Category Archives: Motherhood

I Talked to my Daughter About Caitlyn Jenner

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

I honestly wasn’t going to talk about Bruce becoming Caitlyn because of all the accoutrements and accessories that come along with engaging in thorny topics such as these. If you find you are not on the side of rabid celebration of an unorthodox decision these days, suddenly you’re branded as an x-phobe or anti-y. (Insert your own term for any of these variables.) I wouldn’t have broached the event it at all on MOM, but several people have asked how my chat with Nadjah about Ms. Jenner went and MX5 is constantly reminding me that it is my duty to “give the people want they want!!” So here it is.

gladiator

****

Yahoo! News released images of Vanity Fair’s cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner two weeks ago. In the social media world, this is ancient history but I remember the events surrounding it clearly. People were in an uproar, both in celebration and confusion. Someone on my social network left a comment on the Yahoo! page asking “how he was supposed to explain this to his 14 year old son?”

I snickered at his question. I was a loooong way away from that. My eldest is only 10, and topics about sex, sexuality, gender reassignment and thermal expansion were way down the line of our list of things to tackle in conversation. Poor sod, I thought. I rolled over and continued scrolling through the news. Oh, look! Old Navy was having a sale on flip flops. I have to get some for the whole family…

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

It was Nadjah. Her forehead was wrinkled. She leaned against my bedroom door and mumbled something I didn’t catch. Surely I had misunderstood her.

“I said ‘Would you ever dress up to look like a man?’”, she repeated.

“I guess if my life depended on it,” I mused. “You know, Harriet Tubman sometimes had to disguise herself as a man to help slaves get to freedom…”

“Yes. I know that,” she snapped. “I’m talking about would you change who you are to become a man?”

Her question came 3 days after the Caitlyn Jenner story broke. I peered at her sideways. How did she…?

“No, I wouldn’t,” I answered. “But why do you ask?”

“I saw this story on the news at Ms. Babette’s house about a guy who became a girl and now he…I mean she…has long hair – but I forgot her name.”

Crap.

“Caitlyn Jenner.”

“Yes!”

We stared at each other for a moment. Finally, my first born loin fruit asked me the question that no one but Almighty God truly knows that answer to. She wanted to know why he had changed. I sighed. What was the best way to approach this? I tapped into the ancient African mother in me. I answered her question by not addressing it at all.

“People have always changed their outward appearance. We’ve been using surgery to do it for thousands of years. During the Greco-Roman period, battle scars on the back were removed since they were a sign of shame. It meant you were running away from you enemy and not facing him. Overweight men with ‘moobs’ also had them removed. They were considered shameful. The first nose jobs and facial reconstructive surgeries were done in ancient India using Ayurveda.”

(Fortunately, I had stumbled across all this information when I watched something on the History Channel one evening when I had the chance to close my bedroom door for once. I knew it would come in handy one day.)

“Okay…but WHY did he do it?” she quizzed.

“I don’t know why anyone does what they do,” I answered honestly. “All I know is this is one of those things that have always existed as long as people have been curious about who or what they are. There are some people who feel like they were born in the wrong bodies. I can’t explain how they feel. Like I can’t explain how Dippin’ Dots or Wormholes are made – I just know they either make a delicious treat or transport you through dimensions. The only person who knows what lies in the heart of a person is the one who created them. Get it?”

“Yeah…I think so. I guess I really need to check out the background of whoever I marry. I don’t know what I would do if my husband decided to be a woman 2 weeks after we were married!”

Herh. You are 10. What is this nonsensical talk of marriage? I advised her to scrutinize her future spouse’s background with caution and detail regardless.

“The fact is: You are who you are, down to the cellular structure. You can change your outward appearance, but your DNA is always going to tell another story. Bruce Jenner felt like he was supposed to be a woman.”

“She,” she corrected.

I grunted in retort.

Satisfied, she thanked me and left the room. Nadjah hasn’t brought it up since, but our conversations always lead me to ponder a little longer. And then before I could finish framing further thoughts on what it must be like to be a woman trapped in a man’s body, Rachel Dolezal took the internet by storm. If you don’t know who Rachel Dolezal is by now, you’re one of the lucky few people left on the planet. She is a woman of Czech, German and Swedish decent, masquerading as a Black woman. She is the current president of the NAACP’s Spokane, WA chapter and adamantly declares that she IS a Black woman.

I mean…how Sway?!? I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed the NAACP’s white roots here before, so we won’t have to readdress it. But basically, Rachel Dolezal could have taken office as the Spokane NAACP head as a white woman and been just fine. DuBois founded the organization with predominately white staff with an agenda to assimilate into American whiteness.

Moving on.

Both Jenner and Dolezal’s identity conundrums remind me of a clip I saw on the Tyra Banks show years ago. It was about a Black man named ‘Lawrence’ who believes he is a white man condemned in a Black man’s body. Tyra’s make up team makes him white for a day, and his whole perspective and attitude about life and himself is radically altered for 24 hours.

Lawrence talked about hating the look of himself in the mirror quite a bit. When Chaz (formerly Chastity) Bono was interviewed about transitioning, he talked about hating the sight of his womanly features as well. I can’t imagine what it’s like to hate the body you were born with so much that you would go to such lengths to radically alter it. I can sympathize, but I can’t truly empathize with these struggles.

For me, it all comes down to the heart. It’s not for me to judge another person’s heart. I don’t have that power. But I do know that Jenner, Bono, Dolezal, Lawrence, you and I are looking to be made whole to some capacity. What is lacking in each of these people and thousands of others is a sense of needing a completion…and a desire for power.

Look at the type of woman Caitlyn Jenner became. S/he didn’t transition into a tea-picking woman from India or a Pakistani woman covered in black, or even Hilary Clinton. S/he became a Kardashian remake; someone who can command dollars and elicit a sexual response. Sex is powerful.

Lawrence wants to be a white man because white male privilege is powerful. It runs global economies. It gives you access to any corner of the globe. No one interrogates white male presence in the way they do a Black man’s.

Dolezal on the other hand is a little tricky. The Black woman’s struggle isn’t easy to get down with. But even masquerading as a “Black woman”, she still enjoyed a certain measure of light skinned privilege. Damn you, Dolezal. You’ve just come and put sand in everyone’s gari! Now everybody is claiming to be trans-something. Trans-Black. Trans-Racial. Trans-Fat. Trans-Slender even!

In 40 years, when our grandkids look back on our generation, I wonder what they will say. Each decade is marked by some traits. The 1920’s was noted for excess. The 1960’s was noted for drugs and free love. Ours ostensibly will the era in which we redefined what it means to be human…or at least attempted to.

 

 

 

Help! My ‘Torso Beads’ Are Too Tight and I’m Afraid…

“Hey Malaka! What are the credentials for wearing Krobo waist beads?”

“Have a waist, I suppose. I dunno. I’m not Krobo.”

“Ah.”

My younger cousin from my American side of the family was the one making this inquiry. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and to my knowledge, has never been out of the country. Now, she was asking me about waist beads…Krobo waist beads, specifically. What had piqued her interest in this particular region of Ghana?

Krobo is a small town in the Eastern Region of Ghana, and as far as I am concerned, is an enduring bastion of our fast-fading culture. Krobos are known for hot girls, hard work and elaborate beadwork. Still, the do not hold a monopoly on bead making/wearing in the region, so I was a bit miffed that my cousin did not inquire about Akuapem waist beads. I suppose it’s because Larteh people are more famous for their juju than their accessories.

Anyway.

My cousin’s inquiry gave me pause, and made me reminisce a little about my own waist beads. Even though I’ve worn traditional beads at some point in every stage in my life, I began wearing them consistently back in 2002 as a nod to our ancestral beauty practices. On a visit to Ghana in that time, several women of my parent’s generation were quick to share their disdain and disapproval for the presence of the beads around my waist.

“This is something villagers do,” one woman spat.

Ah, ah. It wasn’t her waist, and she didn’t buy them for me. I resisted the urge to spit back at her and roll my eyes, instead nodding like the “good African girl” my father silently implored me to be in public.

My favorite waist beads were crafted by an old woman who lived in Osu behind Kikiriki Kitchen. She had strung some for one of my best friends in colors and shapes I had never seen before. She even had 3 or 4 gold spun beads strung on the line, which had such an alluring and hypnotic effect that I have to confess that it was nothing but pure envy that took me on the perilous trek over a 20 foot wide gutter bridged on either end by a rickety piece of wood.

“Her beads are not cheap o,” my friend warned in advance. “She is a master bead maker.”

“Oh, it’s just beads. How expensive can it be?” I scoffed.

The elderly woman greeted us with the cool of a woman who had seen and done it all. A halo of curly grey hair crowned her round head. She was in no particular rush to service us. I liked and disliked her instantly.

“Where do you want your beads to sit?” she asked.

“Here,” I said, pointing to the top of my hip. “I want them to sit low.”

After I had been measured and fitted, the old lady named her price. I balked, but then I remembered that beads were once a unit of currency and a measure for one’s wealth and status in the community. I empty my wallet and stare imploringly at my friend.  I think I still owe her money.  It was well worth it though. I have always loved those beads.

It is those same beads digging into my torso today.

Yes, you heard that right: The beads that once sat demure and seductively across my hips are now cutting off my circulation around my rib cage, digging into my skin, causing me nightmares in my sleep. And it’s ALL my cousin’s fault! If she hadn’t gone poking her artsy, inquisitive nose into this aspect of our culture, I would have left this vainglorious past with my waist beads buried in the past! You see, I took the beads off in the middle of my first pregnancy and haven’t thought about them since. After Aya was born, I got another set that were strung on elastic, but I never considered them quite as beautiful as the ones I’d gotten in Osu so I stopped wearing them, too. But once my cousin asked about (Krobo) beads, I fished them out of my jewelry box, inhaled and slipped them over my head and breasts. Now they are STUCK.

I can’t believe how much my body has changed! The transformation has been radical, and not for the better. They always tell you how having kids changes your body, and I have accepted the man hairs on my chin and chest, the feet that have grown in both length and width…even the kangaroo pouch that is the hallmark of four C-sections. Am I now expected to accept that my torso in 2015 holds the same dimensions of my waist 15 years ago? Heaven forbid!

While trawling through Poka Arts’ images on Instagram, I came across two images that sum up my demise perfectly. No, no. Look! It will help you understand my struggle.

Me, before my first kid:

photo 2(1)Yeah, I believe my body is a temple… but I pretty much eat whatever I want. It’s all good, because I work out 3-4 times a week and I play in a Gaelic football league. But you know, whatevs. Ooooh! Are you gonna eat the rest of your chocolate ganache? Can I have it?  I’m going for a run later. No, silly! I don’t “diet”. I don’t need to. LOL!

Me, after all my kids:

photo 1(5)Yeah, I believe my body is a temple. I try to eat a plant-based diet, primarily…but then I get super hungry and end up eating pizza for breakfast…and lunch. Look, I just like to eat pizza. It’s quick, it’s easy, and the kids like it too! I try to work out whenever I get the chance, but I’m usually busy stressing over the kids…which leads to more stress eating. Oooooh! Are you gonna eat the rest of that chocolate ganache? I have a PTA meeting coming up because one of the girls roundhouse kicked another kid on the playground. It’s okay. I’m going to cry myself to sleep later. Maybe the pain from my tears will mask the pain of these beads digging into my back…

Nevertheless, I was happy that I could at least get my favorite beads onto my body, even if they weren’t fitting me in as appealing a manner as they once did. I excitedly sent a picture to my sister, anticipating her approval and matched excitement.

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“What is this?”

“These are my waist beads, Adj! I haven’t worn them in years.”

“Why do they look so tight?”

“…Because they are tight.”

“I don’t think our ancestors intended for them to look this way.”

“Look. Just be happy I can get them on, okay? You always outchea jackin’ up my high.”

She floods my inbox with celebratory emojis  – illustrated applause, confetti and champagne glasses – and then goes silent. I hate my sister.I am looking miserable.

Marshall offers to lift my beads over my head if I would agree to simultaneously smash and lift my boobs so he can slide them over. I refuse. I hate the pain these beads have caused me, but I loathe the idea of them defeating me even more.

That’s all I have to say about that. Until memory becomes my reality, my rib cage beads and I remain ever yours!

We Survived the End of the School Year Melee

Shouts out to all my parents, guardians and grandparents raising grandbabies in The Struggle. We did it. The end of the school year has come and if you’re reading this, it means that you still had a little bit of change left over to pay your internet and light bill. You tha real MVP.

Nana Malone’s husband calls this time of year ‘Death by a thousand cuts’. I don’t think I’ve encountered a more apt description of the financial hemorrhaging that takes place in the days leading up to the end of the school year. It’s costly to keep our young’uns in school, and it takes a small ransom to get them out! For the last three weeks, Marshall and I have been bleeding money…and I know we’re not alone. You too have struggled. I can feel it.

I haven’t sat down to calculate the aggregate cost of all the end of year activities. I really don’t want to know, to be honest. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say conservatively we’ve spent close to $1,000 in the 3 weeks leading up to the last day of school. My Teacher Appreciation Week gifts alone left my account close to $200 lighter. That’s not the teachers’ fault. It’s my own. I like to give good gifts.

Parents around the country have been nickel and dime’d out of hundreds of dollars for end of year activities. What we should all be welcoming as a joyous season as families – the beginning of summer, a new milestone in your child’s education journey, pool/beach season – has become increasingly stressful over the years. When I was in primary school, we had ONE celebration. It was called Our Day. Kids would bring jollof or rice and stew to share with friends. The really posh kids would bring a mineral (soda). My mom was stingy, so we either went without food to Our Day or we took juuuust enough of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to break off a piece for whoever was still a friend by the time the year ended. My mother would stroke out if she had to contend with all the all the expectations of parenthood today.

Everyone has a party.

After school club has a party.

Zumba club has a party.

Each classroom has a party.

Then there is a school-wide party.

Then Kindergarten graduation party.

Then Pre-K graduation party. (I still haven’t figured out why I’m paying sixty bucks to see my child graduate from daycare. How is this an accomplishment? Nevertheless, they gave her a cap and gown…so to graduation we go!)

Don’t forget the PTA appreciation party (donations of $5 and above are welcome!).

Then when you get home, the kids want to know if there will be an ushering Summer Season party. Who is paying for all these parties? You and I ooo. They are not charitable goodwill events!

 

Did I mention the activities?

Now we have field study/excursions. Oh! And it’s overnight, so send your kid with $20 for spending money.

Your child has shown promise in x area. S/he will join an elite group of students in the State’s capital to meet with lawmakers about how to create leather from wishes. Be sure to send $20 for spending money.

Little Akosua joined the Reading Club last semester and has failed to return 3 of the books she checked out. Please remit $9.50 to the librarian.

Oh! You didn’t get that email? We sent it in April! And you have to construct a pioneer and beehive project. This will count towards their final grade and will be showcased at the Party party. Be prepared to spend $100 on materials at Hobby Lobby.

 

Arrrggggghhhhh!

Times 4! All these and more times 4!

But we made it. We did it! We were battered and scourged, but we didn’t die. Dying is for summer time when the children consume all the food in the house like a hoard of locust and expect to be rewarded for this behavior with trips to Tybee Island and Disney Land. Rogues.

And now, the girls are into their appearance, so I have to make sure they don’t have more self-esteem issues than an 8-10 year girl should be burdened with. They have been watching ANT Farm and have taken a liking to Chyna’s locks. I have pressed more hair this month than I have in my entire life. Of course, the baby wants to do what the big girls do and so..

 

Maintaining one’s appearance costs Mommy time. And money. Because you Negros don’t have the same grade of hair. I gotta get a ceramic iron for one, a titanium for the other and a magnetic lined, Pegasus-blessed flat iron for the other!

Look at this. My son had the audacity to wear this shirt to the last day of school. (I have to tell you all the story of how he ended up BACK in school. Principal McClure is the one to thank for this.) Homework is your only concern, eh? Small boys are young. You are only 5. Let’s chat again when you are 35. By the time you have kids, they’ll be doing field studies on Jupiter, and I will sit back and laugh at you with no sympathy.

Homework

I recognize that we are blessed and fortunate to have the discretionary funds to do all of these fun (because they are totally unnecessary) things for our kids. It’s sobering to remember that many, many American families cannot afford to participate in the avalanche of frivolity that classroom moms and club administrators conjure up and demand payment for at the waning of Spring.

It still hurts.

Has your end-of-year experience been similar, or do your kids just do Our Day and be done with it? I miss Our Day. I miss the simplicity of jollof and decorations made with newspaper. I don’t want to bleed anymore. Let’s boycott in the 2015=2016 school year. Who’s with me!

revo

Y’all lyin’. You ain’t ready to revolt. Our kids won’t let us. I’ll see you at the ATM same time this fall.

 

My Daughter Spoke to Me in a Tone That Nearly Sent Me into a Rage

I was once a child, and it seems like it wasn’t that long ago. I remember ages 5, 10 and 13 quite vividly, in fact. Because those emotions and memories of childhood are so intense…nearly tangible… I find that I have a great deal of empathy for my own children as they navigate this phase of their existence. I know what they are thinking and what they are feeling when faced with scenarios that most –if not all – children must go through:

  • The disappointment of being sent to bed before your favorite show is over.
  • Being compelled to eat your broccoli/spinach/tomatoes before you can have a cookie.
  • Controlling your impulse to talk back to your parents after they’ve informed you that you smell and must re-take a shower, when they don’t smell quite so rosy themselves.

I get all of that, and I have tried to demonstrate that I understand their plight and that I commiserate with it. That is why I CANNOT understand why my eldest daughter came into the room and spoke to me in the manner in which she did last night.

My body was aching from a morning spent dropping freight at my part time job. I also had some errands I had to run, a task which is stressful enough on the body when that course is the maze that is North Fulton. By the time I picked up the kids, I was battered, exhausted, hungry and irritated. By bedtime, I was completely undone. It was at this point that Nadjah, freshly showered and clothed for bed came into the room and nestled her long body next to mine. She sighed.

“Mommy?” she squeaked. “I was just thinking to back to when I was a kid and well…I…uhhh…squeak squeak mumble mumble…”

I sat up.

“Heh? What did you say? I didn’t understand what you said!”

SpeakHer voice was barely a whisper as she repeated herself and continued to masticate her words. Somewhere in the midst of that auditory mess, I deciphered that she was reminiscing about when she was a little girl and pining for the days when we visited the bookstore and played at the YMCA. She wondered if we could revisit those days again…maybe in the summer?

I was confounded. Not so much by her request, but by the manner in which she was asking it. Ah, ah. Does she not know who I am?

“Nadjah. When you are talking to me and asking about these things, talk to me from your CHEST, you hear?”

She giggled…nervously.

“No! I’m dead serious! Have I not spent nights working so that I could spend our days taking you guys to the pool, or send you to summer camp, or all of the activities you’ve named?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“You know you will go, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Then ask me from your CHEST! What is this squeaking, mumbling noise you’ve come to bring to my ears? Eh? Talking as if you don’t have confidence! Now, here’s what you need to focus on NOW. For the next 8 days, what needs to be your focus?”

She thought about it a little before answering, “The Georgia Milestones tests.”

“And when those are completed and you’ve passed, you can ask me about summer activities. But when you do, how will you ask me?”

“From my chest.”

I kissed her goodnight with a scowl on my face and sent her to bed with a terse “Love you.”

 

This girl. These children! Behaving as if she is not the daughter of Abena Owusua Malaka Gyekye; sliding into my room like a phantom, as though I have not spent her whole life conjuring ways for her to enjoy it. My children cannot name a single thing that they’ve ever needed that we haven’t provided. They can’t name a single attraction in this city that I haven’t taken them to. How many of their friends can say that their parents have taken them to the other side of the world? And then you want to mumble-mumble squeak-squeak to me about the YMCA? Herh! The disrespect! I was livid!

Did you ever watch those old movies starring the likes of Peter O’Toole or Richard Harris set in medieval England? The King would always have a son who was a valiant daredevil, and then there’d be the other son who was quiet and cowardly? The King could never stand the sight of the soft, unobtrusive son and the Queen would always have to protect him from the King’s wrath. I never understood why a monarch would revile his own offspring in such a way, but I halfway get it now. You are a prince. The son of a King. Act like it.

Speak with authority! Communicate with clarity and confidence! Rest assured that when you take bold steps, your mother/father will be there to catch you when you fall! What is mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Oprah got where she is today with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Toni Morrison became Toni Morrison with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Serena Williams conquered the world with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? Or are you saying that the daughter of Abena Gyekye is so low that she must only speak in mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? What an insult to me!

Yes, I know. When Black women speak up for themselves and make no compromises on their positions, they are labelled as “angry”, “aggressive” and “bitter”. Better that my daughter should be labelled as any of those things over “invisible”, “insignificant”, and “expendable”. I am not raising little brown doormats.

Ah. What do I look like?

 

My Son’s Love of Trains Lead me to Several Shocking Discovery

photo 2(6)

Having children can greatly enrich your life. If you don’t believe that, just ask Mark and Rhea (who have chosen not to release their surnames to the public), who go by the YouTube username “ilovemaything”. They made $1 million just uploading videos of their kids Maya and Hulyan playing with toy trains. My son, Stone, is an avid lover and connoisseur of all things locomotive himself, and like his comrades Maya and Hulyan, has greatly enriched my life via his own interests.

And, no: This is not a story about how my family struck it rich through pursuing kid friendly pastimes. The boy was instrumental in showing me something new.

photo 3(2)Marshall and I try as much as we can to expose the kids to real life events and situations that correlate to the kids’ individual interests. With four different people with four ever evolving fascinations, that’s a lot of exposure to wrangle. Stone will turn 6 this spring, but unlike his sisters he has maintained three main interests: cars, dinosaurs and trains. Trains are at the top of the list, and so it is for this reason and this reason alone our entire family found ourselves at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA.

It was fascinating. There was so much history! Even the girls thought it was a worthwhile excursion, and went as far as to thank their brother for suggesting the trip. (You have to see these people fight about how they’re going to spend the holidays to know how big that is.)

photo 3(3)The museum does an excellent job of chronicling locomotive transportation in America, replete with decommissioned freight cars, cabooses, a luxury Pullman and of course, coal/wood burning steam engines. We saw street cars and trolleys dating back to the early-mid 1800s, as well as a functioning railroad handcar that anyone could ride for $1. As we climbed in and out of each feature, we found ourselves imagining what it must have been like to ride and work on the railroad. The cab of the engine would have been extremely hot, with the engineer and coal shoveling men sitting within two feet of an open furnace. Further back, aristocrats in fancy clothes would dine on fine china and sip tea while they debated the merits or follies of international commerce and whether women should have the right to vote. A little further back there would be a caboose carrying mail or food. The railroad wasn’t the lifeblood of America, rather it was a network of veins that made a prosperous life in America possible… and it was controlled an exclusive group of wealthy men.

Control of the American railroad was instrumental in winning the Civil War. When Lincoln cut off supplies to the South, that all but brought the Confederates to their knees. The railroad has also served as a reminder, as well as a facilitator, of class and racial discrimination in America. Nadjah casually wandered over to this sign hanging in a 50’s era cart delineating the Negro section from the white section and pointed it out to me. The cart connected ahead even had seats segregated by gender. What was I to say?

photo 1(3)

“It’s true. There was a time in America when Black and white people couldn’t sit together, by law. And it wasn’t that long ago.”

The next question came from Liya (aged 4). “Can they sit together now?”

“Yes.”

photo 4(2)The attitude of the children turned solemn for a moment, and then they went back to racing around the outdoor museum, exploring its wonders. But of course, that got me thinking. What was it like for the variety of Black Americans who had to navigate this system? We are not a monolith, with the same experiences or goals or advantages, but my ancestors (and I feel like us today, even) had to endure a system that treated them as though all Blacks were the same. And by “same”, I mean subhuman. I looked down at the royal blue jersey jumpsuit I was wearing paired with gold sandals. I hadn’t meant to dress up that afternoon, and I admit I probably looked out of place at the grungy museum with my chandelier earrings and 20’s inspired hair. But I couldn’t help but imagine what the experience a woman – a Black woman – born into wealth who purposely got dressed up to ride the rails might have been like. I did a little bit of research when I got home and gasped at what I’d found.

Dining set used in luxury coaches

Original dining set used in luxury coaches

First of all, not all Black people in America were slaves during the era of slavery. We know that. In fact, quite a few of them –particularly in Louisiana – were not only born free, but born into aristocratic families and intermarried (informally) with European men. Quite a few Creoles were slave owners as well. Slavery was the economic system and foundation for America’s wealth. Like ancient Rome who adopted similar policies, race-based subjugation was the springboard for America’s relative meteoric ascension. Before the Louisiana Purchase, Creole people were allowed the ‘benefit’ or participating in –and profiting from – this economic system.

Outside of that microcosm however, a wealthy woman of color would have found herself in an intolerant and intolerable world. Despite her finery and education, she would not be permitted to sit in first class. She would not be allowed to use toilet facilities on the train. She would have to lift her muslin gown and ease herself in the bush, with the rest of the Negro population. The rules would change for her the moment the wheels crossed into the true South. If she refused to comply with the rules, and regulations set out for her race and gender, the consequences could be dire.

Public humiliation for people of color has long been a tradition in America’s public transportation system. In 1882, Mrs. Walter Burton, the wife of a state senator from Fort Bend County (Texas) was thrown from a moving train for refusing to give up her first class seat in a whites only coach. Scott Bond, a fair colored Black man who could pass for white but refused to, talks about this in the book From Slavery to Wealth: The Life of Scott Bond. He discusses how on two occasions at least, he was asked to leave the Negro car to sit in first class with his “own race”. Hilarity does not ensue. On one of these two occasions, an exasperated and fearful Black porter calls for the conductor to force him to leave the Black section. An equally exasperated Bond asks the pair what they would have him do.

“The Law says I’m to sit in the Negro section, but you say I am not to! Who is to blame for this? Shall I cry out to God for an answer?”

The intersection of wealth and race (or presumed race) has never been a smooth or easy collision. These are just two of the examples I found on the internet about what it was like to travel while privileged and Black, and how that privilege dissipates depending on where you find yourself on geographically. Some of you in the MOM Squad are historians. I’d love it if you would share your knowledge about this with me. Have your grandparents ever talked about what it was like to work/ride on the train?

You can call me up, since you never leave comments. You culprits know yourselves. ;)

 

Weaves, Pain, Desire, Prayer and Love

I’m going to attempt to put a week’s worth of thoughts into 1500 words or less. Bear with me. Oh yes, and before we begin #NotAllMen and #NotAllWomen. Some of you people are Cinderella’s step sister, forcing your foot into the proverbial slipper of my observations that was not intended for you…

I hate a weak man – but in particular I loathe a weak Black man.

The most exquisite pain I have ever had to endure was bestowed upon me by a weak Black man who was so dedicated in his devotion to causing me harm it was like a religion to him. This is the man you know as Douche Bag. Conversely, some of the greatest moments of joy and peace I have experienced are the direct result of the intentional words from and actions of my husband. Douche Bag and Marshall could not be more different from each other. Douche Bag is big, muscular and boorish. That boorishness and callousness disregard for the feelings and needs of others is what many mistake for ‘strength’. My husband on the other hand is a gentle man…and that doesn’t make him ‘weak’. He is like the steady, soft dripping of water, which over time hollows out or reshapes the hardest stone.

Consistency

Steadfastness

Honor

That to me, is strength.

I have been watching commentary on various social media platforms and have been beside myself with grief for the past 36 hours. It’s as though the weight of our collective failure as a race came crashing on my consciousness. In particularly, I have been daunted and dispirited by the weakness of many – just too many! – Black men. This feebleness has manifested itself in their verbosely expressed vision of what the genesis of a possible relationship with a woman would look like if only she would “comport herself”. Here’s an example I culled from online:

Ladies: If a guy chases you for 6 months and you don’t give in, he will eventually get tired and go somewhere else. But when he does, you will tell him you didn’t try hard enough! Just remember it doesn’t mean he never loved you.

Drivel like this masquerading as “depth” gets retweeted and shared on social media dozens of times a day. Why? Because too many men are weak….and wack…and resonate with this level of foolishness. These brothers don’t value women and the trickledown effect is that women begin to see less value in themselves. Here’s an example from my own life in the opposite.

I don’t remember what we were doing – maybe watching Star Trek or cleaning the house; I don’t know – but Marshall paused and said to me “You know, the day I knew I had to marry you is when I sat down and thought about my life without you in it. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see my life without you in it.”

That’s what a woman looking for a relationship wants. If you only have 6 months to focus on securing a relationship with someone you supposedly “loved”, then you’re not serious. It’s just that simple. Men will work their entire lives to buy the car of their dreams, but give up on winning the affections of a woman if she doesn’t reciprocate quickly and on his timeline. And what is this whole business of chasing? Is she a gazelle and you a hyena? Is a woman you “love” something you are going to gobble up and discard when you are done? That’s what your language suggests…and that’s why after 6 short months you were dogged. You as a boy/man never took the time to examine and improve yourself.

Selah.

They say hurting people hurt other people. Are you hurt, Black Men? Is that why you are hell bent on hurting the closest thing to you – which is Black Women? If so, let us know so we can help you ease the pain. That’s what we’ve been doing for centuries, isn’t it? Right when we were chained up on the same boats, or chopping tobacco in the fields right alongside you, or fighting in the same wars, or mourning your lifeless bodies in the middle of the street… WE’VE been there for you, right? So what’s with all this hatred in return for our devotedness? Is it because we are too tough and expect strength out of you? Surely, you’ve witnessed what life is like globally for people of color – not to mention the rigors of being a woman of color! Hint: it’s freaking hard…and still we don’t break. But now you’ve joined the feeding frenzy against we who are your truest allies. Why do you now seek to join those who want to break us?

I came across this article that quotes Common referring to Erykah Badu as the ‘bossiest’ Black woman he’s ever dated. Gazi Kodzo has dismissed Common as a man whose only true claim to fame as the ‘ex-boyfriend of Black female elite stars’. Common has dated Serena Williams. Taraji Henson and Miss Badu. It is rumored he is dating Lupita Nyong’o. These are all strong and gifted Black women, yet the moderator could only come up with a question framed in negativity because these are the shenanigans of the New Black. He didn’t ask who was the kindest, or most nurturing or had the most depth in conversation…just who was “bossiest”, which we all know is code for emasculating and/or domineering. I posted the link and my expressed my disdain for Common’s reflections. Along the way, I made mention that I would rather see Lupita stay in a relationship with Jared Leto (the whitest of white men) than to date Common who has proven he would use their past to get ratings/cheers/laughs.

You should have seen this brother go to WAR because I dared to make this suggestion. Why should a Black woman want to be desired by a white man? How quickly you’ve forgotten the lustful eyes of the slave master! The same white man who you would have date Lupita is the same white man who will gun your sons down in the street! What short memories you have, Malaka!

Oh, saa? And who do you think is responsible for the majority of sexual abuse meted out against Black children? Whose cruel words play repeatedly in the head of the Black girl who doesn’t believe she’s good enough. And wasn’t it Chris Brown who turned Rihanna into the face of young domestic violence? Today Riri is the face of Dior…and that’s not because Breezy connected his knuckles to her temples.

Of course we continued to wage a war of words until I challenged him to find and speak to 3 complete strangers and ask them if they believe Black women are loved by Black men. Not desired, lusted after or fulfill a booty fetish…I mean loved. As in supported, nurtured, respected and valued. We await the results.

I don’t think Black men know how much their words and deeds affect Black women. It’s one thing to worship at the Altar of White Vagina, but it’s another thing entirely to make the only person who made your existence possible to feel as though her womb….and her whole body….are unworthy. Take a quick look at this:

bleach

Hundreds of people jumped on this girl to tell her how “sick” and “brainwashed” and “stupid” she is. It is a stretch for them to imagine how she ended up this way…but how can it be? How can people not understand that when Black women and girls see messages like the following every day, several times a day:

race1 race2 race3 race4(This dude can’t even add…smh)

This is psychological warfare! And if we don’t overcome it, it’s because we’re not “strong Black women”. What is the strength of a women worth when her sons, brothers and fathers see her as something dirty or something to exploit? That leaves a wound in you…sometimes it’s a sore so deep it becomes more a part of you than the ‘normal’ skin itself. Your wound becomes your identity, and the pain associated with it becomes your constant, faithful and reliable friend. Janette McGhee Watson expressed this so eloquently in her vows to her husband in this clip.

 

It’s 10 minutes long. How many brother have 10 minutes to spare to hear the heart cry of a Black woman? Not enough. Far too few. And you know why? Because Y’ALL don’t love US. You don’t value you us…and if/when you do, it’s only when we’re conforming to your perceptions of what womanhood should be. I know 5 women – Black women – who have told me that they used to pray every night as little girls to wake up white. I ain’t never heard of a white woman praying to wake up with the skin and burden of a Black woman.

Now, some of you can (and will) deflect and cast blame and say it’s all the white man’s fault, or you can man up like Matthew and restore some broken hearts and rebuild the crumbling edifices of our unions.

 

Mo’Ne Davis’ Accepting Casselberry’s Apology is ‘Mature’, but it Ain’t ‘Right’

It’s pretty hard not to be in the know where Mo’Ne Davis is concerned. Even if you were previously unfamiliar with her name, you certainly heard of her story. She is that (now) 13 year old girl who played in the 2014 Little League World Series and is the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. That means she can throw a ball really, really fast.

Her face has become ubiquitous in the sports world, with skill so phenomenal that she made the cover of Sports Illustrated and a back-story so inspiring that Disney has approved a movie to be made about her life. This did not sit well with some people, and one person in particular – Joey Casselberry, a junior first baseman at Bloomsburg University – took to twitter to make one of the most disgusting comments about a girl barely older than my first born by saying the following:

joey

Selah

A grown man, who has never had any sort of interpersonal contact with this 13 year old CHILD, called her a slut.

Everyone has agreed that this is pretty offensive and definitely unacceptable, and Mr. Casselberry has been dismissed from his team. As far as I and 98% of the world are concerned, this was absolutely the right move for the university to take. However, his remarks left young Ms. Davis in an awkward position as people were clamoring for a response from her. Her response was one typical of any girl her age – which was to forgive. She even went as far as to plead on his behalf and ask the university to give him a “second chance”.

Every mother to a Black daughter I know experienced cognitive dissonance when news of Joey Casselberry’s sorry apology and Mo’Ne’s crusade to spare him discomfort came to light. Many have gone as far as to term her actions as “mature”…and that is problematic for me. Sure, her actions are righteous, but they are not right. A grown, crusty man should not be putting a girl this young in the position to act righteously in response to his boorishness.

Let me just get to the point: The fact is, Joey Casselberry’s remarks are a direct reflection of a culture that sexualizes young Black girls and their bodies, then moves on to demonize and punish them for labels not of their own choosing and ultimately marginalizes them. Girls of African descent are built differently from any other girl on the planet. By the age of 5, our hip to waist ratio often mirrors those of our mothers. I have had trouble fitting at least 2 of my girls for trousers and pants because the items are cut for (white) girls who are built straight up and down. (This is a battle Black women have to fight our entire lives.) It is not the responsibility of the 5 year old to cloister herself so as not to have these labels ascribed to her; it is the responsibility of grown men to check their privilege so that she can thrive.

This is not the first time a Black girl has been sexually degraded in the media at large by those who occupy positions of power and privilege. In 2013, 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis was called a “cunt” by The Onion on twitter during that year’s Oscars.

Qcunt

As I recall, this was in response to Ms. Wallis refusing to let a journalist refer to her as ‘Annie’ because she was too lazy to figure out how to pronounce the child’s name. She made a “mature” decision to check that chick, and in return a representative from an organization dominated by white males labelled her a moniker that is so disgusting, it makes bikers shift in their seats. But it’s free speech, right? It’s satire, ain’t it? Making jokes about Black girls’ bodies is funny, isn’t it? Remember how Black male comedians jumped to Don Imus’ defense when he called an entire basketball team “nappy headed hoes”?

Slut

Cunt

Whore

All ascribed to girls who are barely old enough to knock on Womanhood’s door – and suspiciously – all at the top of their game in specific fields.

The main reason that Davis’ acceptance for Casselberry’s apology sickens and saddens me so much is that it is yet another spoke in the wheel of accepted public violence against Black women and girls. The part that Mo’Ne plays in this cycle is by shielding her abuser in the name of turning the other cheek and maturity. How many Black women refuse to call the police on abusive husbands and boyfriends because they have been conditioned to believe it is their job to protect them, or their responsibility to be strong enough to endure the abuse for the sake of peace? THIS is exactly where it starts…and that is not Mo’Ne Davis’ fault – it’s ours. While I applaud Mo’Ne for her poise and level headedness in this situation, it is not okay that she should have an innate sense that this particular reaction is expected of her in a situation like this. These are not the lessons we should be teaching our young girls of color, especially in a world that views them as provocative minxes before they’ve had a first date, first kiss or first menstrual cycle.