulldozers to scoop up the bodies.

And then he saw ‘Happy’, the Saigon version, and was astounded. He was so pleased that those people had recovered, that they were singing and dancing in the streets – that they had smiles on their faces.

It made him happy.

 

What did you learn this weekend? Was any of this news to? The licking…the licking was the most eye opening.

The Hue Violet: Some Colors Never Change

“Hey!!! I need help changing my clothes!!!!”

Serena had taken to calling Annabelle “Hey” recently. It grated on Annabelle’s nerves to no end. What 39 year old woman responds to “hey”, particularly when the address is elicited from the mouth of a 3 year old brat?

Annabelle and Anitha both glanced up at the stairs.

“Hey, do you mind going to help her?” Anitha asked tersely.

Anitha was still vexed with Annabelle in the wake of a conversation they’d had the night before. Serena’s rudeness had reached a point that Annabelle had barely been able to stand, and she told Anitha as much. This morning’s utterance was simply the latest in a long line of infractions.

“Well, I don’t know where she’s getting it from,” was Anitha indignant reply. “Ravi and I don’t talk like that, and it’s only something that’s come up in the last month or so.”

Anitha thought back to the many times that Anitha had verbally abused her husband in her presence as well as that of her child, using a tone that wasn’t fit for a beast, let alone a man. She let the comment about the “last month” slide and nodded her head. There was no reasoning with the woman.

She went upstairs to see what help the child needed. She had turned her shirt inside out and couldn’t reverse. Annabelle knelt to help her and sent her downstairs.

She had decided that this was going to be a good morning, because the next day was Thanksgiving. She was going to be away from the Rajwani’s for four whole days, and was basking in the promise of peace that lay ahead of her.

When she rejoined Serena and Anitha downstairs, Anitha was tapping her chest with her fingertips, which meant she was mentally generating a list of things for Annabelle to do.

“What time were you planning on leaving tomorrow?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t think dinner is until sometime in the afternoon…”

“Because I’m going to need your help in the morning,” Anitha interjected. “We’re going to Thanksgiving at a friend’s house and she asked me to prepare the turkey.”

Okay. Where was this heading?

“I’ve never made a turkey before, so I need your help.”

“Anitha; I’m not a cook. I’ve never made a turkey before either!”

“Well we’ll have to figure something out. Surely you’ve seen a turkey prepared before?”

Annabelle took stock of the conversation. What kinds of assumptions was this woman making? Had someone cast her as the Magical Negro Who Can Solve All Life’s ills in a low budget film and she hadn’t known about it? She supposed so as she shared a turkey tidbit that she’d picked up from The Chew with the woman.

“Well, I have seen turkey decorated with oranges and placed on kale as a garnish,” she offered lamely.

“Oh good!” Anitha exclaimed. “Can you slice the oranges today? I bought some kale last week as well. And then we can figure out where we’re going to get the turkey from.”

Annabelle inspected the kale. It, like much of the produce Anitha bought in bulk, had begun to wilt and shrivel. It would be unappealing to say the least, but that wasn’t her problem. Dinner was not with the Rajwanis.

Much to Annabelle’s surprise, Anitha took the initiative and found out she could get a pre-seasoned turkey from Popeye’s. She sent Annabelle to pick it up, which she was happy to do. Serena was home from school for the holidays and she could do with a break from the demented duo. She returned with the bird in hand and went to find some mundane endeavor that would separate her from mother and child.

Anitha searched her out about an hour later, again tapping her chest.

“Hey, I’m going to need you to stay in the morning to help me roast the turkey. And can you get a jump on the laundry before you leave for the holiday? It’s beginning to pile up.”

Annabelle took a shallow breath. Despite her opining, Anitha refused to get larger laundry baskets. The family had two dorm room baskets that held just enough for one load. With 8 items of clothing capacity, it gave the illusion of piling up, when – as was just stated – it was barely enough for one load.

 Anitha had already coerced Annabelle into doing the entire family’s laundry, when in reality she should only be doing Serena’s. She cursed herself for complying to this request in the first place, but she could not stand the clutter in the laundry room. There were piles and piles of clothes scattered around the floor when she first came into the family’s employ, some with tags on them, some with yoghurt stains. It had taken Annabelle 2 weeks to sort through the mess. To her disdain, she discovered a box of Cialis buried under Ravi’s pile. The man didn’t even have the decency to discard the packaging for his erectile dysfunction medication. It should have surprised Annabelle, but it didn’t. Even his penis was too lazy to get up on its own.

Strengthened by the knowledge that in a few short hours she would be away from this family and back into the land of the sane, she bent to gather Anitha and Ravi’s clothing and gathered the bulk to her chest. She let the clothing drop with a thud, and turned on the cold cycle. As she began to parse the clothing, her hand touched Anitha’s underwear. What was that buried in the silk lining?

“Oh. My. God.”

There, in the front of the dusty rose panties was a glob the color of onyx and amber. It was the fresh remnants of Anitha’s period, which remained un-rinsed and clinging stubbornly to her six 6 undergarments.

Annabelle cursed before she could do anything else. When she gathered her senses, she quickly threw the stained underwear in with the rest of the clothing and shut the lid before fleeing the laundry room. The memory of Anitha’s uterus blood stuck with her as she let the steaming hot water burn her skin as she washed her hands. Suddenly, she was screaming and didn’t know it.

“Oh my God!”

 

I know Reader, I know.

How Do You Handle Criticism?

Criticism, critique, opinion, junk that folks have to say…this is the world we live in today. My friend Kwesi (his real name) says that because of technology, everyone and ANYone can publish, even if it’s not necessary that they do. News travels in nanoseconds in this century, and opinion goes even further. Opinion and its half-brother, Gossip, have always been quicker to reach their intended target than real news. People are just happier to say what they think about a matter than discuss the matter in itself.

As a blogger, I generally have to contend with how people think about what I write, from style to subject matter. As a rule, I like people, so I am pretty accessible. Some of my most recent friendships have been a result of people following a thread on my blog, predicting my whereabouts and making the effort to meet me. The transition from stalker, to acquaintance to friend in my book is usually a quick and easy one. But as I say, those friendships are not made easily. Because people know so much about ME and judge me based on what I write – which is often personal – they truly believe they have to right to comment and share their personal opinion on my craft.

And you know what? They are right. If I made it public, I made it open to public opinion.

Let’s just be clear: I’m not always open to what people have to say about my craft. There have been times when people have been downright mean, and I’ve had to have my brother chase them off with his own special brand of Troll Repellant. Other times folks have been more tactful in telling me they didn’t appreciate the way I wrote this or expressed my opinion about that. I had one woman invite me to dinner only to tell me that she had serious reservations about how often (and cruelly) I wrote about Douche Bag. She was paying for dinner, so I didn’t tell her off then, but I fumed all the way home.

But then I paused and thought: Perhaps she was right? Perhaps the eternal bashing of my baby daddy was not really good for me, and should my daughter chance upon it in the future, maybe it wouldn’t be good for her either? I mulled over her words – her opinion – let them jostle for dominance over my indignation and my right to write whatever the hell I wanted, and eventually let them win. I adapted. And now I only write about Douche Bag when he does something extremely peculiar that I just HAVE to share with the MOM Squad.

When you’re an artist, comedian, blogger or social commentator, you can’t predict how your words are going to affect the subject of your discourse. Some of us don’t even care how it affects the individual! But it is always important to remember that at the other end of your keyboard or your microphone, there is another person with real feelings that need to be acknowledged, just as you’d want your own feelings done.

One of the best examples I’ve seen of how to handle “negative” criticism was on Chappelle’s Show. In one of the earlier seasons in a skit called Negrodamous, played by Paul Mooney cracked a joke saying “White people love Wayne Brady because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcom X.”

We laughed, and Dave probably forgot about it…until Wayne called. He wasn’t cool about it, but he was a good sport. What happened next made for television history and became a pop culture phenomenon. Yes, I’m talking about the Training Day parody, with the tagline “Black actors need to stick together.”

It was a valuable lesson for me. In the face of offence, whether it was intended or not, you always have the choice to turn it around if you sit down with the offender and reason things out. It’s hard, but with a little magic, you can actually turn piss into lemonade.

It is never my intention to hurt anyone on this blog (Okay. That’s a lie. There are days when my sole intent is to destroy the very heart of some of my victims, but that’s not usually the case.), so when I do, I am quick to make amends. Mind of Malaka is just that: ideas and thoughts knocking in my head that I write about. My thoughts are not law, and my blog is not the Wall Street Journal. It’s just a place where I make my honest opinions known.

So to the person I have affected recently with my thoughts, if you’re reading, I’d like to take an opportunity to turn pee pee into a sugary delight…if you’re open. You know where to find me.

Black actors need to stick together.

 

How do you personally handle criticism? Has there been an instance when you wished you’d handled things differently? What have been some of the best ways you’ve seen people handle opinion and attitude? Discuss!!

I Have Help Pay For The Funeral of Nigga Who Molested Me

Note: My brother chose the title. Direct your ire at him. Let’s begin.

This is so messed up. I’ve had my fingers on the keyboard for the last 20 minutes. I hardly know where to begin? Do I begin in 1959 when my uncle was born and tell you all about why he was named in defiance of my paternal grandfather, was my grandmother’s beloved problem child for all his days – or do I just skip ahead to 1988 when he cornered me in a hotel room at age 9, asked me for a kiss, rejected my congenial peck and stuck his tongue down my throat? Sometimes I can still taste its sourness in my mouth…

Long time readers of MOM know that this blog has been cathartic for me. I write for therapy. You and I have been through trials with Douche Bag, illnesses, possible miscarriages, relationship issues; the gamut is pretty wide. And some of you guys have been kind enough to share your tales of woe and mirth in return here as well, sometimes as guest contributors and others in well thought out, thought provoking comments. I’ve always been grateful for the camaraderie and readership of the Squad. Please never forget that. Argh! I have a lot to say, and I’m not sure how to say any of it.

When my uncle died early last week, my father called at 7:46 am to deliver the news like he was reporting rain. He sounded very cheerful.

“Good morning, Daddy!”

“Hey, Malaka! Are you awake?”

“Yes. I just got out of the shower.”

“Okay, good. Brace yourself up.”

“Ei. Brace myself up for what?” I toweled off and put the phone in the crook of my shoulder.

“Victor is dead.”

“What?”

“Victor, Victor! My brother…”

“Yes, Daddy. I know who your brother is.”

He explained he had died in the night in his sleep, presumably. He hadn’t been feeling well for two or three days before but hadn’t gone to the hospital.

“At least he died in his sleep,” my father mused.

“Yeah…” I said hollowly. What else was there to say?

My father said he and my other uncles were beginning to work on his funeral preparations and he would call to inform me about what would happen next. I received the news with little to no reaction. Was I happy he was dead? Not really. I discovered I didn’t really care. I never had a relationship with that particular uncle. There were infrequent visits to our house before and after the incident. I was always very careful never to find myself alone in his presence, and when he became a roving alcoholic, much to my grandmother’s distress, my parents made it a point that he never came to our house unbidden.

The shame of it is that Uncle Victor had every opportunity to make something of himself. He was bright, very handsome and had favor and grace over his life. People had always been quick to give him things: a few cedis if he needed it, a job or a place to stay. Out of all these, the only thing he was ever really able to hold down well was his liquor. It broke my grandmother’s heart, though she never spoke of it to us, and if she did happen to in the presence of my siblings, it was in Larteh or which we have no fluency or understanding.

Marshall was far more emotive to the news than I was. He asked me how I felt, and when I confessed I had no real feelings at all, he was surprised.

“I just thought you would be glad.”

“Why would I be glad?” I was genuinely shocked by his expectation. “How do you feel?”

“Vindicated,” he admitted.

When I called my brother and sister to relay the news, I got a similar reaction. Okay fine. They were a little dissimilar. My sister was nonchalant. My brother was pissed because he never got a chance to punch my uncle in the throat.

“Ever since you told me that sh*t about what he did, all I’ve wanted to do is punch that nigga in the throat,” he ranted. “He stole that from me. That ain’t fair.”

The conversation quickly moved to our other more favorite uncles and Uncle Victor was soon forgotten in our conversation; that is, until my dad called today.

“We need to raise $x,000 between us for his funeral,” he said. It was hard to determine his mood. He was Skyping me, but the lights were off in his room and I couldn’t see his face. “I’m relying on you guys to help me.”

A massive, almost unbearable headache took over me. I rubbed my frontal lobes to try to get some relief.

“I know, Daddy. I’ll talk to Adj and Sami to see what we can do. When do you need it by?”

“Next week.”

Next week? Next week?!? When I still have medical bills in the hundreds of dollars trickling in? When the kids are growing out of clothes faster than I can buy them and need all manner of money for everything under the sun? I didn’t share this with my father, of course. My job as a dutiful African daughter living abroad is to turn his requests into reality, not bellyache about the process. There were so many thoughts jostling in my mind. First I had to figure where to get the money. My sister had already predicted that the family would come asking for money and that her immediate response would be, “I got fifty bucks and that’s IT.” In my truest of hearts, I had never really considered that they would ask us for money. The man was married and has 2 kids of his own. Why did it fall on US to bury him?

“That’s what the f*ck I wanna know!” my brother raged. He was livid that he was being asked to shell out funds to serve someone who had his hand out in life, and was still doing it in death.

“His brothers have to bury him, Sami,” I reasoned. “Same as if I had died, you and Adj would do something…”

“Yeah. I’d do something alright. If you’d spent your whole life f*cking up, I’d come take a dump on your coffin. And you know what? I could do that, because I PAID FOR IT!”

Our conversation went on that way for the better part of the next 72 minutes. At the end of it, we came to the same conclusion: we were going to end of sending the money. Not for our uncle’s sake, but for our dad’s. He’s been on a fixed income for the last 15 years. He wasn’t going to have the money, at least not by the end of the month when they planned to bury his brother.

“Curse Daddy for being so loveable. If he would just be an asshole like other African fathers, we could let him rot and tell him to figure this out on his own!”

And so there it was. At the end of that rabbit trail, after all that conversation about how unjust and unfair it was, I was being asked – required, really – to pay for the funeral of man who molested me all those years ago? Oh, but Malaka! you may say. It wasn’t really that bad. It’s not like he penetrated you with his penis or anything! Other kids have it worse.

Of course other kids have had it worse. And they never should have. It still doesn’t negate what happened. When you get behind a wheel drunk, the cops don’t care if you drove two blocks or two miles. You were still driving drunk. And any kind of inappropriate behavior with a child crosses the line with the first step.

What a wasted life. Even in death, he was still leaving messes for other people to clean up. Apparently he had gotten wicked drunk at a funeral last week, fell and hit his head three times and still refused to stop drinking. When they took him to the hospital he was bleeding from his nose and had taken a dump on himself as he struggled to cling to life. Who had to wipe that up, I wonder?

But do you know what’s really screwed up, MOM Squad? The jacked up part is that this isn’t even going to be the first time I’ve had to financially support this uncle. Because he and his (ex) wife were such diabolical swindlers, they accrued debts all over the city. In return, they were unable to financially support their two children, my younger cousins who were living with my grandmother. My uncle was drinking his life away, his wife was doing whatever she did, and I had been sending pocket money to my grandmother for years. You know what she was doing with it? Using it to educate and feed this man’s kids. I was almost sick when my father revealed that to me this evening.

I’ve been taking care of this nigga’s responsibilities while he was alive for years and didn’t even know it. How fitting that I should end up doing the same in death.

 

 

How I (Unintentionally) Made Chimamanda Adichie Cry

Okay. To be fair, she didn’t really cry… but she did choke up a bit!

I wonder if these celebrities know how much we mere mortals suffer for them. Examine yourself. You know what lengths you’ve gone to for a celebrity, whether it’s been making a choice between whether to eat or buy their latest album or sitting outside in the rain only for them to perform one song and leave the stage. Me, I wore stockings.

That’s right: I forced my things into a pair of nylon casings for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie last night. I also sat in two hours of rain soaked, post work Atlanta traffic to make sure I got a decent seat at the venue she was speaking at. Congruently, I suffered the two things I hate most in the world for a fellow African author. And you know what?  She completely made it worth my while, for which I am grateful. (I should also add that I am grateful for the rain and dreary weather, for if Thursday had had been as lovely and warm a night as Sunday, every Nigerian in the city would have packed the event hall, and I would be displaced and bitterly disappointed.)

I was slow to get on the Chimamanda bandwagon, but she’s won me over quickly and earnestly. I picked up a copy of her first book That Thing Around Your Neck the night before the reading with hopes that she would sign it; and sign it she did! Chimamanda had come to Atlanta to read from Americanah, her latest work. The woman is a wonder. Physically, she is not what I envisioned, even though I’ve seen her a dozen times on TV or YouTube. She’s tiny, very slim. Her eyes really are that brown. And her hair…my Lord! Was I really in danger of being star struck? It would appear so.

After she read a few pages from the first chapter, she opened to floor for questions and dialog. I have never been one brave enough to ask questions of guest speakers, but for Ms. Adichie it was different. There was something I had dreamt of saying to her face if I ever got the opportunity, and only Heaven knew when I would have this chance again.

Chimamanda, like India.Arie, gives very special thought and consideration to all her responses. Though I was only fourth in line to ask my question, I waited 20 minutes to get to the mic. She is that detailed in her answers, which the audience thoroughly loved. She witty, contemplative, and just a tad snarky when necessary. When it was my turn, she smiled and we made eye contact. I began slowly, since I have always been accused of speaking too quickly.

“I don’t have a question. I’m that audience member that has a comment,” I said. “Today is Ghana’s 57th year of independence, and for me, this is the best Independence Day present ever. Unlike everyone else in this room, I only became acquainted with you a year ago. My best friend attends your Farafina workshop in Nigeria, in fact.”

Chimamanda smiled with pleasant recognition and ahhh’d into her mic.

“I just wanted to tell you ‘thank you’ for your work and for putting words and phrases together the way you do. I read your tribute to Komla Dumor and I was so touched. I think about Komla all the time. I think about him today. Thank you for putting into words what we were all thinking and feeling in that difficult time, and thank you for your gift to African women.”

photoWe locked eyes for a moment, and I scurried away (Lumbered, really. My heels were SO uncomfortable), very aware that she had not made an addendum to my comment. When I got back to my seat, Tosinger (who was my date) told me that Chimamanda had gotten choked up. I was appalled.

Oh! Malaka! Why?!

The night progressed superbly after that. She never got a chance to read anything further because the line for questions and comments was steadily getting longer. Each of us had a tale of thanks and appreciation to tell, and Chimamanda in return offered this observation after one particularly stunning woman from the Carribean approached the mic.

“Can I tell you how glad I am to see so many beautiful Black women here?” she said with amazement. “I don’t know why it does, but it just makes me happy…even if it’s absurd.”

Of course, we all clapped wildly.

We even got to see a different side of Chimamanda when her friend Chika asked a question. She promptly told Chika to sit down, which prompted Chika to “waka” her. Tosinger and not less than 12 other Nigerian women were livid. Apparently, the hand gesture she offered Chimamanda was one of high insult, and basically tantamount to the middle finger. Hei!

The line showed no sign of getting shorter as more and more people summoned the courage to ask a question concerning her work and her process as a writer. The organizers cut it short only after giving an 8 year old boy a chance to ask his question.

“I’m writing a book,” he said, “and I want to know: when you’re writing, do you stop and think about what you’re going to say or do you just keep writing?”

He stepped away from the microphone and heaved for air.

“I just keep writing,” she replied maternally. “And you should to!”

That’s right! Awww, he seemed so scared! Just clap for the boy and be quiet…. *Applause*

The line to sign her book. My Lord…

photo(2)I stood in line for an hour – in heels and stockings – to wait to have book(s) signed. Chimamanda was amazing. Her smile never faded, and she greeted each person with the familiarity of a dear friend. It made up for the behavior of one of the event organizers, whose blacked eyes and nasty attitude compelled me to swear to NEVER donate to their literacy cause. Ugh, he was awful!

The line got shorter and shorter, as did the distance between my knees and the top of my stockings. The combination of ill fit, my size and standing for so long was causing them to roll down my hips. I tried to keep it together as I approached her signing table with a beating heart and a barrage of very African demands.

“Hello again,” she said saccharinely.

“Hi,” I replied briskly. “I have a list of things for you. Maame Yaa from Paris says please respond to her email. She is the one whose son you hugged on stage.”

She nodded, but looked confused as she tried to recollect. I didn’t have time for that. I had a list to finish!

“My other friend says I must also give you a kiss…which I won’t do,” I added hastily, “but she said to ask.”

Chimamanda broke into a fit of laughter and then offered me her hand in a very queenly fashion. I took it and touched my nose to it. Her hands are very soft. My nose was very sweaty.

Finally, I gathered the courage to ask her to do what I had been praying for all night. Would she be so kind as to accept a copy of my book as a gift? Yes, I’ve already signed it. See? Here…

“And would YOU sign a copy of MY book?” I said quickly.

“You want me to sign YOUR book?”

“Yes.”

I waited.

And she did.

She signed my book.

Best wishes and good luck. Chimamanda

My stocking, by then descended to thigh length!

My stocking, by then descended to thigh length!

And then I skipped away and went to try to roll up my stockings behind a vacant church pew. Tosinger also gave Chimamanda a gift of her latest CD. She accepted our tributes graciously.

Oh, MOM Squad. My heart was so full last night! My back, feet and ankles were killing me for the strain I had put on them, but there was a ridiculous smile plastered on my face, which I would have worn to bed had I not walked into the house and found  a cockroach struggling for life on the floor. It flopped and wiggled so insistently. I hate roaches! I picked up a broom, beat it violently, beat it some more and then swept it outside before going to bed to bask in the glory of meeting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the first time.

The afterglow would not last though. The roach I killed? It wasn’t a roach at all…

I had violently and viciously murdered our family pet.

Happy Friday to you all! Have you ever gone to extreme lengths for a celebrity? How about just for another person you have no real relationship in general? Are folks like me cappin’ crazy? Discuss! :)

Inspecting Ghana’s Police Force

The sun had long set and we were on our way back home late one evening. Something flickered and reflected in my father’s headlights. He switched on his dome light and pulled up slowly to one of the many makeshift police barriers that spring up on the N1 highway after dark and greeting the officer who approached his car – a man half his age – with the cordiality worthy of a superior.

“Good evening, sah,” my dad said quietly. His tone was kind.

“Evening, boss,” the officer replied in equal measure.  He ran the beam of his flashlight over the length our car, peeked inside at me at in the passenger seat, and nodded his head. I was busy staring at the screen of my phone and only looked up to give him a curt nod before I went back to tweeting, texting or whatever I was busy doing. He waved us on. “Please, you may pass.”

My father thanked him, turned off his dome light and pulled off. It’s a scenario that repeats itself all over the Accra metropolis night after night, but something about this encounter struck me as different.

“Daddy, why did you turn on your dome light?” I asked “And why did you thank him so profusely?”

My dad hummed a little and snorted in that way he does when something ironic has suddenly struck him.

“It’s good to be nice to these officers,” he replied. “Many times, all they are looking for is a little bit of respect.”

I snorted and kept my thoughts private. Good luck with that! Ghana police, looking for respect? Ghana police, the most inept force on the planet? Please.

Last year, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan urged Ghanaians to be proud of their police force, declaring that they were ‘amongst the finest in the world’. The response from the general public was swift and mocking. Though the force has gotten moderately better in recent years, the Ghana Police Force are still seen as little more than barely literate licensed thugs who exact bribes from the public and routinely abuse their power. They are ill-equipped, always arriving on the scene of a crime when it’s too late and have a poor track record of solving cases. No one has any real confidence in the Ghana police, a fact that they themselves are well aware of.

So when my dad said that all they are looking for is a “little respect”, it made complete sense. Having full knowledge that the public that you have been sworn to protect and serve has little regard for your position or your ability cannot be easy to contend with. People obey the Ghana Police Force because they fear them, not because they believe they are an honorable or competent outfit that is dedicated to defending the masses.

Media headlines concerning the Ghana Police Force are consistently laden with certain themes, most often containing the words “fail”, “beat” and “cannot.”

Armed Robbers Escape Police by Running into the Bush

Police Officer Leaves Driver Unconscious after Beating Him

Officers’ Salaries not Paid for 6 Months

Certainly, the Ghana Police is not an entity in which an ambitious man or woman of distinction wants any association with. Sure, their uniforms are a nice shade of blue, but that doesn’t professionally compensate for the abysmal failure of the Force’s mandate to serve and protect. An encounter with the average Ghana police officer frequently leaves both motorists and pedestrians shaken, furious and bewildered. Very often, they cannot be reasoned with. What sort of training for their profession do they receive that renders them such brutes?

Perhaps the answer lies in this video which is quickly going viral. It shows how a drill sergeant brutalizes his recruits during inspection by beating them on their heads and asking them repeatedly what “S.S.S.” stands for. (Shave, Sh*t and Shine for those who cannot make out the accent.) Wincing in the face of such an attack only rewards the cadet with further blows and mockery. Some of these “men” are little more than boys fresh out of secondary school, some of them obviously very poor. I watched in disbelief as the inspecting officer taunted one cadet for his inappropriate footwear – a pair of white ladies’ walking shoes. Obviously, this was all that the kid could afford.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10151958456833443&id=732573442

Now, I ask you reader: If Ghana’s police force is supposed to be amongst the finest in the world as the Inspector General would have us believe, it implies that their training methods, too, are being stacked up against those of the best in the world. Can you imagine police cadets in London, California, Switzerland or even South Africa being subjected to this sort of base treatment? It would never be tolerated!

Unlike a military operation like the Navy SEALS or the Marine Corps where you are trained to undergo and bear physical torture to prepare you for field combat – during which you may be captured by enemy forces – the police are supposed to be the more “cerebral” arm of a nation’s defense. The police deal with the general public on a daily basis, not armed military combatants. They deal with you and me. This sort of ‘training’ only teaches Ghana’s police that it is not only appropriate to physically assault and bully those whom you have a sworn duty to, but it is to be expected! It’s utterly disgusting and a complete disgrace.

As usual, it begs the question: what are we going to do about it? The answer as always lies with leadership.  I am encouraged by Mr. Alhassan’s call for police personnel in various regions to work together to rid the unit of individuals who are tarnishing its reputation and image, but I daresay he may have to begin at the top, not the bottom. We need to rein in this sort of behavior and nip it at the bud, because it cannot be allowed to fester. Beating people in the head never produced a modern, thinking individual. Beating people in the head has given us the Ghana police force as you see it today!

What do you think of this video? Do you think it reflects the “best”? Were you as shocked as I was?!

 

The Crucible: Back into the Working World

Happy Friday, MOM Squad and Random Readers!

Earlier this year, we talked about how I was going to be blogging less because I was a-feared of the power of the interwebz and the trolls that maraud therein. A few things happened in that space of time. I contracted meningitis (which ate at my nerve endings in my brain, or something), I went on a fast (which ate at my creativity or bolstered it, depending on who you ask), and now I have a job. The lattermost incident will affect my writing the most, for sure.

A few years ago, I used to work for a recruiting company that was housed in a hole in a wall. Literally. There was a hole with a cubicle maze and some dangling wires, and we were all cramped into this tiny space, expected to churn out candidates worthy of hire for Fortune 500 companies and so forth. It wasn’t so much that it was cotton field – as we termed it in those days – it was more of a sweat shop for recruiters. Turnover was high, as was employee dissatisfaction. Morale was consistently low. If you listened hard enough, you could hear Paul Robeson’s phantom singing “Go down Moses” in a ghostly whisper from one of the abandoned cubes. Every once in a while, I would hum along.

And now, I’m back.

Yes, you heard me. After a five year hiatus from the traditional work force (not counting that 6 months I took a writing contracting job) I am back at the very company that violently drove me from the workforce.

Did I sell out? Possibly. And although I swore I would never return to this place, I kept myself in good standing with the gatekeepers who guard access to the easiest paycheck I have ever received. Except now, it’s NOT the easiest paycheck I’ll ever receive. What used to come to me as second nature is officially hard work! Can you imagine having to work for your pay? I haven’t felt this lost in…Well; I’ve never felt this lost!

When I was fresh out of college and had moved to Atlanta, I used to work for an online trading firm called MarketTrade*. My managers were two men who couldn’t be more different from another. They were as opposite as East is from West; as Black is from White. Incidentally, one guy was Black and the other was White. JR and Bob were their names.

Anyway, Bob was veteran of the Marines and had made a fortune selling bonds in ‘80s. The proprietor of MT sourced him, pulled him out of retirement in 2001 and made him the Director of Sales over our department. I loved Bob. He was a great guy and an even better boss, but he was an unabashed Luddite – completely devoid of any technological competency. When he would go in for presentations, he would draw spreadsheets on college ruled paper and fill in his data on fields he’d created with a pencil and a ruler. A part of my job was to create his Excel spreadsheets and email them to him, so that he could then email them to the Directors upstairs. Bob had been out of the traditional workforce for fifteen years or better, and a lot had changed since he last had to commute to an office. Technology moved quickly in those days. It was like a lightning bolt. Today, technology moves at warp speed, impossible to catch up with until it stops. You have to move along with it.

If only I could go back and speak with my 23 year old self.

“Don’t be so smug, Malaka,” I’d say, “because at 36, you’ll find yourself in the very same position as this 68 year old man: completely lost, confused, and floundering in a world that moved along while you were standing still doing laundry and catching up on the latest happenings on Facebook and Downton Abbey!”

Let me tell you all how bad it is: The first day I sat at my desk, I was given six passwords for as many different systems that each do different things and told to “go for it”. I stared blankly at my computer for about an hour, after which time I felt a surge of pride course through my body after I had successfully set up my email auto signature (unassisted, I’m proud to say). You see, just like Bob, I had previously done such a stellar job in my position that my colleagues felt as though I didn’t need assistance. They pushed me off a cliff and waited for me to soar. I haven’t hit the jagged bottom of the cliff yet, but I’m still falling. My aim is not to crash land. With any luck, I’ll catch some wind in my fledgling wings that will lift me out of harm’s way and prevent an early, untimely, ugly death.

I have put a lot of pressure on myself in accepting this new/old position, because I feel like I owe it to all the stay-at-home moms who opted out of the workforce years (or months) ago. Like I said, I am a recruiter, and one thing I know is that employers don’t like to see gaps in your employment, Great Recession or life incidences be damned. There is a particular bias against stay-at-home moms who try to return, however. It is a prejudice so odious that if one could bottle and sell it to the government, you could make a fortune in creating a new bio hazardous ingredient.

Ask any woman who has come back from 6 weeks (or 6 months if you have an uber generous employer or live in Europe) of maternity leave. The assumption at every turn is that women who have left the workforce are irrelevant, do not have current skills, and have lost their urge to compete at the highest level. In turn, women like me are left with two options if we want to work in the traditional market: pursue a retail/food services ‘career’, or development the next big thing in fashion, technology or food from the basements of our homes. (Think Spanx.)

photoI consider myself very fortunate that someone has ‘given me a chance’ to return to work, and without having to suffer through the horrible three month long interview/rejection process that has become a stable in American hiring practices today. My plan is very simple: I’ll keep showing up until they tell me to stop, and expect them to pay me as long as I keep showing up.

Never fear, stay-at-home moms! I am your champion! I will defend your honor!