Category Archives: Motherhood

Fame

fame-298x300

(Fame) I’m gonna live forever

I’m gonna learn how to fly (High!!!)

I feel it coming together People will see me and cry (Fame)

I’m gonna make it to heaven

Light up the sky like a flame (Fame!)

I’m gonna live forever

Baby remember my name (Remember, remember!!! x 10,000,000)

Do you remember that show from the 80’s? I believe they made a remake of it a few years ago. It’s not nearly as popular as the original, of course. It was folly to remake Fame, just as it was foolish to remake the Karate Kid. Why ruin perfection?

Anyhow, I have been giving quite a bit of thought to the concept of fame – or rather how much importance society has put on it – for the last few weeks. It’s as if there is a gnawing, growing hunger and thirst that cannot be satiated with each passing generation. It’s like a virus or a famine, devouring everything in its. We haven’t escaped it our house, what with my oldest daughter stating repeatedly that her only quest in life is to be “famous”.

Like thousands of other children across America with the same goal, the girl has some talent, but not enough to compete with the likes of Quvenzhane Wallis or one of the Smith babies. We just can’t afford to divert the resources to get her to that level just yet…and that is what has me concerned about this Plague of Fame sweeping the country.

I visited with my sister-in-law a few days ago. She asked me how things were going with my book. I told her sales were slow, but that was because I hadn’t devoted a lot of time to marketing. Marketing, speaking, and all the accoutrements that go hand-in-glove with becoming a “famous author” are the things that many writers hate doing. I don’t want to market my books: I just want to write something people will enjoy and repeat that process 35 or more times over. This is why I will probably not become a “famous author”, at least in my lifetime. There is a possibility for fame after death, but we’ll come back to that.

As I was saying, I was chatting with my sister, and I asked her what was going on in her life in turn. She told me about a kid in her neighborhood who had done the unthinkable.

“He was a really sweet kid,” she said half way through our conversation. “He was a straight A student, had a ton of friends in his high school, and was well-liked in our neighborhood. He never did anything, except study, go to his after school clubs, and came home.”

“What do you think drove him to it?” I asked. My mouth was dry and my heart was heavy with sadness.

“Well,” she said slowly, “I think it was because when he went off to college, he wasn’t the biggest fish in the pond anymore. He was just another guppy in a huge lake.”

“He became a number…”I murmured.

“Exactly. And because everything had come so easy to him at home for so long, in his classwork…he had a set method of success that wasn’t working in this new environment…he couldn’t handle it. He wasn’t doing well in his studies. No one knew him. So he came home during Spring Break…”

And shot himself in his bedroom with a rifle, from lungs to neck. He didn’t survive. His life was cut short so soon, mostly because he didn’t have faith in the person he might have become.

This is one of the more extreme examples of the lengths young people will go to in order to reconcile the sense of failure they feel with “fame” or “renown” eludes them. I imagine there is no small amount of depression that precedes or accompanies these feeling as well. I distinctly recall scoffing when I read the story about Danny Bowman, a young teen in England who became suicidal after repeatedly failing to take the perfect selfie. It seemed silly – asinine, really – at first, but then you realize that this need to capture the perfect image of one’s self has less to do with self-obsession and more to do with how you think the world views you. (Please feel free to disagree with me on this point in the comments section.)

I think many of us Generation Xers who suffer from our own brand of Peter Pan Syndrome have done a piss poor job of preparing our kids for disappointment. In a way, I understand why. We still think we’re invincible: we rode bikes without helmets, lived in homes swathed in asbestos and lived to tell the tale, so why shouldn’t our children be just as unbreakable? Because our kids don’t/will never have the benefit of having the strength and intelligence of our Baby Boomer parents. We have cushioned our kids from any semblance of dissatisfaction, minimized almost every opportunity for them to experience delayed gratification, and set them up expect success with minimal effort on their part. One has only to go to Chuck E Cheese and watch an eight year old fall to pieces because he can’t get his balls in the skee-ball hole and retrieve his tickets!

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be famous or to be exceptional and what you do. I wish more people would pursue exceptionalism, rather than mediocrity. (Maybe we would have evolved to grow wings by now, who knows.) My concern is how we have been conditioned to experience fame; i.e. when it supposed to be valuable to us.

zora-neale-hurston_sSome of the most famous people in popular culture today only became so because they died. John Keats died a penniless, depressed dope head and gave us some of the most amazing poetry in English lit today. Johann Sebastian Bach might have fallen into antiquity and forgotten memory if not for Amadeus Mozart, who was an ardent follower and admirer of Bach and popularized him as a composer. Similarly, Alice Walker revived the work of Zora Neal Hurston when Walker reintroduced the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God to a new generation who had no idea about of Ms. Hurston. The examples are endless. Could any of these people have imagined in the depths of their drudgery, when all their work seemed as though it were in vain, when they received little or no recognition for their brilliance that 200, 100, 15 years thence they would be celebrated for their work?

In months when I haven’t sold a single unit of my book, it’s hard to imagine. For the kid who can’t figure out how to make his app work or get that technical dance move just right, it might feel the same way. This is when it becomes oh-so important that you – as an individual – recognize your worth and your brilliance and your beauty first. Don’t wait for the world to validate you. The world is fickle: they will sing your praises one day and call for your head the next.

Just ask President Obama.

What do you think, Reader? Do you think the timing of fame is more important than its achievement? Would you rather be a celebrity in your lifetime or have a legacy that outlived you? Do the spoils of your toil matter if you are not there to witness or enjoy them? Discuss! ↓

 

The Public Shaming of Justin Ross Harris

“Black folk don’t get lice. That’s something nasty white folk who don’t wash and live in trailers get.” – Some African American woman I met once when I was a kid living in Labone.

And yet there I was: a Black child, in Africa, with lice. I had caught lice from a cousin who’d gone away to boarding school and spread it to us at home. If not for her, I would never had experienced lice, and would be inclined to agree with the large, sweating Afro-American visiting my house.

This is one of the earliest conversations I can recollect around the theme of judgment. I don’t even know if it’s fair to call this course of thinking “judgment”. If there is a singular word for ‘a lack of empathy that displays itself through and makes utterances predicated on presumed superiority’, then that’s what behavior is. I find that when tragedy strikes, many American’s aren’t ‘judgmental’ per se, they do whatever this unnamed rhyme and dance is.

I have already stated my unwavering support for Justin Harris, and until a prosecutor can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to murder his child, that is not going to change. Did Justin’s actions lead to the death of his child? Yes. No one can dispute that. The question that is before us now is did he purposefully do so.

First of all, let me say that I am not naïve about what the likely outcome of this case will be. The Cobb County judge will likely find him guilty, because he doesn’t want to be seen as soft or wants to avoid the same criticism the judge in the Casey Anthony case did. It’s just easier this way: to lock Justin up for 20 years and forget him like a bad memory. However, we will all find in the end that doing this will not be that simple. This case interests me as I’ve said before because:

1)      I’m a parent

2)      I’m married and

3)      I’m educated

Just like the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the outcome of this case has implications for us all. Now that’s they’ve ruled that Hobby Lobby does not have to cover certain medical expenses because of religious beliefs, what is the ricochet effect of that? What else can a company decide not to cover because of their beliefs or mores? Your answer may be: “Well, just don’t go work at a Christian company.” Life, as we know, is never that simple. I know many a church girl who has ended up on the pole because she needed to make ends meet.

I’m going to discuss a few areas that are particularly troubling to me as regards to this case, starting with

The Media

Media treatment of this tragedy has been absolutely and shockingly shameful. From the beginning, they have sought to find Just Harris guilty in the court of public opinion before he’s properly been to trial. The two areas they have focused on are his search history and now his alleged sexting. Reports have indicated that he was sexting during the hours his son lay dying in the car. They have also said he and his wife searched on how long it takes an animal and/or a child to die in a hot car. What they have released is WHEN these searches took place. Was while his wife was pregnant? Was it the day the baby was born? Was it a few hours before he left his child in the car? Why can’t they say when? So you know when he was sexting, but can’t say when these searches took place? Sounds fishy to me…

Internet Searches

Critics of the Harris couple have proposed that they are both guilty of killing their son because they both did a search on kids in hot cars (at some point, again we don’t know when), and have sought to implicate his wife in this tragedy. Now, as someone who is married – and is married to a web developer – this could be troublesome should any tragedy befall us in our home. Again, let me tell on myself.

We have 3 tablets, 3 laptops, 3 smartphones and 2 desktop computers in our home. Once in a while my husband and I tweet or Facebook each other while we are in bed. Together. There have been numerous occasions where I have said “Hey babe! When you get a chance, Google xyz on your laptop.” And you know what? We’re not the only crazy couple in America who does this. Yes, yes…I know all you perfect couples gather ‘round the fire at night and commune in order to share the chronicles of your day while sipping hot cider, but we don’t. We share links and text each other.

Under what circumstances did this married couple search the same topic? How does that implicate intent to murder a child? Furthermore, what OTHER topics (like schools, vacation spots, poison control, etc) have they collectively searched? Do they have a pattern of doing so?

Note to MX5: Don’t send me anymore links to anymore crazy stories and then ask me to research them for our coffee chats. Just looking up information could implicate our guilt a tragedy!

 

Justin uses ‘Big Words’, therefore he’s Guilty

A police officer testified that when Justin Harris was informed that he was being charged with murdering his son, his objected incredulously by saying “But there was no malicious intent!”

That had people fuming.

“Who says that?” one internet user spat. “Who says ‘malicious intent’? You don’t say that if you’re innocent…you start crying!

Really lady? You sound really stupid. Whether he said “But I didn’t mean it!” or “But it wasn’t intentional!” or “But Gawd knowed it weren’t my desire to do dis to muh baby!”, there is something about the word “murder” that triggered the use of the verbiage “malicious intent”.

Part of that has to do with your exposure and your educational standard. Not every blokes response to duress is to cry. I’m sorry, but I have to throw out the Dumbass Card on that one.

The Rear Facing Car Seat

Out of ALL the nonsensical reasons I’ve heard people say points to evidence that Justin Ross intended to murder his child is the recent purchase of the rear facing car seat for his toddler son, Cooper.

Jesus be a leather glove so I can slap somebody.

When Aya was around 18-20 months, we had a scheduled pediatric visit for what seemed like quarterly shots. They went down a checklist of items we have in our home.

Do you have any fire arms?

Do you use tobacco products?

Is her car seat rear or forward facing.

I remember I was especially excited that her seat was forward facing, because now I could see her face and pass her crackers and milk with more ease.

“Is it a 3-point harness or 5-point harness?” Aya’s doctor asked.

I replied it was a 3-point harness. Why did she want to know?

“Because federal guidelines state that it has to be a 5-point harness,” she in replied. When I objected, saying I had JUST bought the 3-point harness car seat and whined about how much it was going to cost to get a new one, she said she understood, but I still needed to get it.

And being that parent, the one who wants to do everything right for her kids, I decimated my entire shoe fund and went out and spent it all on a new car seat to replace the new car seat.

So I ask: Why did the Harris’ buy a new car seat? And could it be that the reasons aren’t as sinister as the conspiracy theorists and pseudo-Sherlocks would have us all think?

Sexting as Evidence of Guilt

sexting-nation-fiDo you know how much Americans spent on porn last year? TEN BILLION DOLLARS. That’s more than the NBA, NFL and NHL combined. And so while everyone is ‘shocked’ that Justin Harris was sexting while he left his child in his car, they should not be. You don’t build a $10 billion industry because no one is consuming that product/service.

I used to work with this guy at a recruiting firm years ago that was heavy into internet porn. He was our only sales guy, but he never made any calls. He would just sit in his office and watch porn all day long. I never had much dealing with him, but the other recruiters said it was like he was in a trance when he was back there alone. He just couldn’t break free of it! I walked into his office to deliver something (I was the office admin, fresh out of college) and stood there for an eternity before he even realized I was there…and that was only after I clapped my hands and said:

“Hey. Chris! These came for you!”

Chris was married to a *good* woman named Alexis. She came into the office every so often. Alexis was super sweet, very educated, and probably made a good home for she and Chris (they didn’t have kids). But she was absolutely not a freak, and her husband –like millions of other men in America – had acquired freakish appetites that happened to include internet porn. Justin Harris had acquired a taste for sexting and was doing so while he was on his way into work – and if his attention span is anything like my old co-worker Chris’ – I can completely see how he walked away and forgot his son in his car. Porn and sex demand your complete and total attention.

There are not many Americans who have the moral right to judge Justin Harris as an intentional murderer because of this consumption of sexual fare. Shoot, I write for Adventures From the Bedrooms of African Women. All we talk about is sex. If (heaven forbid!) a tragedy befalls my kids, are the headlines going to scream “Sex blogger murders child while she creates sexually explicit content in her home!!!”

Possibly, and that’s why this Justin Harris’ case is troubling to me. Because now, according to public opinion and the banana court of law, I could be Justin Harris in a split second. Nothing about my life is perfect. I don’t always cry when loved ones die. I use language in certain situations that typical 8th grade leavers do not. I research a lot on the internet. Add the fact that my home is constantly in a state of disarray and we’re packed in like sardines, I am the perfect candidate for the negligent Black mother if ANYTHING should befall my kids!

So again, I do not believe Justin Harris intentionally murdered his son. I believe he was negligent and he slipped in the moment. He might be what I call a Gomer Pyle Personality, and have a history of slips, but none with results as tragic and fatal as this… and I’m sure with the public eye trained on him so severely, we’ll eventually find out everything. Why? Because people in society today lust information and relish at the thought of ‘judging’ someone else in order to make themselves feel more superior.

Don’t forget…Black people never get lice.

 

Are American Parents Under A Systematic Societal Attack?

Becoming a parent should be a joyous event in everyone’s life; however circumstances surrounding a birth are not always ideal. Some of us are products of rape or incest. Some of us were born into poverty or dysfunctional families. No matter what our circumstances, if you’re reading this blog today, it’s safe to assume you’re alive. You’re here. You exist, and you matter. For that, you have a parent or guardian to thank.

Being a parent is hard work, but it has been my experience that being a parent in America is 400 times harder than anything I ever imagined. Everyone is so insular. Community support is virtually non-existent. The government is perpetually in your family’s business, gathering the most minute details of your existence in order to build a profile around you, and everyone – and I do mean everyone – has an opinion (but rarely offers tangible support) about how you raise your child(ren) or conduct your daily affairs.

Despite all the social structures, amenities and checks and balances we have in this country, parenting is a hard task. Perhaps it is because of all those so-called checks and balances that raising a family is so difficult in America. It gives a false sense that life is foolproof and that absolutely nothing can ever go wrong at any time under any circumstances. This is nonsense, of course. America is not Heaven and it is inhabited by humans. It’s not perfect. However I truly believe that a large swath of Americans have deluded themselves into thinking this is the case: individually, they think they are perfect and that therefore everyone else is perfect. These are the folks who wantonly use the terms “always” and “never” in the comments section of the news and on radio.

They aren’t very bright, but they can’t be ignored because they exist in such large numbers.

Four years ago I wrote a blog entitled Judging Shaquan Duley  which was about the young mother who smothered her toddler children before driving their lifeless bodies into a lake. In this post I talked about the gloomy side of motherhood – the side that doesn’t make it onto pastel-prismed television commercials or glassy magazine ads. Poor, Black, single motherhood is hard, and it requires a level of mental fortitude that not all women possess. Ms. Duley’s children paid the ultimate price for her frailty. Reactions were swift, condemning and predictable, calling Duley a monster who should be “hung from the nearest tree”, all of which I documented in the blog.

Recently, a mother stopped at a gas station in Houston and left her 8 month old baby in the car while she went inside to pay for gas. As I understand, it was pretty late at night, and the baby was sleeping. As she waited to be attended to, a male suspect took her car (which was still running with the keys in the ignition) and drove off with her baby which he later abandoned in the woods. Again, social reaction was quick and condemning. “No one” could understand why “anyone” would leave their child in the car! Some wanted the mother charged for negligence. Again, some suggested killing the mother for retribution for what she had done. I read with disbelief, although I shouldn’t have been shocked. Why was none of this ire reserved for the criminal who stole the car? The mother and her child were the victims here. I can completely understand why she left the car running: it was Texas. It was probably hot as hell, and she didn’t want to leave her child in a hot car while she went inside to pay for gas! But you know, Americans are ‘perfect’ and when things are not done the way in which they approve of…

Speaking of hot cars, I want to return to Justin Harris’ case. A friend of mine copied me on a CNN report showing breaking news on the developments within the case. I am here to state unequivocally that I support Justin Harris and that I believe in his innocence. I have never met Mr. Harris, but I know him. I’ve met people like him in various forms in my life.

If you live long enough, you will encounter all kinds of people. You’ll meet folks who are introverts, overachievers, slackers, simpletons, douchebags, saints, opportunists, narcissists and prodigies. You will also meet people who are just plain forgetful, and I truly believe Justin Harris is the lattermost. First of all, he’s a man – and it is the nature of men to forget. I am by no means knocking men, but if you’ve ever dated or raised a man, you know that they do forget things rather easily: dates, anniversaries, socks in the trunk of the car or to pick up dinner on the way home. Forgetting any of these things is annoying at worst; no one ever got hurt because dad forgot to pick up the Hamburger Helper on the way home. But when dad is absent minded or easily distracted by nature, we see in baby Cooper’s untimely and sad death how the results can fatal.

Why do I believe Justin Harris is the victim of a witch hunt in a self-absorbed society? In the CNN report I mentioned, the reporter(s) states that Mr. Harris did a search on how long it takes an animal to die in a hot car “before leaving his son to die in his hot vehicle” (the article has since been edited). What the report failed to indicate was when this search was done, and if CNN or its staff had an ounce of integrity, they would admit that this search was done in 2013 in relation to a police officer from a Georgia K-9 unit who had left his dog to die in a hot car! But no, that would not be sensational enough to satisfy a blood thirsty American populace looking for a modern-day lynching. The obvious intent in printing this sentence was to lead public opinion, not to report accurately.

I guess at the heart of it, this is what’s pissing me off about the way this whole story is being handled. It’s a story being built on half-truths and whole lies, and that charge is being led by the media. Journalism was to be my profession had I not chosen PR, and to know that the likes of Victor Blackwell, Devon M. Sayers, MaryLynn Ryan and Joe Sterling over at CNN – as well as hundreds of other crap reporters working for lesser known organizations who are sullying the foundation of journalism – could be named as my colleagues makes me grateful that I am not included in that number. It’s DISGUSTING. It pains me to see this power being abused this way. At the end of every headline, paragraph and comma, a man’s life hangs in the balance…but you can’t report the story without a slant for the sake of sensationalism and ratings? If I could come by your office and take a dump on all your desks I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. You deserve nothing but scorn.

sherrifWhat’s even more stomach churning is the behavior of the police in this matter… as though they as a unit or as individuals are above error or reproach. Did you know that in Douglas County, within days of Justin Harris forgetting his son in the car on that fateful day, an entire DIVISION of the police left two teens in a holding cell for nearly three days because someone “forgot” they were there? Left them with nothing but a toilet and a sink over the weekend. (Douglas County is 28 minutes away from Cobb county where Justin was arrested, by the way.) So you see, even the police can forget. Although in this case, they have the luxury of calling it an “oversight” because thankfully neither of the kids was hurt.

I am frightened MOM Squad. We live in a world where people think they are entitled to every bit of minutiae in your life in order to sit in judgment of and eventually try to crucify you with it. We live in a society that allows no room for human error. What’s even more unsettling is that so many of these people demanding perfection themselves lack critical thinking skills, the power of deduction and more importantly, compassion – and these are the folks who are fueling and steering the engine of our society!

This is what scares me as a parent living in the Land of the Free. One wrong Google search, one unexplainable scrape on my child, one moment spent doing something in haste and I too could find myself accused unspeakable, unfathomable things.

I will continue to keep the Harris family and all families in this country in my prayers.

Are you a parent? Do you feel supported by your community? Have you had the opportunity to raise children in different parts of the country/world? How does it compare? Discuss!

Hot Cars

I wasn’t going to discuss this story because it hits so close to home, but now I feel like I have to. Before I became a parent I was extremely judgmental. I never knew why people with kids houses and cars were so dirty, and why moms couldn’t make themselves look better when they went outside. Now that I am a parent I am less judgmental, but I still find myself frowning upon the antics of other parents.

So today, I am here to tell on myself, and to do so in support of a man I have never met.

****

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014, must have been a day for forgetting. Wednesday is the day the trash man comes to collect our garbage. It is my husband’s duty to take out the garbage every week. He has done this for 11 years, and I can only recall one other time – years ago – when he forgot to do it. My husband was preoccupied with trying to get “frisky” that morning, and I wanted none of it. I wanted to keep reading the news, so he got up to go to work. As he made for the door, I called for him not to forget to take out the trash.

“I won’t,” he called back.

Then I heard him make his breakfast, grab his backpack, and walk out the door. There was no rustling of plastic bags or metal scraping concrete. Had he taken out the trash? A trip downstairs 5 minutes later confirmed he had NOT. I called him immediately to make him aware of his folly.

“Don’t worry,” I said dryly. “I have already taken it out.”

That was a lie, but I didn’t want him turning around in Atlanta traffic to do something that although I am loathe to do, am very capable of doing. I muttered obscenities as I dumped soaked pull-ups and sticky yogurt containers into the larger bin for collection.

Later that day, I was driving with the kids to go get some lunch and was reminded of how annoyed I was with my husband for making me perform this menial task. Then I was distracted by something a prickling in my armpits. Gosh it was hot. My phone said the high was 93*. My car said it was 97* outside. I turned on the A/C, but that hardly had any effect on the suffering my children and I were enduring. How ironic that unbeknownst to us, another child was going through a thousand times a worse agony.

On Thursday morning, my husband sent me a text at 8:48 am. He usually waits to call me at lunch so I knew something exciting must have happened. When I read the message and felt sick.

“My co-worker left his son in the car yesterday…”

I gasped in horror. He didn’t even have to finish. The sensation of that extreme heat we all felt in my own car on that Wednesday flooded my body.

“The baby didn’t make it,” I typed frantically. I waited for him to tell me I was wrong.

“No,” Marshall confirmed. “He died.”

I inwardly and immediately forgave him for forgetting to take out the trash the day before. Without warning, I was overcome by anger and fury. I typed a cryptic message.

“If you ever leave one of our kids in the car, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you and then I’ll divorce you.”

A few hours later Marshall called to tell me he’d be coming home. He couldn’t take it at work, and he wanted to be around his kids. He had held the child who’d passed away not too long ago.

“Malaka, he was THE cutest white baby ever,” he said in amazement. “He was perfect…like a little Gerber baby.”

His face had a blank, drawn out look. His eyes were devoid of life. I’d seen this same look before. It is the same vacant gaze that clouds his co-workers mug shot. The look that internet trolls have described as “unfeeling”. Perhaps they are right. Some things hurt too much to feel….

ross

I suppose Marshall wanted a distraction from all this horror, which might explain why he announced on Friday that he wanted to take me out. With four kids in our arsenal, there is no room for spontaneity. I informed him that i he wanted to go out, he would have to make the arrangements. I certainly was in no mood to try to secure a babysitter, figure out rates,  go to the ATM to get cash to pay her, etc. Fortunately, we had a willing party who had no plans of her own that evening. She lives in Norcross, which meant a 40 minute drive to her house, coupled with another 40 minute drive downtown to have our outing, and then the same journey in reverse just to get home.

I was exhausted by the time we pulled up to our driveway and fell asleep in the car while Marshall and the kids got out. When I had rested enough I got out, locked the car and the front door and went up to bed. Marshall was putting on Stone’s pajamas as I groggily slipped off my shoes.

“Did you get Liya out of the car?”

“What?!”

All sleepiness abandoned me as panic took over.

“Liya,” he repeated. “She asleep in the backseat of the car.”

I raced down the stairs and went to retrieve my child; but the car door was locked. I growled for Nadjah to have her father unlock it from upstairs. She casually went upstairs to relay the message as I had my hand on the handle waiting for the mechanical *click*. Why wasn’t the door unlocking?

Nadjah suddenly materialized and handed me the keys saying, “Here you go, Mommy.”

Those were not my instructions! Whatever. I thanked her and told her to head for bed as I opened the back hatch to pull Liya out. She was completely knocked out, sleeping soundly and silently. I never knew she was there.

*****

And that folks is how I too could have left my kid in a hot car all night. If my husband had not asked if I had gotten her out, we might have been living through our own Hell this weekend. We try to be good parents, but we are neither perfect parents nor do everything perfectly as people. I do not know what was going through Ross’ mind that morning when he left his first and only child in his car. I don’t know if he saw him. I don’t know what changed in his routine that morning. All I know is that I believe he did not intentionally leave his kid in there to die such a painful death.

“Ross is a good man,” Marshall lamented. “He was a good father who loved his son very much.”

That this tragedy occurred so close to Father’s Day is something that Ross will have to live with the remainder of his life. I hope and pray that his wife can forgive him, that he can forgive himself, and that the AJC, Yahoo and other internet trolls will realize that it is only by the grace of God that similar tragedies do not befall us all more often. One slip up, one lapse in attention for a moment is all it takes. You are NOT perfect.

Just be vigilant, my people. If you have kids, remember to look twice. Look out for one another and if you see something amiss, please say or do something.

Discuss ↓

 

 

 

Blue Ivy and Black Boobies

First of all, let me give praise and honor to Friday, whose sweet elixir I’ve been waiting to taste has come at last. Though you tarry, Friday, you come faithfully every week, and I just want to thank ya! Happy Friday, one and all!

Caution: Rant Ahead

 

Life is interesting. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever find myself sympathizing with Beyonce! You all know how I feel about her. The fact that I’m more acquainted with her crotch than I am with her music is telling of the nature of our relationship. (I’m talking about her ever present leotard uniform, guys! Get your minds out of the gutter.) Beyonce and I have no kinship. She makes in half an hour what I will make in a year. She’s tall, I’m short. I have a great command of the English language, she doesn’t. She has the boisterous Bey Hive, and I have the reserved and largely silent MOM Squad. What therefore could Bey and I possibly have in common?

Plenty, it turns out. We’re mothers of Black children…Black GIRL children. That makes Beyonce my sister, for better or for worse. *Sigh*. What a burden.

Any woman who has had or is raising a Black girl child in this country has one common struggle: and that struggle begins and ends with the roots and tips of their daughters’ hair. If you have not seen it already, there is a petition going around called Comb Blue Ivy’s hair. As of this morning, it has 3000 signatures. That’s 3,000 idiotic dolts who have nothing better to do with their time than concern themselves with the maintenance of the tresses of a child they didn’t birth or care for, and more importantly, whose existence is so far outside of their cipher that the only way they can reach her is to make poorly worded pleas to compel her parents to make their child look more acceptable in THEIR view.

beyonce-blue-ivy-2014-1If Beyonce is reading or has read these comments (which I doubt, as she probably spends her spare time diving off her yacht into a sea of sparkling blue diamonds – ouch! – rather than giving heed to the whining of internet trolls) she might be feeling some kind of way. I know exactly how she might – but again probably doesn’t – feel. When all of my girls were born, I had a cabal of worrisome women at my ass questioning why I wasn’t doing anything with their hair. When Nadjah was born, I was a first time mom dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. She was born premature; I had no financial support from her Douche Bag sperm donor; I was living in a loft apartment with little space for myself, let alone a baby; I was working full time and trying to beat the clock to daycare to avoid the $1/minute late fee in the midst of Atlanta traffic. Suddenly, I was thrust into a world of endless laundry, new bills and sleepless nights. And on TOP of that, I did not know how to do hair. That was not a skill my mother passed on to me.

You would assume another Black woman would see all that I was dealing with and offer to lend a hand, but all they wanted to know was “when I was going to do something with that child’s hair”. Nadjah’s hair was curly and beautiful, but lord was she tender headed! I would wash it, oil it, brush it and be done with it. A clean, well-fed baby with clean hair was of course was not good enough for the aforementioned cabal. They wanted more, and I simply couldn’t give it! Ultimately I was compelled to snap; to threaten to slap the next person who asked me about some hair. Violence is never the answer, so I switched tactics and I kept a comb and brush in my purse at all times, offering it and my child to all those “concerned”. I was generally met with indignant silence.

I’ve written about one of the White mom’s at my kids’ school who adopted a Black child. Now she ACTUALLY is ruining her daughter’s hair. She’s afraid of and intimidated by it, and I approached her about it and offered personal help. (She declined.) There is a distinct difference between not touching your child’s hair at all and not binding it in cornrows and ponies, as is Blue’s case.

Who knows what kind of day Blue Ivy has had when we see those candid shots of her? Who knows if she’s tender headed? Who knows what kind of hair care regime Beyonce is employing? When all you petty Black women become platinum selling multi-millionaires (and these are the petty concerns ONLY of Black women, trust me) you can ask her, since you will finally be in the same league! In the interim, help a sister in your local ‘hood out and leave Beyonce and her husband alone.

 

Black Boobies

The female form has always fascinated humanity. There have been odes written to it, sculptures created of it, paintings commissioned for it. Almost every woman holds some secret fantasy of having a nude image drawn or photographed of herself. Our bodies have many uses: to bring life, to bring peace, to nurse presidents and clowns (and clownish presidents) and to provide a comfort that the male form cannot. The female form is many things: beautiful, terrifying, intriguing, alluring, resilient, strong, powerful.

Is that why we’re so concerned about boobies? No seriously.

boobsI saw this meme floating around on social media a few days ago, and I can’t believe how many negative things were said about Karlesha Thurman. (Rihanna courts controversy, so this new stunt is nothing remarkable.) I haven’t been following Ms. Thurman’s story very much, because I come from a continent where bare boobs are common place. You never know when you’re going to encounter an areola. You could be buying eggs in the market and a boob could come flying out. You could be in a salon and have the madame pause in mid-braid to feed her child. What you will NOT find is African women hiding in the stinking, dirty toilet or covering their babies’ faces in the hot sun to feed their kids. You learn to get comfortable with the utility and presence of breasts in Africa.

Do you go to the toilet to have your lunch? Do you use a towel to cover your face when you eat? Why should you compel another human being to do the same? Seriously, Americans need to get over their weird Victorian Era shackles and let our babies just LIVE. Ms. Thurman, unlike Rihanna, had her breast out for a reason: she was maintaining life. The fact that she was doing it while getting her degree is all the more remarkable. How many of us in the “community” have eschewed higher education by reason of the presence of an unwanted/unexpected/inconvenient child. Where is YOUR resolve? If nothing else, Karlesha Thurman has proven that she can multitask and thrive under less than ideal conditions. She should be hired immediately and then promoted soon after.

Hopefully, if we’re all so lucky, she’ll concede to touring the country giving seminars on topics like

No Excuses

Just Get It Done

A Baby is Not the End of the World, but the Beginning of a New One

Cambodian Breast Milk is Delicious, But this Chocolate is Pretty Darn Good Too

 1850-15707

 

 

 

My Interview with Noella Wiyaala

Hey MOM Squad!

Guess who has a new best buddy? Go and get yourself a cookie if you said “You”! And that’s “you” as in me, not YOU.

Wiyaala, my latest music crush, granted me an interview this morning, and it was absolutely brilliant. The sound was garbage, but the content is amazing. I think you can hear her portion if you watch it with earphones in, and I hope that you will. Wiyaala is so raw, real and uninhibited in her responses. She gives a lot, but leaves you wanting more!

Her artistic journey has not been an easy one. She talks about how her mother has ALWAYS encouraged her in her art, even when her father was less so. This is a huge testimony considering her conservative background, hailing from Upper West. She talked about how she grew up poor with no vocal training or perming arts training. All that she has achieved is from unharnessed talent.

When we spoke about her background and how supportive her mother has been, she broke into tears, which alarmed me, because I started crying too. Even though there’s poverty and then there’s poverty (I’ve never had to fetch water from a borehole or a river), I could identify with her struggle having been born of meager means myself. It feels overwhelming to finally see the fruit of all that hard work, especially after people have spent so much energy taking a dump on your dreams!

Wiyaala is  hungry for success and has been blessed with the right advocates at the right time. She talked about how so many people in the music industry passed her up, but her current manager believed in her and recognized her talent. It’s proof that you don’t need everyone in your corner: you just need the RIGHT people in your corner.

We will redo the interview and hopefully resolve our technical issues, but since this was my first MOM interview with a real star, I felt it was important to archive it.When do things ever go smoothly for the MOM Squad anyway? (Answer: never)

Y’all have a great Sunday, ya hear? :)

Updated 5/29 with our second interview.

 

The Making of a Mother

My job as a recruiter demands hours of sitting and staring, dreaming up searching strings and praying that they unearth the candidate(s) that I’m on the hunt for. Oftentimes, a bad string can introduce you to the most unlikely of resumes.

My co-worker Darrin knitted her eyebrows together and with concern, blurted out the title of a resume that showed up in her feed.

“Lactation consultant.”

“Yes. Also known as ‘Nipple Nazis’.”

Darrin threw her head back and laughed wildly. A buxom woman with auburn colored locs and a set of very pretty lips, it’s hard not to join her in laughter.

“Girl, I ain’t never heard that before. ‘Nipple Nazi’, you said? Whooo!”

I nodded and cackled wickedly. Lactation consultants are very passionate about their jobs, I added.

“They can’t wait to get in there and get their hands on your titties.”

“Girl. It’s like they’re waiting outside of the delivery room with their little nursing kit and powder scented gloves!”

“I remember when one of them told me that learning to nurse a child would probably be easier for me if I was in Africa…because I’d have my mother, all my aunts and sister around me to teach me how to do it.”

Shemmice, who sits to the left of me, rolled her eyes and denied that anyone would ever say something so stupid. I promised her that it was said, and that they day they invented a machine to retrieve and record memories I would prove it!

Shemmice’s build is similar to Darrin’s, though she is more conservative in her dress. Instead of a loud, gregarious laugh, she often employs a soft chuckle to show her amusement. She speaks quietly as well, hardly ever raising her voice above an audible whisper.

“They can get pretty aggressive,” Shemmice conceded. “I remember one walked into my room and proceeded to unhook my gown without asking. I put my hand in her face like ‘this’.”

“You face palmed her?” I gasped as Shemmice demonstrated the action with wide-spread fingers.”

“I sure did,” she said quietly. “Didn’t nobody tell her to grab ahold of my titties. You touch me, Imma touch you back.”

Still waters do run deep indeed.

In that moment, something magical happened between the three of us. We were bonded and transported back to a delivery room and date that was most impacting for us. Darrin has one child. Shemmice has three. I have four. All three of us had delivered our children via c-section (which if you’re a Black woman in America is not by coincidence, but that’s a discussion for another day).

“Do you remember the first time you had to stand up after you C?” Darrin asked. She was about to launch into a missive about the pain that comes after the drugs have worn off when I cut her off.

“NO. Let’s talk about that first DUMP you have to take after you C!” I hissed.

We both spread our legs and gripped our cubicle walls.

“I may not have given birth vaginally, but I sure did have a baby out my ass!” Darrin roared. Shemmice joined her in contained laughter while I snorted.

One of these dumps is not like the other...

One of these dumps is not like the other…

“I took a picture of my deuce,” I revealed. When I was asked why, I was shocked. “I had never seen anything like it! It was massive.”

Darrin wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and leaned back in her chair, recounting how her daughter was born.

“I remember I was having contractions, but they weren’t nothing. I was so ready. The nurse came in the room and asked me how I was doing. I told her everything was fine! ‘But you’re having contractions’, she said. I told her yeah, I could feel a little something, but it was like a tickle. It wasn’t so bad. She gave me one of those ‘I hate you’ looks, you know?

Anyway, I ended up having to have a c-section because the baby’s heart rate had dipped down into the 60s. It was supposed to be 120 and above. They rushed me to the surgery room and took her. All I felt was this yanking and tugging…had my titties beating me in my face!”

Shemmice and I nodded knowingly.

“They did the same thing to me,” I said pensively. “Lying on that table is brutal with all the tugging, sucking and pulling.”

“They sewed me up and sealed my wound with glue,” Darrin added. “My doctor doesn’t believe in staples.”

“Same for me,” Shemmice said. “My line is a thin sliver.”

“I had staples,” I added mournfully. “They hurt like hell when they took ‘em out. I have a scar as thick as my pinky finger.”

Darrin and Shemmice were aghast. Using staples was absolutely medieval, as far as they were concerned. Of course, our conversation turned to needles – the epidural, to be precise.

All but one of my epidurals sucked. Darrin’s was a breeze. Shemmice didn’t have time to get an epidural for one of her deliveries.

“What?” Shemmice and I asked in unison. Unbidden, she proceeded to explain.

“I was feeling so sick that day. I asked my man to take me to the hospital and he did. Then I started feeling even worse when I felt like my water had broken. I asked him to take a look and he went almost white when he started yelling for the nurse to come it. I thought my water had broke, but I was hemorrhaging.

The doctor came in with a stack of forms and was yelling at my man ‘It’s him or her. You gotta decide now, now, now!’ They didn’t ask me about procedures or nothing. He signed the paper and they rolled me into a ball. They put four needles down my spine and took me into surgery. Can you imagine that? Six months pregnant and my forehead was touching my knees. I’ve been scared of epidurals ever since!”

I looked at Shemmice quizzically. She had 3 girls. I had never heard her mention a son. I broached my next question gingerly, afraid to hear the answer that I feared I already knew the reply to.

“Did the baby live?”

Shemmice nodded and looked at me with a smile tinged with regret.

“He did. For 17 hours.”

We each grew quite, reflecting on our private thoughts for a good while before returning to the world of Boolean searches and resume formats.

There is a saying that I read a while ago that says “The moment a baby is born, so is a mother.” For some women, connecting with their child begins even earlier, some as quickly as the moment they see a (+) on a home pregnancy test! Some women, by the design of biology or socio-political circumstance will never know the joy and heartache that comes with conceiving and bearing- and yes- possibly losing a child; but as my First Lady says “You don’t have to carry a child under your heart to carry one in your heart”.

Of course, my mind is always turned towards my sisters in Nigeria who will no doubt receive an outpouring of sympathy on this Mother’s Day as they continue to come to terms with reality that their daughters have still not been returned to them. I also mourn with the others who had their sons slaughtered in their sleep in their dormitories when all they wanted was an education and to make their mothers proud.

So today, I join the millions of other people saluting their mothers as I say “Happy Mother’s Day” to you all. They were brought to you from your womb or brought to you in the adoption office, whether they’ve been yours for 30-some years or for a mere 17 hours, they are and will forever be yours.

God bless you mothers!

 

Ghana: What’s the Use of #BringBackOurGirls When We Mistreat Our Women?

Someone copied me on an article written by Ghanaian President John Mahama which was posted on the online version of Ebony magazine. The title is bold, empathetic and pleading:

     Slaughtered Boys, Missing Girls: Who Stands Up for African Children?

I read the article without knowing who the author was. My heart swelled with pride. “The person GETS it!” I thought. Then I scrolled down to the bottom and was immediately stunned by the article’s creator. Ah, ah? John Mahama? How?!

My admiration was immediately transformed into irritation.

I am a mother. I am a civilian. I am politically agnostic, which means unlike my friends who have die-hard political affiliations, I find myself at greater liberty to judge my leadership by their actions, rather than their party colors and slogans. That said, I remain woefully under impressed by John Mahama and his performance as president, no matter how good he looks and smells. (And the brother is SO good looking. Anyway…)

As far as we know, it took John Mahama – who is now the head of ECOWAS – just as long to come out with a statement of solidarity as it took President Jonathan to do the same on the issue of the captured girls from Chibok. That was around three weeks. To his credit, Mr. Mahama seems to be on a serious media blitz to at least appear as though he’s engaged and sympathetic to the plight of not just these students who were snatched from their beds as they slept, but for all African children everywhere.

John Mahama challenges the global apathy towards the plight of African children is the tagline in the Ebony article. How ironic, when he and his party ran on promises built on the backs of children in 2012…promises of free school uniforms (rather than the free education his NPP opponent proposed) that have largely yet to be delivered! Tell me, who cares about African children indeed?

It’s not difficult to understand the molasses-in-January pace that West African governments have taken in rescuing these girls. I mentioned in previous posts that African girls and women – particularly of certain classes – are lowest on the social totem pole. And as egalitarian as Ghanaian society believes and perceives itself to be, we still exhibit behavior that is completely abhorrent in the area of women and children’s rights.

Have you ever been to Cape Coast Castle? It’s a sobering experience. The male dungeons are located deep underground, still dank with the stench of human excrement and fear. The women’s cells however are located above, one of which is located just beneath the governor’s bed chambers. Just outside the women’s cells is a courtyard with 3-4 cannon balls cemented into the stone floor. Guides will tell you how the most “undisciplined” slave women were chained to these balls and made to sit/stand in the sun for hours for their unruly behavior. Twenty minutes in the Ghanaian sun is enough to douse the fire in one’s soul, let alone hours.

It’s ironic therefore, that John Mahama came out with this article raging against global apathy for Africa’s children when Ghanaian women were physically abused for his sake just days before. I read with horror and disgust how a group of nursing students in the Mampong Midwifery and Health Assistants School were punished for carrying placards detailing their grievances during the president’s visit to the locale. The nurses – who have not received their contractual allowances – demonstrated peacefully with the goal of bringing Mr. Mahama’s attention to the fact that they have not been paid for their service. In retaliation, Mohammed Kwadwo Aboasu, MCE of Asante Mampong ordered these women (many of whom are wives and mothers) to kneel in sun for up to 45 minutes because “they had disgraced him and the school”. Then he seized their rice cookers so that they couldn’t prepare their own food, subjecting them to greater out of pocket costs.

Humph.

Are people actually shocked at the behavior of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau when those who claim to operate under the banner of lawfulness and civility treat women in this way? When it becomes a crime to demand wages you were promised? No wonder these militants feel so brazen in their attacks against women and girls when their so-called ‘betters’ behave no differently! A bully is a bully whether he’s armed with a gun or a microphone. At the end of the day, Mohammed Aboasu and Abubakar Shekau are slaves to their ego and soley concerned with exerting their will. The same applies to any man who would abuse power in this way.

So please Mr. President and all those who would compel me to be impressed with his fancy words on international media, let’s see to our own culture and assess our own form of terrorism before we go a-scolding others. Tell your cabinet, local leaders and the nation to treat all us women with respect. Show us by example that you value the lives of women, and not just with words. Or are we to continue to believe that the militants are right, and that a woman can be punished simply for seeking her education and all that goes in tandem with it?

Nursing-Trainees

The Honorable Hannah Tetteh (Unintentionally) Explains why Boko Haram Stays Winning

It’s a myth, you know? This whole business about African’s being divided, unable and unwilling to cooperate. That we can’t think beyond ourselves. Who does this myth benefit? Certainly not WE the People. The Myth of African Disconnection only serves those groups and individuals, both foreign and home bred, who seek to dominate over our resources and destroy us as a people.

More than two centuries ago – no longer satisfied with merely taking Africans away from the Slave Coast and shipping them to the New World – our freedom was threatened (and taken) by European invaders. African nations – as a collective – fought for and won their individual independence. It is well documented how revolutionary leaders during the struggle for sub-Saharan independence worked in tandem to provide intelligence, tools and weapons in some cases in the fight against colonial rule.

Today, we face a similar threat from Boko Haram and our leadership corps acts like; looks like; functions like they don’t see it coming!

We the People have been moaning about the lack of intelligence, wit and compassion in our governing bodies for time immeasurable now. I’ve heard friends and family and the country cat asking God anyone else who will listen for “new leaders” for as long as I have been able to understand the basic concepts of politics. “The ones we have now just won’t and don’t cut it!” they say.

That’s actually a misnomer. I have come to a different conclusion. What we need is ‘old leaders’… leaders of the ancient ilk, in fact. In my own native Ghana, many of the social structures that exist now were conceived and developed by the first regime after independence. For almost 40 years, we hardly had a new road built (let alone a library!) as we were caught up in coup d’états and government manufactured food shortages . This is the sort of self-serving leadership Africa has suffered under for decades and we are yet to recover from. But way before that, before there was an Afrifra, a Rawlings or a Limann or the long list of other puppet presidents preceding them and those who are yet to follow, we had rulers who took their sovereign mandate seriously.

These early rulers, some of whom I have only become recently acquainted with, saw the threat of colonial invasion for what is was and gallantly fought against it. Nana Jonkone, whom I just learned about in 2013, was one of such heroes. When the Dutch came to his coastal town of Pokesu to take possession of a fort the German’s had built and abandoned (on donated land), he was understandably hostile to the invasion. With neither enough guns nor military power to repulse the invasion, he sent for military assistance from Nana Prempeh in the Ashanti Kingdom. For the ‘small price’ of one calabash of gold per mercenary, Nana Prempeh sent a contingent of forces down to battle the Dutch. One can imagine that the Dutch did not find it easy to overpower this band of fighters, because the Dutch left and didn’t return until almost 20 years later when they received wind that the Ashanti warriors had left. It was only at that time that they were able to overpower Nana Jonkone who has since disappeared into history.

Now, why do I bring this story up, and what in the name of good gravy does it have to do with modern Africa and Boko Haram? Because, like 17th century colonialism and Islamic militancy (or whatever the politically correct term is), the players have changed but the motivations have remained the same. The who thing reads like a perverse version of a Tolkein tale. Like Saruman cross breeding uruk hai, they are raping with young, frightened girls with the goal of creating the next wave of child soldiers.

Boko Haram, al Qaeda, al-Shabaab and any other Als a-comin’ have made it abundantly clear that they are not playing around with the idea of dominating Africa. They have been left to stew and fester in their poverty, mistrust and disenfranchisement for too long; and now that they have rotted beyond redemption, they are striking ordinary citizens. That’s what a terrorist cell is: a disenfranchised group of people abandoned by its government which is in turn further brainwashed and funded by lawless private entities seeking to take advantage of the same poverty that plagued this group in the first place. It sounds like the plot of a Steven Segal movie, except it’s very real.

The attack on the Girls Government School in Chibok is only the latest in a string of growing attacks. These outbreaks of violence against the ordinary citizenry of Nigeria have largely gone unchecked and underreported for close to five years. In that time, the militants have gotten bolder, more strategic and more cunning. I said it before, but I believe it bears repeating that “peaceful” nations like Ghana must make a real show of their solidarity with Kenya where the Westgate attack took place and with Nigeria where the Chibok 200 have been abducted. Did we not lose our own Kofi Awoonor in the Westgate attack? Do we not see how terrorism anywhere in Africa is terrorism EVERYWHERE in Africa? Yet still, our leaders are sucking their thumbs waiting on…shoot. I don’t know what they are waiting on! I do know our people are looking

I don’t know much about Hannah Tetteh other than she’s the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Ghana and was/is a barrister. She took the brave step of coming onto Twitter to field questions about Ghana’s response to the attack. I say “brave” because Africa’s leaders have been largely silent on the matter and people were swift to swoop in on her timeline to get a reaction.

I swear…this silence reeks of utter apathy. It’s heart breaking, gut-wrenching and soul rending.

han PR

We’re human beings, us Africans, whether the world believes it or not. Like any other human, we want to have confidence that those we have appointed and trusted to guide and care for us actually have that mandate on their agenda. It’s all about the show, and that’s one aspect the Americans understand very clearly. Like the Maori warriors, they know that half of the battle is getting into the mind of the enemy. They have press conferences, they leak articles, they hint (but never reveal fully) that there are plans of doom and destruction coming to their enemies, they bloody get public opinion on their side!

What do we have in West Africa? Excuses.

I don’t know if her twitter handle is personal or official, but on it Hannah Tetteh herself pondered aloud what good it would do to send local forces to Nigeria who do not speak the language nor know the terrain. How? What an excuse in 2014! When I can give you a general description of my house this instant and anyone in the world can find me on Google Earth? So why can’t our soldiers read a 3D map of the area? Google has it! And when 80% of all West Africans speak some sort of pidgin English? Did Nana Jonkone let unfamiliar terrain or a language barrier hinder him from seeking help from Nana Prempeh or the other from giving it? What is she talking about???

hannah geography

But again, I appreciate her coming online to make her position clear, since it most likely mirrors those of her counterparts: and that’s scared. Just straight up afraid! And that’s why Boko Haram stays winning. They are not scared. They are ruthless. They are innovating and reinventing how they do warfare and more importantly, they are motivated to win. What are our collective governments doing? NOW trying to figure how they can share intelligence with each other, hoping that these guys will be kind enough to resort to the regular rules of wartime engagement. SMH.

Have you heard any statements from YOUR government (Nigerian or not) on the crisis? Should Africa do more to assist in this issue and others like it? Should every African nation just shrug and expect to deal with terrorism on its own? Discuss!

#BringBackOurGirls

Does Kwasi Enin Realize What He’s Done?

Education. 

Education, education, education!

Every African who has been fortunate to attend school at any level knows the burden of this single word. Our parents would wantonly hurl it at us like a gauntlet in the face of any infraction, whether real or perceived.

“Heh? You won’t go and sit down and learn your books eh? Don’t you value your education?”

OR

“My friend – you said you want to do what? Go to a school jam? Do you know how much money I spend on your education?”

Even the struggling groundnut seller harangues her young primary school children about their education. If they can do nothing else, they better be able to count and bring home correct change!

Ghanaians, Gambians, Nigerians, West Africans on the Continent and in the Diaspora – there is nothing we value more than education. Every West African of any class has had one thing drilled into us since we were a gleam in our Daddy’s eye: Pursue excellence, wherever that may be. I had an old man corner me one afternoon in my parking lot recently, and although he was not an African, he summed up our struggle very succinctly.

“If you gon’ be a monkey, damn it, be a gorilla!”
KwasiEverything we do as West Africans is with “vim”; That certain drive that makes us want to do everything harder and better than the next guy, even in the midst of imitating him/her. Our alcoholics are the hardest core drunkards you will encounter. Nigerians are driven to success at all cost, no matter the environment. Our crooks are the most brazen and innovative around. And now we have this Kwasi Enin unscrewing and resetting the bar for excellence in education.

Like other over-achievers before him, he has just made things harder for the rest of us. Oh, don’t worry! I will get to the part where I laud his accomplishments and even find a way to insinuate that I had some part to play in his achievement, but before I get there, I have to scold him!

You see, in gaining acceptance into ALL EIGHT Ivy League schools in this country, he has just made the existence of every Ghanaian child that much more unbearable. There is nothing that gives a Ghanaian parent more pleasure than boasting about the accomplishments of their children and secretly (never publicly) comparing those feats to those of other kids in their age range. One of my very dear friends is the eldest of four kids, all of whom has an advanced degree. The youngest of the lot is pursuing his PhD. Very frequently, his now-retired father will look at his wife and say:

“Eh? Look at your children compared to those of your friends? Can they say that their ALL of their children has a degree? They can’t!”

It is important to note that only two of these children is actually working in their field of study, and that the PhD candidate will most likely not using his letters in real world experience at all. However, that is none of his father’s concern. His job was to educate his children and get them ready should the opportunity arise. Theirs is to seek out those opportunities. He can therefore take pride in his work.

I say again: Now comes this Kwasi Enin and all his shark-brainess, gaining acceptance into Harvard and co. What are mothers like me to do when it comes time for our children to being their foray into the realm of tertiary education? He has shown that it is possible, and because it is “possible”, all children of his ilk must do it! Why do you think that every West African child born between 1962-1988 has been compelled to go to school to become a lawyer or a doctor? Because Kwasi Enin circa 1953 showed it was possible when we had no examples of that level of success before! It can be done, so it will be done. End of discussion. You will soon see hundreds of Ghanaian children applying to the all of best colleges in the world – in tandem – when one or two of such would have previously done nicely. I can hear the wailing of determined parents now:

“You said what? You only applied to three elite colleges??? Oh God. What kind of a child have I raised? My friend, go and find six others to apply to!”

You wait and see.

My daughter brought home a ‘C’ in mathematics for the quarter a week ago. I sat in bed and mourned as if she had committed the most felonious of crimes. No amount of apology could console me. And now we have the added pressure of Kwasi Enin’s accomplishments on top too? Woi! We won’t survive in the Grant house. Look at what this small boy has done to my family!

With all that said, I salute Mr. Enin. He is a fine young man, and his parents should be particularly proud. Of course, they cannot take this pride for themselves. We all want our slice. We will attribute his success to good Ghanaian upbringing, morals, and a steady diet of jollof or whatever. The family’s pastor will claim his share in the glory for praying over him, as will the immigrant cashier at his local grocery store. We will all say we “knew Kwasi when.”

Let us do what we do best and advise this young man. What advice would you offer him? Me, I would tell him to go to these campuses with caution and to remember Eric Frimpong, who was also an exceptional young man slated for glory. What the American ‘justice’ system did to that boy was unconscionable. Kwasi must remember to walk circumspectly and cautiously. The same tongues that are praising you now are the ones who will facilitate your downfall. Choose your friends carefully o!

Oh yes, and ayekoo!